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

 

 


Telling stories in business

July 23, 2014

On my web site I run a quiz that checks how good a presenter you are. It has run for a several years and I recently collated the results for the last few months.

The most worrying trend that it shows is that most people (94%) think that they need to structure their presentation so that everyone can see where they are going. No doubt this includes having an agenda slide and breaking the presentation down in to sections. While this is very good practice for a written report, it can be deadly for a presentation.

Think of any good film that you have watched recently. Did it have an agenda slide at the start? Did it start by telling you how it would end or what will happen along the way?

No, of course it didn’t.

Films usually start by catching your attention and creating an intriguing situation which makes you wonder what is going to happen next. You are compelled to carry on watching to see how the story unfolds. The script writers, producers and actors engage you; the twists and turns in the storyline keep you wanting to see and hear more.

Compare this with a presentation that starts by telling you that first, I am going to talk about “A”, then we will look at “B” and finally I’ll tell you about “C”. Unless you are excited to hear about “A”, “B” and “C”, you are almost bound to lose interest. If item “C” is what you want to hear about, you’ll immediately switch off and stop listening while the presenter drones on about “A” and “B”. By the time he/she gets to “C” you will probably be mentally elsewhere.

Presentations are not like written reports. Written reports have a contents list so that readers can skip to the parts that are of interest to them. By their very nature presentations are sequential. The speaker decides the order in which he/she is going to talk. As a speaker you need to grab the audience’s attention, engage with them and use similar storytelling techniques as used in the motion picture industry, to hold their attention and make them wonder what you are going to say next. As soon as an audience event thinks that they know what you are going to say next they are likely to switch off.

From the quiz results, it would seem that people are starting to understand this, because the percentage of people who display the bullet points on a slide all at once has dropped from 36% down to 22%. This is an encouraging sign. Although I still feel sorry for the audiences of that 22%, or for that matter audience of any presentation still using bullet points.

There is still someway to go before storytelling is the normal way of giving a business presentation, but if you want to be successful, engaging and influential, I think it is the way to go.

Bruce Gabriel has written a series of 7 articles about how to use storytelling in the boardroom, which I would heartily recommend. You can read it here.

If you would like to do my quiz, you can find it here.


Less Text – More Imagery

April 19, 2013

The rules for creating  the oral part of a great speech have remained constant for thousands of years. Great orators have always just stood and talked, enthralling their audiences with their wit and eloquence. However , there is one aspect of presenting which has undergone massive changes over the last few years. That is the use and content of the visual aids. This has radically changed most business presentations over the last few years.

Over the last ten years there has been a trend to reduce the amount of text on slides and increase the amount of high quality imagery. No doubt the growing capacity of even the smallest laptop to store and display high-resolution visuals and the availability of such images on the internet has been at least partly responsible.

Research has shown that an audience’s ability to remember what a speaker has said is greatly increased if pictures are used to illustrate the points being made. Even good old Confucius said “I hear  I forget, I see I remember”. Now in the early days of PowerPoint people misinterpreted this to mean that if they displayed a slide full of bullet points their message would be better understood and remembered for longer.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. These days if you put up a slides full of bullet points your are more likely to hear yawns from the audience, and get accused of causing death by PowerPoint. The trouble is that many people just don’t know what else to do.

In this article what I am going to do is show you how to evolve your slides from paragraphs of text, to bullet points and then on to picture based slides which will have far more impact on your audience, and get them to remember what you were talking about for far longer.

An Example

Say you were giving a presentation about the three key components to a healthy lifestyle. In the old days you may have created a slide like this:

Slide1

Then people started using the PowerPoint templates and with the addition of some clip art it look more like this:

Slide2

As the importance of graphics becomes clearer you may have created a slide like this:

Slide3

This one uses a custom template design, but although the images are now, photographs rather than clip art, most of the text is still there.

Finally, the modern approach might be to split it on to three slides, thus obeying the rule “one point – one slide”, with very little text on the slide. The onus is now on the presenter to fill in the additional information which is no longer on display.

Slide4

The pictures now take up the whole screen, so the corporate template with its headings and logos has disappeared, but the audience get the full effect of the pictures. And as the old saying goes A picture is worth a thousand words.

Slide5

Slide6

Hopefully you would agree that seeing the three separate slides being brought up as the presenter talks about the importance of good quality food, regular exercise and good sleep, would be more effective that the initial all text slide.

My question to you is:  How old are your slides? Are you still using bullet points?

I would like to gain an overall impression of how advanced people’s slide design is, as such I have a very short survey which I would like you to complete. You can find it here on Survey Monkey.

The design of visual aids has changed, if your presentations have not kept pace with modern thinking, your prospects and customers may think that your business is old fashioned too.

By Graham Young

Young Markets

www.businesspresentation.biz


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