For any successful leader, entrepreneur or sales person, presenting is often a necessary evil.
Just the idea of standing in front of an audience to speak is enough to trigger a sense of panic in many; but get it right, and it’s also a hugely powerful tool. Presentations communicate and pitch ideas, land job offers, close deals. They’re integral to both individual and business success.
As a trainer and business owner, I’ve had the opportunity to not only deliver but to observe a huge number of presentations. I can tell you from experience: there is a BIG difference between those that communicate a message in a clear, persuasive, thought-provoking way… and those that cause you to switch off within minutes.
Delivering compelling and powerful presentations doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are my top 5 tips to fire up yours.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare
This isn’t about getting your slides in order or memorising a script. A compelling and successful presentation is one that speaks to the audience: one that engages them and moves them to action. Take the time to understand yours.
As part of your preparation, research your audience and use that to align your messaging. Who are you presenting to? What do they care about? What do they need and want to know from you? This isn’t about getting across as much information as possible in a one-sided brain dump. Focus on the ‘WIIFM’, or ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor and be selective in what points you’ll be addressing. Ensure your presentation is relevant and benefit-driven for those listening – not for you.
Know and understand your topic – inside out. If you are passionate and informed, it will show in your delivery. It will remove the need to memorise scripts of points, empower you to answer questions, and enable you to speak naturally and conversationally.
- Harness the power of real life
I attended a meeting when an enthusiastic sales guy entered to give us a demonstration on his laptop. After hooking up his gear, he steps forward and launches straight into his pitch.
Unfortunately for him, he had neglected to sign out of Facebook Messenger. In the middle of a well-rehearsed list of figures, a telltale ‘Ping!’ caught our attention as a “private” (ahem!) message from his girlfriend popped up in the corner. It took some time and serious decorum to get the pitch back on track.
If this is a point that sticks with you, there’s a good reason. As humans, we are genetically programmed to respond to, remember and connect with stories. Use storytelling to bring your presentation to life and add context around your message. Stories are personable, add personality, and make your arguments memorable.
Make sure you’re not using stories for stories sake: they should add to your presentation and illustrate your points, not distract your audience. As an example, if you’re pitching a product, don’t focus on the features and functionality; a use case story of a character getting value from the product in a particular scenario is far more powerful.
Oh – and as a sidenote? Don’t forget to turn off your notifications.
- Use the power of 3
I’m going to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Every little helps. Just do it. Stop me if you’ve heard these before…
The reason these quotes stick in our minds is due to the simple and powerful impact of the rule of 3. Grouping and structuring information in this way:
- Captures the attention of your audience
- Gives your presentation structure
- Is easily remembered
The power of 3 can be applied in many ways when presenting. Give your audience 3 reasons why this product is service is right for their business. Structure your presentation into 3 clear sections. Only make 3 points for each argument. Grouping information into these chunks will ensure you retain their attention and they take away the key information.
- Use visuals – but only to your advantage.
Remember, YOU are the focus of the presentation and second only to your audience, you are the most important thing in the room. Don’t go for ‘death by PowerPoint’.
Visual aids are a great way to support, illustrate, and emphasise your point, but keep them simple and short. Don’t let your visuals distract the audience. I’ve seen many a nervous presenter use PowerPoint as a crutch – even reading right from the slides (this is a categorical no-no.)
Mix it up: use images, video, graphs, even physical props if they add to the experience for your audience. If you do create a PowerPoint, ask yourself for each slide: do I need this? Does it add value? Keep points short and concise, with few words.
Pay attention to the language you use – and not just on your slides. Complex, technical, or long-winded explanations are the fastest route to your audience zoning out. Be authoritative and confident in your message. Consider the difference:
“It is my opinion that due to the fact that your business is probably in a position to invest more this year, my product could potentially add value in 2018.”
“My product is an excellent solution for your business.”
Simple language is not only easier to understand, but also comes across as more confident and sincere.
- Own the space.
It’s time to come out from behind the microphone and move away from the whiteboard.
Never underestimate the power of movement when it comes to delivering an impactful presentation. An estimated ¾ of communication is non-verbal: if you are stiff, unmoving, with your arms fixed to your sides, what message does that communicate?
This is your stage: own it.
Make eye contact with your audience; step forward when you need to emphasise a point, or when responding to a question. Use gestures and if possible, move around naturally and comfortably, ensuring you address everyone in the room. Get your hands out of your pockets and avoid crossing your arms. If you are referring to something on your slide deck or perhaps a board, walk up to it and point or gesture, rather than using laser pointers or relying on your audience to find the relevant point.
Perhaps the simplest (and most overlooked) tip is to smile. A smile breaks down many of the invisible barriers in the room, helping you to build rapport and connections with your audience. Even if deep down you feel like bolting form the room, a smile is shown to actually help us feel more confident.
There is no single ‘holy grail’ when it comes to delivering the ultimate presentation: but with a bit of preparation and awareness, you can ensure your audience is engaged, interested and participating.