By Gavin Meikle, Head of Learning and Founder of inter-activ
As part of a recent presentation skills coaching programme for a large client, I have been reviewing videos of some of their top directors presenting at a company conference. Some presenters got it right and got great evaluations and others clearly didn’t and,as an external observer the reasons for the latter were clear.
- Lack of connection with the audience
- Lack of clear purpose (as perceived by the audience)
- No obvious audience benefit
- Presenting only lists of impersonal statistics, facts and figures with no clear structure, point or flow
- Wooden, unexpressive “professional” performances. If the presenter doesn’t appear to care about the subject why on earth should the audience?
- Boring, word-dense, image-scarce, bullet point slides. Written text is a poor excuse for a visual aid!
- Lack of audience involvement
So if you have a presentation to give in the next few weeks or months what can you do to ensure that you win the audience's attention and motivation stakes?
- Have a clear purpose for your presentation. What are you trying to achieve as a result of this speech and what do you want the audience to do at the end of it?
- Establish the relevance of your content to the audience early on in the presentation. What is in it for them? Why should they listen? And don’t forget to tell them early on in your presentation
- Design your presentation as a story which has a logical flow and emotional content to support it
- Keep your visual aids clean and simple. Ban the bullet point and have only one idea per slide. Replace those words with an attention grabbing or emotive photograph. Read Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds if you need some inspiration
- Avoid reading a script or auto cue. This will reduce eye contact and therefore connection with your audience. It will also make you sound dull, stilted and boring. Spoken English is different from written English. If you must have a script, record your speech first as you would like to say it and then have the recording transcribed
- Don’t be afraid to show your emotion, Yes it is a business environment but human beings are hard wired to be driven by emotions. If you don’t evoke an emotional response in your audience they will not be motivated to follow your recommendations
- Use your full vocal range to engage and enthral the audience – everything from a roar to a sotto voce whisper is at your disposal. Don’t be afraid of exaggeration in order to stretch your comfort zone and show your passion, enthusiasm or disappointment. Oh yes, and don’t forget the power of a well placed silence too
- Use your body language to reinforce your messages and project confidence and the appropriate degree of gravitas. An open upright posture, large open gestures, plenty of facial expression. Make sure that your body is sending out the same messages as your words and voice otherwise your audience won’t believe you
- Be willing to experiment and accept that as a result you will make a few mistakes along the way. Perfection isn’t connection and your audience will empathise with you if you show that you too are human
- Be present and in the moment during your presentation. If you are remembering the past or worrying about the future then your mind is not in the here and now and the audience will notice it.
Gavin Meikle is the owner of inter-activ learning and development, a Southampton based consultancy specialising in effective face to face interpersonal communication and presentations. He can be contacted at email@example.com