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

 

 


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


Presentation Fireworks

November 4, 2013

fireworksAt this time of year (5th November) in the UK it is traditional to have a bonfire and a firework display to commemorate a 400 year old terrorist by the name of Guy Fawkes. Back in 1605 Guy Fawkes planned to blow up the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder. Luckily for the members of parliament he was caught before he lit the fuse. It may seem odd to commemorate a failed terrorist in this way but that’s what we do.

Up and down the country large bonfires are lit with an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top and fireworks are let off. When I was a kid most people had bonfires and fireworks in their back gardens followed by baked potatoes roasted in the ashes of the fire. These days it is far more common to pay to attend a public firework display with hot dogs and hamburgers to eat.

But that’s enough of a history lesson the main point of this article to compare a business presentation with a firework display to see what tricks and tips we can learn from an organised firework display to help use with creating and giving a business presentation.

The Layout

One of the first things to consider is the layout of the arena. You want everyone to see the fireworks, in a presentation it is vital that everyone can see the speaker and the slides. The presenter is the most important visual aspect of a presentation, so stand where you can be seen.  Don’t hide behind a lectern.

The Start

Firework shows usually start with a big noisy rocket, that first bang tells everyone the show is starting and grabs their attention and sets the scene for the rest of the show. Similarly in a business presentation, you want to start with a bang. Say something impressive, which will grab your audience’s attention, make them think about your presentation topic and set the scene for the rest of the presentation. First impressions are important, imagine how you would feel if a firework display started by someone wandering around holding a sparkler.

The Middle

Firework displays are tightly choreographed with a variety of different types of fireworks, some with loud bangs, some screamers, others that are quieter but shoot high up into the sky before cascading down like glittering snow. Red, green, silver, blue and gold, all the colours of the rainbow provide a constantly changing and evolving spectacle. Variety is what keeps you interested when watching a display.

The same is true in your presentations. Once you have captured your audience’s attention you need to use variety to keep them interested. In a presentation variety is provided in a number of different ways. Don’t talk in a constant monotone voice, vary the pitch, the speed of delivery and the volume of your voice to add emphasis to the word you are saying.

Use different forms of anchor to make you main points more memorable. Anchors can be anecdotes, analogies, acronyms, activities, quotations, props or humorous asides.  Every main point you make in a presentation must be ”anchored” to make it more memorable but you should use different types of anchor for each different point, thereby increasing the variety inherent in your presentation.

As for your visual aids, pictures are more visually impressive than bullet points, especially pictures which fill the screen. Like fireworks big bold displays that fill the night sky are best.

By the way when have you ever seen an order of service or an agenda for a firework displays that sets out what you are going to see and hear in detail?  I think the same is true for a business presentation. Don’t start with an agenda slide. Keep some suspense and surprises in your presentation, it will encourage people to actually listen to find out what it is you are saying.

The End

All good firework displays build to a crescendo, finishing with the loudest, brightest, biggest and most spectacular fireworks.  How do your presentations end? Do they fizzle out with a question and answer session or that over used phrase “thank you for listening”.

The end of a presentation is the most important part as it is what people will be thinking about as they leave the room. Ideally you want to end with a clear and single call to action. Tell them exactly what they should do as a result of your presentation, then sit down and shut up.

As we say in the UK, I hope your next presentation goes with a bang!

All the Best

Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz


Take your Audience on a Journey

September 17, 2013

Most business presentations are about influencing, persuading and motivating people to do something, to take an action, to adopt a new way of thinking or to see things in a different light. That is why it is essential to end your presentation with a call to action. Your call to action tells your audience what you would like them to do next, in essence how to fulfill your objective for your presentation.

Everything in your presentation should lead your audience towards accepting the call to action. If you could just state your call to action and they would do it, then there would be no need for the  presentation. In effect the role of the presentation is to move your audience from where they are now, i.e. their current view of the world, to a new view where they are more likely to accept your call to action.

You are going to take your audience on a journey.  A journey of discovery that takes them from where they are now to where you want / need them to be.

Plan your route

Any long journey needs to be planned in advance. As the tour leader your travelling companions will expect you to have done your preparation and know where you are going and how to get there. So will your audience.

Know where you are going

When you start off on a journey it is usually advisable to know where you are heading. This is definitely true for a business presentation. You must have a clear, timely and measurable objective. You must know where you are taking your audience; otherwise you could end up just wasting their time and yours.

Know where they are coming from

Equally important is to know where your audience are coming from.  If you were organising a trip, there would be little point in starting it in Paris, if all your delegates lived in London. You need to know as much as possible about your audience including what they already know about your topic so that you can start in the right place. What knowledge and beliefs do they currently hold? Is there an “elephant in the room”? If so, you are best confronting it in your presentation rather than trying to detour round it.

