Presentation Myths and Folklore – Part 2

June 10, 2015

This is the second in a series of blogs which examines the truth behind a number of presentation myths. Part 1 is here.

In this article I examine:

“People remember more if they see it as well as hear it”

“What you have to say is so interesting it is worth over running for”

“If you don’t like looking people in the eye, look over their heads or at a point on the back wall”

“You need an ice breaker like a joke at the start of a presentation”

“If your mouth is dry, drink some water”

1. “People remember more if they see it as well as hear it”

While this is basically true, it depends on what it is people are seeing while they hear your words. Far too often people display text heavy slides in the belief that putting the text on the slide will help their audience remember what it is they have said. It won’t!

Displaying a slide full of text acts as a distraction to your presentation. Your audience will stop listening to you while they read your text. If you then say the same thing as the text on the slide, you will be accused of reading the slides, which is a serious faux pas and leads to the dreaded “death by PowerPoint”.

Alternatively if you say something different from what is displayed on your slide you will just confuse your audience.

In my humble opinion, bullet points should be banned from presentations. If you are not convinced please read the article “Ban the Bullets“.

That said, the visual aspects of your presentation are very important, and in many cases will take precedence over the spoken word. To make people remember your presentation you may want to use some pictures and diagrams that conjure up strong mental images or even better get your audience to do something, as recommended by Confucius in his saying “I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand”

 

2. “What you have to say is so interesting it is worth over running for”

This particular myth is one I still have a problem with. I know I should always finish a presentation with in my allotted time, but knowing it and doing it are two different things.

For many people, like myself, time flies by when you are giving a presentation. You find that you know more about your subject than you thought you did, you come up with new analogies and descriptions to clarify the points you are making and all of a sudden you are at the end of your allotted time but with lots more still to say.

Your audience show no signs of boredom, but should you go on or should you shut up and sit down? In every single case the answer has to be to shut up. It doesn’t matter how well you think your presentation is going or how important the points you have yet to make are, there can be no good reason for over running.

In the extreme example, when you are one of the later speakers in a series of presentations, and the speakers before you have overrun, meaning you are late starting your presentation, my advice would be to cut your presentation short so that you still finish on the original schedule. Although you get to say less, you will be the hero of the event. Both the audience and the event organizers will appreciate your concise delivery and you will be invited back another time.

3. “If you don’t like looking people in the eye, look over their heads or at a point on the back wall”

Eye contact is very important when you are giving a presentation but for many novice presenters establishing eye contact with your audience can be daunting. The advice that is often given is to give the presentation looking at a point on the back wall, or looking at the tops of people’s heads rather than into their eyes. I think this is terrible advice. People can tell that you are not looking at them. You need to look your audience in there eyes as you give the presentation. Start by looking at the people who are giving nice “facial echoes”. The ones that are smiling back and clearly enjoying what you are saying. Then look at the others, a different person for each phrase or sentence.

4. “You need an ice breaker like a joke at the start of a presentation”

“What makes a good ice-breaker?” is a question which is often posed on on-line forums. In my view jokes and ice-breakers are the worst ways to start a business presentation. Most business audiences are not expecting a joke and are not in the right mood to laugh at it, so it will often fall flat.

The best ways to open a presentation are discussed here.

5. “If your mouth is dry, drink some water”

Having a dry mouth is one of the normal signs of nervous tension, but if you drink the water, you will find that your mouth tends to get dryer and then you will want to drink more and more. You are better to leave it to your body’s natural reaction to a dry mouth, which is to generate more saliva than to wash any saliva that is there, by drinking the water.

Sucking a mint before your presentation will help generate the saliva you need to avoid a dry mouth, and is far more effective than drinking the water. Alternatively, you can gently bite the inside of your cheeks, which will also make you salivate.

It is of course wise to have a drink to hand in case you start coughing or to act as a temporary diversion while you gather your thoughts to answer a question.

 

So there go another few presentation myths. In the next article in the series I will look at:

“My slides help me to remember what I am supposed to say”

 “Communication is 55% visual, 38% vocal and only 7% the words that you use”

“Adding a picture or clip art to you slides makes then better ”

 “There is an optimum number of slides for a presentation”

“Our presentations are very technical so you won’t be able to teach us anything about how to give them”

If you have any favourite myths about giving a presentation, please let me know by adding a comment below.

