Getting the best from your presentations
Who loves presenting to a group? For all the hands that go up, I’m quite sure there’s many more that stay firmly down; in fact in a survey I spotted, this came out as the No. 1 fear. It seems many people would rather die! If we think about it, the word ‘presenting’ covers giving a seminar/talk to a room full of people, to colleagues, to stakeholders, a sales pitch, to your boss, at an interview and so many different scenarios both in business and one’s personal life.
Here are a few pointers to ensure you’re on track in getting the best from your presentations.
1. Understand your audience and make a connection with them
- who will be there? if a sales pitch you need more than just names, you need to know their roles and who makes the buying decision
- what do they really want from you? – what they really really want, not necessarily what they need!
- why are they participating? typically you have 3 types of listeners
o those really eager to learn/take notes and for whom this is important
o those who sit back and watch a slide show and enjoy the coffee and chat
o those there under duress – they’ve been told to attend!
- you will need to establish credibility and create an environment that’s right for leaning. You may be able to engage with your audience before your presentation…if colleagues you could e-mail them a summary of your message and a rough list of points you plan to cover. Or to people from outside of our organization, you could post your biography and talking points online and provide links to any pre-reading material.
- what time has been allowed? “We have XXX today, does that still work for everyone in the room”? What you don’t want is one of your key partners/stakeholders walking out just after you’ve started.
- specific and measurable benefits – what will the audience be looking for?
- likely objections – think them through so you can answer at the end if necessary – ensure you have a polished response
- dress appropriately
2. Understand the defined objective
- what’s the purpose of your presentation
- what do you want from it?
- what’s in it for the listener – clearly articulate this so that benefits are fully communicated and understood
- work from defined objectives
3. Too much data? – less is more – 3 points and only 3- eg
- I’m here because (I want you to purchase my xxxxx)
- The benefit for you is that (eg it will save you £…..)
- You then explain your structure and that you will be covering:
how it will increase revenues
reduce your overheads
create happier customers
Why just 3 points?
o memory and impact – the brain learns through repetition, and layering. You need to repeat what you’ve described as main topics and then explain the points in great detail. Layer and repeat, Layer and repeat.
o lead with the best stuff.
o If long and complex, group under 3 headers and lead with the most important
Add some stop slides so the audience can see where you’ve moved on to the next section
So then say you have 3 main areas to talk about x 15 minutes, the intro of 5 minutes and then 10 minutes at the end for questions. Allow time afterwards to mingle with any audience members who want to speak with you.
4. Writing your presentation
- Start with the end, what you want to achieve, the action/closing/what/why/how?
- Then 3 headlines titles of what you need to talk about to achieve your action closing – generally these will typically be sequential topical problem and solutions, contrast and comparison
- Three critical messages
- The main body x 3
- Your opening words, directions, theme purpose
You may be interested in the 13-box structure by Eugene Moreau – download on the web. You will also want to tap into the ‘emotional sell’ stressing the benefits of your product or service. See below (10) for words/phrases to avoid when giving your presentation
5. Excite your audience
- Be confident – have faith in yourself, inspire your audience without drifting into a fantasy realm
- Think about your beginning and end. Don’t leave it to inspiration on the wing. Start with confidence. Think SCRIPT> REHEARSE> MEMORIZE. You must start strong or else you’ll have an uphill battle on the way
- How can you excite? Be creative and forget the platitudes. Introduce yourself of course and then touch on how you can help the audience. “Hello and welcome to today’s presentation. My name is XX and for XX years I’ve xxxxx (needs to be scripted and memorized). Find a great story to get people to listen. Make it personal, or local if you can. Grab attention.
- Can you use imagery – if trying to convey the size of something put it into a context that will be understood and ideally shows you understand where they’re coming from.
- Confidence issues? Practise, practise and then some more and master the art of deep breathing and relaxed shoulders.
6. Death by Power Point
- more than 300 million people use PowerPoint in the world (that is a scary statistic)!
