You may think that the presentation techniques that great orators use to engage with and command an audience’s attention haven’t changed much over the years. Certainly the many of the core techniques that were relevant when Julius Caesar was speaking to The Senate are still relevant today.
Most presentation training courses cover such things in excruciating detail and they include:
- Eye contact
- Appearing confident
- Removing noise words like err and umm
- Standing upright
- Body Language
- Knowing your audience
- Remembering what to say
- Having a structure
- Being Concise
- Minimising distractions
- Using the rule of 3
- Using rhetoric
- Engaging your audience
But there are two main aspects of giving a presentation which have changed significantly over the last few years as technology continues to improve and audiences become less forgiving.
The first of these is the reduction in the use of bullet points and text on your visual aids, replacing it with graphics, pictures and images. I have recently covered this in my post “Less text – More Imagery”.
As well as having more impact, using less text and more imagery will stop you using your visual aids as a crutch and stop you reading from the slides.
The second major change is in the audiences’ attitudes towards the presenter and his/her content. These day, people are far less forgiving of poor presentations. The sheer volume of information available to each and every one of us, means that everyone has had to become far more selective in deciding what information we need to listen to. Attention spans have shrunk through the constant bombardment of 140 character messages, speed scanning of websites, text messages and the ever increasing speed of change.
To compete with all the other demands on people’s attention, your presentations have to deliver exactly what your audience needs and fast. Waste time introducing yourself and your company at the start of a presentation and you will probably have lost your audience even before you get to the interesting bit. Your presentations need to hit the ground running, focus on the import point to get your message across and then prepare your audience for what comes next.
Too many corporate presentations spend too long talking about “who we are” at the start of the presentation. Boasting about the number of offices, geographical coverage, turnover and number of employees and what awards that they have won. These days you are better off getting straight to the point as to what you can do for your prospective customer. Tell them how they will benefit and then tell them what they need to do next, to make it happen. Then sit down.
Maybe that is not so different from what the good orators did years ago, it may just be that lots of people thought that their business presentation should be about themselves when it should be about their customers.
By Graham Young