All the Best

Graham


Anchoring Ideas in Your Presentation

April 9, 2015

How to get the points you make in a presentation to stick.

anchor2

All too often the points people make in their presentations are forgotten. They waft away like flotsam on the ocean waves. Seen but never remembered. To make them memorable you need to anchor them. Give your audience something to hold on to, make them more permanent and make them more memorable.

How do you anchor an important point or message?

There are a number of different ways to anchor a point, luckily the majority all start with the letter A (as in Anchor). You can use any of the following to anchor a point:

  • Anecdote
  • Analogy
  • Acronym
  • Article
  • Activity
  • Alliteration
  • Aid (Visual)

or

  • A Quotation

Let’s take each of these in turn so that I can explain in more detail.

Anecdote

A relevant anecdote or story is a great way to enliven a point and makes it far more memorable. People listen to stories using a different part of their brain than when listening to facts and figures. It can also help put the point you are making into perspective. Customer case studies and personal examples are a great way to gain buy in to your presentation and the points that you are making.

Analogy

When explaining a complex or abstract concept it can be useful to come up with a simple analogy. One that I use when discussing good presentation structure is the analogy that a good presentation is like a well designed motorway, (see here for the explanation http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-Is-An-Effective-Business-Presentation-Like-A-Motorway-(Or-A-Freeway-Or-Autobahn)?&id=1010032 )

Acronym

When you have a number of related points to make thinking up an acronym will make them more memorable. I use the acronym OSRAM, which stands for the 5 most important aspects of a presentation, Objective, Speaker, Room, Audience and Message. OSRAM is also the brand name for a make of light bulb, so by using OSRAM you can light up the room with your presentation.

Article

More commonly refer to as a prop; an article can be a great visual aid. Something the audience can see and feel. On my presentation training, I invariably have a light bulb as a prop to help reinforce my OSRAM acronym.

Activity

Confucius once said, “I hear – I forget, I see – I remember, I do – I understand”. By having an activity which the audience can participate in, that is relevant to your point, your audience will not only remember it for longer, they will also gain a better understanding. When a practical activity is impractical due to the size of your audience or nature of your talk, come up with an activity they can do in their heads. Make your audience think, rather than just sitting listening.

Alliteration

Alliterations work in a similar way to acronyms. The make it easier for people to remember. For example the key to a good presentation is preparation, practice and performance.

Aid (Visual)

Okay so I’m starting to cheat on the rule that Anchors always starting with an “A”. However a good visual aid will help make your point and make it more memorable. Now, I’m not referring to a slide full of bullet point text here, rather a high quality image which will implant a strong mental image, relevant to your topic, in the minds of your audience.

A Quotation

Finally, a quotation can be used to anchor what you are saying. It adds weight to your argument because it is no longer just you who is saying it but some other respected individual has said the same thing.

No doubt there are other ways in which you can anchor the points that you make. Let me know of any you have used.

anchor

The most important thing to take away is that if you want your presentation to remain in the conscious thoughts of your audience, you need to anchor the points that you make, otherwise the will quickly drift away over the horizon, to be lost for ever.


Never let an audience get ahead of you

January 27, 2015

Letting the audience get ahead of you is one of the most common ways of killing a good presentation.

Once your audience know what you are going to say next, or even just think that they know what you are going to say next, there is a strong tendency for them to switch off and start thinking about other things. They will get bored waiting for you to say it and get on to the next point.

But how can an audience get ahead of you?

There are many ways for an audience can get ahead of you, if you let them. One of the most common ways is when you put up a slide with several bullet points on it and start working your way down the list. Before you are even through the first sentence describing the first bullet point, your audience will have read the slide. If the bullets are self explanatory, then they will get ahead of you. They will have caught the gist of what you are going to say and then have to wait for you to say it. While they are waiting, their minds will wander and you will have to work much harder to recapture their attention.

Using the line by line reveal facility in PowerPoint, will reduce the scale of the problem but still does not cure it. If you bring up the bullet point first and then start talking about it, you have still let the audience get ahead of you, and you will be telling them “old news”, as they have already read the headline. If you have to use bullet points, bring them up after you have talked about the topic to reinforce what it is you have said. Better still uses some pictures or even some physical props to help get your message across and leave the bullet points on your speaker notes.

Of course, handing out printed copies of the whole presentation before the event is another classic way of allowing the audience to get ahead of you. Have you ever looked at the audience during the first key note speech at a conference? Most of them will still be scanning through the handouts working out which presentations they think will be worth listening to, not paying the slightest attention to what the key note speaker is saying.