- Only use to visualise your ideas
- create key points. Use to impress
- Make eye contact with audience and never read from a slide
- It must never be a data dump. Never have a slide which you have to preface with ‘I know this next slide is hard to read….. 3 – 4 lines per slide maximum!
- Try alternatives – have you played with Prezi yet? http://prezi.com/
- Including a slide specific to your audience would be great, eg if they are a particular football team fan, other sport, interest, incorporate that slide somewhere relevantly into your presentation.
- Always have a copy of your notes on paper. Just in case!
Aim to produce a presentation that makes yours stand out from all the rest and one that people will remember after the event.
7. Wrap Up
- “Just to recap, I told you at the beginning that I wanted to xxxxx and that by purchasing it, your company would save £XXXX. We looked at YYYY and ZZZZZ” Don’t assume the audience has ‘got’ what you’ve told them. The brain finds it hard to assimilate and translate new information. It’s your duty to make sure that the assimilation is as complete as possible.
- Collect questions as you go through the presentation and answer at the end
- If you’re asked about the competition, take great care. Never ever ‘diss’ the competition, rather reinforce your company’s benefits over your competitor’s offerings (you have done your competitor analysis, haven’t you)? Position yourself against them based upon their strengths and weaknesses. Or, if it’s a specific question to which you don’t know the answer, you could respond along the lines “we respect our competitors, it’s probably better if you talk to them”
- If a sales pitch, then a good way to end is “What if anything would prevent you from taking the next step with me right now?” – promotes conversation
- Repetition and reinforcement if necessary. Let’s quickly review….
8. Room check
If you’re presenting to a larger audience, then you need to check out the room first – where will you be standing, can everyone see you? Are there pillars in the way? Can you walk around the tables/chairs to keep movement going? How are the lights, what’s the PA system like?
Don’t leave this until an hour before you delivering your presentation. And don’t necessarily rely on the information sent by a venue/organizer.
9. Pointers from The Dragons Den TV programme
Dragons Den did a couple of programmes revisiting what presentations were successful and following some of the ‘winners’. The key pointers included
- Make a good first impression – excite
- Practice makes perfect
- Keep your nerve and stay in control
- Don’t offend your audience
- Communicate your passion
- Be honest about your company and the forecasts
- Know your facts – eg if you are applying for a patent, know exactly where you are with the process
- Don’t be greedy – but equally know your bottom line
- Have a concise strategy which is easily understandable. no waffle, just hard facts and figures.
10. And finally, some suggested words/phrases to AVOID when giving your presentations:
- Let me unpack this for you
- So, well, you know, it’s like, it’s sorta, kinda…..
- Like, you know, um
- SO, how many of you have ever….? as an opener
- Those buzz words: synergize, monetize, bring to the table, reinvent the wheel, carve out a niche, core competencies, low hanging fruit, deliverables, action items, skill sets – you know the ones – there’s a great game of bingo based on these – have you played it?
- At the end of the day
- Moving forward, going forward
- Bottom line
- Add value (even though a MBA favourite!)
- Specific sporting terms, eg headwinds and tailwinds
- The fact of the matter is
- Back in the day
- Irregardless (!)
- They may or may not
- At this point in time
- Efforting (!)
- If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get ….. or the Insanity one. Most people have got Google too!
- Let’s take it to the next level
- You may have heard of …
- Let’s drill down on that for a moment
- I just want to be clear
- My friends
- To be perfectly honest (can you be imperfectly honest?)
- Can I be honest with you? (no, please continue to lie!)
Here’s a link to Buzz Word Bingo – http://www.businessbuzzwordbingo.com/
If you fancy having a go then this website creates a Buzzword Bingo card every time you refresh the page. If you’re feeling really incensed about particular buzzwords that crop up in your industry, then you can also create your own bingo card by entering your own words. Enjoy!
I hope there are some pointers here which you can utilize in getting the best from your presentations. Good luck!
Call if you would like some help with yours.
Armstrong Beech Marketing
2011. Last updated June 2014