In the same vain, putting up an agenda slide at the start of a presentation is another way for your audience to “get ahead”. I know it is fairly common practise to have an agenda slide at the start of a presentation but I think this is done more out of habit than for the benefit to your audience. How many feature films do you know that start with an agenda? Agenda or contents pages are only relevant to printed documents so that the reader can skip to the part they are most interested in. Do you want your audience to skip to the part of your presentation they are most interested in, and ignore the rest?

Presentations need to have a structure, so that your audience can understand how you have taken them to where they are now. But this structure does not need to be broadcast in advance in can be revealed as you go along.

To keep an audience listening you need to build in some suspense and tension just like in a television drama or a play. Don’t give the game away by letting them see a précis of your talk before you have a chance to speak.

All the very best for your future presentations

Graham

http://www.businesspresentation.biz

 

 


PYO (Pick Your Own) Audience

July 1, 2014

Read any article about creating and delivering a presentation and you will be given advice to find out as much as you can about your audience. In general, I agree with this as your presentation should be of interest to your audience, otherwise no matter how eloquently you speak you are unlikely to win their hearts and minds.

Pick Your Own

Pick Your Own

But what if your audience research unveils a wide range of different knowledge and interest in your topic? For example at an industry conference where an audience may include experienced practitioners, new comers to the industry, customers, competitors, managers, technologists, administrators and students. With such a diverse audience it is difficult to target your presentation at every person. Another example is when you are recording a video to play on your website. In this case, you have little or no control over who may view the video, it could literally be anyone.

One option is to speak in very general terms, that everyone can understand and appreciate, trying to cater for everybody’s needs. The problem with this is that you risk giving such an ineffectual presentation that everyone may think it is okay, but it fails to inspire anyone.

My advice is to PYO, Pick Your Own. Decide who your ideal audience member is and create and deliver a presentation that will be informative, interesting and inspirational for that ideal person. This means that some of your audience will not find your presentation interesting or informative but as the saying goes “You can’t please all the people all the time”.

Your audience is the most important part of your presentation, make sure you tell them what they want or need to know. On those occasions when you don’t know who your audience are, you need to decide who to aim the presentation at because a scatter gun approach is highly unlikely to achieve your presentation objectives.

 

All the best with your presentations

Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz

 


Video Presentations

April 14, 2014

I was recently asked if I could run some training for group of people who were intending creating some short 1 minute videos of their service offerings to go on their website. They had tried it once before a few years ago and weren’t very happy with the results.

This got me thinking about the similarities and the differences between standing up in front of a group of people and sitting down being videoed.

Using my standard OSRAM acronym for the main 5 aspects of a presentation, this is a summary of what I have concluded.

Objective

As anyone who has been on one of my courses or read my earlier blog entries will know I strongly believe that every presentation needs to have a good clear measurable objective accompanied by a call to action to enforce that objective.

Videos are no different. You need to have a clear idea of what you want people to do after they have watched the video, and how they should feel about you.

Speaker

Having a confident air is always the aim of a good presenter. Preparation and practise is vital to acquiring such confidence. This is even truer when it comes to making a video.

In a personal presentation your audience are likely to be quite sympathetic if you show any signs of being nervous, but will be less forgiving when watching a video. Any hesitations, errs & umms, poor pronunciation or grammatical errors will be far more noticeable on a video that in a live presentation. This is possibly because we are used to watching professional presenters on television. However, if you do make a mistake while filming don’t worry about it, just do it again, no-one will ever know.

There is always a first impression that the camera catches before you start speaking. Make sure you are relaxed and confident with a nice welcoming smile.

One of the main differences between presenting to an audience and presenting to camera is that you audience can see you very clearly. Every smile, every twitch or movement of the eyes will be seen and decoded. This means it is even more important to believe what you are saying and show them the honesty and passion behind your message. Being in the right state of mind to deliver a relaxed focussed message is crucial to get your audience to engage.

Room

My standard three rules for the room where you are presenting are:

  1. Get there early
  2. Make it tidy
  3. Think through the equipment you are using

The first of these is fairly irrelevant when making a video as your audience will watch it when they are ready. But the second and third rules are just as important.

When recording the video, make sure you are not wearing any fabric with detailed patterns on it, or close lines or tight stripes, as this can cause a fluttering effect on the recorded image that can be distracting in the final edit.

An uncluttered background works best for most videos.

There are two basic formats when presenting on video. One way is to look directly at the camera. The alternative is to speak to an invisible interviewer who is sitting next to the camera. Personally, I prefer the looking into the camera style. The trick here is not to stare. Imagine that the camera is actually the person to whom you are giving the presentation and that you are sitting having a chat.

This conversational style approach will be far more effective and welcoming than if you give a formal presentation. Each person who watches the video will engage with you one to one.

Audience

When you are recording a video you don’t have an audience but when some one watches the video they are your audience. That may seem rather trite and obvious but essentially what you have is a disconnect between you the presenter and your audience. Try to minimise this disconnect so that when someone watched the video they think you are talking directly to them.

As mentioned above the best way to do this is imagine that the camera is your audience member.

For example, if the target for your video is people who are about to retire and are interested in their pension options, imagine that the camera is a couple in their sixties, imagine how they are dressed, what they look like, what they are interested in, what worries and concerns they may have and then talk to them about how you can help them to maximise their retirement opportunities.

When you are creating a video to be shown on your website you need to decide who your audience is. Unlike a live presentation where you can research your audience to find out what they are interested in and how much they already know, with a website video anyone could watch it. The biggest mistake is to try to be to generic to cater for everyone. This leads to a very average presentation which is unlikely to engage anyone. You are far better deciding up front who your target audience is and crafting a message which will appeal to them. Be ruthless, pin point the messages that will appeal to you ideal client and forget about the rest.

Message

Unlike many business presentations that can last for 40 minutes or more, a successful video is likely to be less than two minutes long. This means you have to be very succinct and to the point. As soon as you start to ramble people will stop watching.

However this does not mean you have to talk constantly in front of the camera. As with live presentations a variation in speed and tone helps to keep an audience engaged and pausing before an important point will help to enforce that point.

I never recommend using scripts which are read word for word when presenting. Cue cards or presenter view in PowerPoint is my preferred mechanism if you need a reminder as to what you are talking about. Cue cards will not look professional on a video so as it is only going to be a short presentation I would suggest just remembering it. If you do need reminders you could use an autocue or maybe just a large sheet of paper held up behind the camera with a few bullet points.

It really depends on how sophisticated the available equipment is, when you film your video. But if you are using idiot boards try reading them without taking your eyes off the camera, otherwise your audience will know that you were reading them.

All the Best

Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz


Two Approaches to Giving a Business Presentation

March 24, 2014

The Typical Approach to Giving
a Business Presentation

The Effective Approach
to Giving a Business Presentation

 

Always use bullet points in PowerPoint. By using bullet points everyone will understand you better because if they missed what you said, they can still read it on the slides.

 

Have striking visual aids with pictures which create strong mental images to back up what you are saying.

 

Start by telling them who you are and your company’s background, including turnover, locations, number of staff etc.

 

Start by grabbing their attention and telling them why they should listen.

 

Bring up each slide and tell people what it says.

 

Use the slides to reinforce what you have just said and help create a strong mental image

 

Use random slide transitions and animation to liven up your presentation

 

Use animation only if it helps to get your point across.

 

Have an agenda slide, at the start of each section, so that your audience knows exactly where you are in your presentation

 

Keep your audience listening; let them discover your message as it unfolds.

 

If you are using charts, create them in Excel and then copy them across with all of the labelling intact. This means that people will be able to understand the slides in detail when they look at them after your presentation.

 

Only display critical information on your charts. Keep them as simple as you can to get the point across. Use infographics.

Provide detailed information in a separate handout afterwards.

 

Apologise if you think a slide is too complex or unreadable

 

 

Never apologise, keep slides simple and to the point

 

Handouts are essential; always give out copies of your slides as handouts before you start.

 

Give out handouts after your presentation. Create a custom handout not a copy of your slides. Handouts and visual aids serve different purposes and need to be different.

 

 

If you’re nervous beforehand, drink lots of Irish coffee or a quick shot of tequila, you soon won’t notice the nerves.

 

If you are nervous, tell yourself you are doing it right, you are supposed to be nervous before an important presentation. Don’t worry about it.

 

 

Anyone who is a bit shy and doesn’t like looking people in the eye should give the presentation staring at a point on the back wall, or looking at the tops of people’s heads.

 

 

People can tell if you are not looking them in the eye, avoiding eye contact will stop an audience engaging with you. Make sure everyone gets some eye contact

 

Speaking quickly will enable you to get more information in to your allotted time.

 

Speak slightly more slowly then you would in a 1 to 1 conversation. Pause before an important point.

 

If you have interesting things to tell them most audiences won’t mind if you over run a bit.

 

Structure and practice your presentation to ensure you always end slightly early

 

Keep your hands still, if you find them waving about put both hands in your pockets.

 

Use positive body language to reinforce the words you are saying.

 

Don’t worry about remembering everything you are going to say, you can always look at your slides to remind you of the key points and any detailed data.

 

Never rely on the slides to remind you what to say. The presenter always leads the slides. If you can’t remember the points you need to make, use Presenter View in PowerPoint with appropriate speaker notes.

 

Emotions have no place in business so just stick to the facts, don’t be tempted to use emotional language as this can be misunderstood.

 

The emotion and passion you bring to a presentation is what distinguishes it from an email. Facts alone will rarely persuade anyone of anything

Give the same standard presentation to every audience. Your audience is the most important part of your presentation. Don’t say what you have to say, say what they want or need to hear.
 

In a sales presentation, tell them about all your products and services. You never know what might be of interest.

 

Find out what problems your audience have and tailored your presentation to meet their needs.

 

Humour is good in most presentations so start with a joke.

 

Humorous asides and comments can encourage audience engagement once you have built a level of trust, but never tell jokes.

 

Have a glass of water to hand, in case  you have a dry mouth.

 

If your mouth is dry suck a mint beforehand, or gently bite the inside of your cheeks to get the saliva flowing, don’t wash it away with water.

 

When presenting to an industry audience it is OK to use lots of jargon and technical terminology, after all they should all know what the TLA’s stand for.

 

Avoid using three letter abbreviations, and technical terms without explaining them first, just in case you audience are not familiar with them.

 

Always end a presentation by asking who has a question they would like answered.

 

Always end a presentation with a call to action, which tells your audience what you would like them to do next.

 

If in doubt just do what everyone else does, they will all be asleep anyway

 

Be different, stand out from the crowd, and make a lasting impression on your audience.

By Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz


The Presenter and The Visual Aid

February 17, 2014

One of the most common problems with presentations stems from the relationship between the presenter and their visual aids. The relationship between these two aspects of a presentation is fundamental to its success, and it is like the relationship between a man and his donkey.

donkey

Typically a man would use a donkey to help carry the load. Donkeys are very good at carrying heavy loads and are very sure-footed but they rarely know where to go so they must be lead by the man.

Similarly, visual aids can be very good at creating strong mental images which helps the presenter to communicate his or her message. However, the presenter must lead the visual aid.

All too often, presenters bring up the next slide before they start talking about the subject. This may be because they are relying on the slide to remind them what to talk about next, or it may be because they don’t know any better. This turns the whole process of giving a presentation on its head. The slides lead the presentation and the presenter is reduced to the role of explaining what the slides say.

The problem is that the audience look at the slide as soon as it comes up, if the slide is understandable then the audience will immediately know what the presenter is going to talk about. They very quickly decide whether or not they already know about this aspect of the presentation and decide whether to listen to the speaker or switch off.  This is made even worse if the slides contain a set of bullet points, which the audience can read.

While the slides, just like a donkey, can be the presenter’s beast of burden, conveying large amounts of information succinctly and successfully, hence relieving the presenter from having to describe everything in great detail, remember the slides need to be led by the presenter for the presentation to go in the right direction.

What load should your donkey carry?

To put it another way what are your slides for? Your visual aids should be exactly what it says on the tin. They should be something worth looking at and should help to get your message across.

Common mistakes with slides include using then as the speakers notes, which we have already covered above and using them as handouts after the presentation. Visual aids do not make good handouts. If your slides work well as a handout to be re-read after then event when you are no longer present, I can guarantee that they will not work well as visual aids. This is because visual aids need to be designed to accompany the spoken word, while handouts need to be designed as stand alone documents that work on their own without any additional words.

When can your donkey lead?

The only time that it is safe to display a visual aid, in advance of talking about the subject, is when the visual aid needs to be explained before is becomes meaningful. Creating visual aids of this nature can work very well, as when it is displayed they audience look at it and think “what is this all about?” and will immediately turn their attention back to the speaker of an explanation. Well designed animation has its part to play in this type of slide, so that the picture comes together through animation of the slide as the presenter tells the story.

All the very best with your future presentations

By Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz


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