It is also important is to judge what mood your audience are in, and start your presentation in line with that mood. There is no point cracking a joke at the start of a serious business presentation, the audience won’t be in the mood and you won’t get the reaction you were hoping for.

How are you going to travel?

On a real journey you need to decide what mode of transportation you are going to take, which may depend on the time you have available. Will it be car, bus, train or plane? Similarly for a presentation you need to decide what format you are going to use. Will it be just talking?  Or using slides? Maybe you will incorporate a video or some interactive activities to get the audience involved.

When I visited Florence recently, there were lots of tour guides walking around the town followed by crocodiles of tourists. Most of these tour guides held brightly coloured umbrellas so that their entourage could spot them and follow them through the crowded streets. How will your audience follow you through your presentation? After all you don’t want anyone getting lost. Have you got a prop you could use to help get your message across?

Straight from A to B

Sometimes when we are travelling we just want to get there as quickly and easily as possible. Straight from A to B without any deviations, hold ups or detours. In this case the travelling is just a necessary evil that has to be endured so that you can reach where you are going. Taking this approach for a presentation will ensure a very boring presentation that nobody will listen to.

As a tour guide you want to make the journey an experience in its own right, you want to make it interesting so that your audience enjoy the journey not just the destination. Rather than going straight from A to B and telling everyone, exactly how you are going to get there, how long it will take and what route you will be going on, you want to take you audience on a tour, tell them about the points of interest on route, interact with them and maybe even lead a sing along.

Again, the same is true with a presentation. Taking your audience from A to B in a straight line and telling them exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there enables the audience to get ahead of you. You have just told them what you are going to be talking about and if they think that they have heard it all before or aren’t interested they will just stop listening.

In your presentation, you need to build in some points of interest to talk about, you should make it more of a mystery tour, so that they have to listen in order to find out where you are taking them.

Knowledgeable and Concise

Fairly obviously, if you are giving a presentation you need to know what you are talking about, just as a tour guide needs to know about the locations they are travelling through and the history of the places. But you don’t need to tell everybody everything you know about the subject. Keep it concise and to the point. If you audience wants to know more they can always ask questions.

What to do when you arrive

When you arrive at the end of your journey the most important things that a tour guide will do is tell you what to do next, before they leave you to your own devices. At the end of a presentation the most important thing for you to do is to state your call to action. Tell your audience what you would like them to do, in light of all the information you have given them in your presentation. Then sit down and shut up and wait for them to do it.

Bon voyage!

Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz


Public Speaking – It isn’t what it used to be

April 29, 2013

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:

  • Rehearsal
  • Eye contact
  • Appearing confident
  • Removing noise words like err and umm
  • Standing upright
  • Breathing
  • 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

Young Markets

www.businesspresentation.biz


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


Are corporate presentations worthless?

August 3, 2012

Recently, I ran some training for the UK division of a multi-national company. The participants were all senior business development managers. During the training each of the participants had to gave a presentation to a pre-defined audience, for example one had to give a company overview to the CEO and board members of a prospective customer; another had to present to the CTO and technical team; others gave their presentations to the CFO, or a project team.

While the standard of speaking was very good, as you might expect for such experienced managers, there was one negative aspect across the all the presentations. Everyone was using PowerPoint slides from a corporate set.  While not all presentations were the same, the same company introduction slides kept cropping up in everyone’s presentations.

These slides contained a lot of text and were very information rich. To their credit the presenters were not slavishly going through each slide bit by bit but were highlighting the parts that fitted in with the theme of their presentations.  When I asked why they were using slides with so much redundant information on them, I was told that they were the corporate slides, produced by HQ and that everyone was expected to use these slides. The other excuse was that they didn’t have the time to create their own slides.

In my mind this raises the question “Are corporate presentation worthless?”

The problem with corporate presentation slides stem from the remoteness of the marketing people who create them. They sit in their ivory towers and create presentations about their organisation, their products, services and solutions. They know all about the benefits and the USP’s  (unique selling propositions) of their solutions, but very little about individual prospect’s needs and wants. They try to create a one size fits all presentation which covers everything a prospect may want to know about their company.

In addition, central departments like to spell things out, they feel they have to cater for the lowest common denominator, i.e. the fresh-faced new sales recruit who knows very little about the company and its products. The result is that they tend to use more text, to ensure the correct message is given during the presentation.   In essence, they like to spell everything out, literally.

Inevitably, any such corporate presentation becomes very organisation centric, as the person who created it knows a lot about the organisation but very little about individual customers.

Good presentations are about the audience not about the presenter.  By using the corporate slides, in my example, the audience were suffering from information overload, which detracted from what the speaker was saying. In my view the presenters would have been far better off, radically simplifying each of the slides that they used, to ensure they were only depicting the point being made at that part of the presentation.

Given that corporate slides shows are always likely to be more about the corporation than the customers, and will by definition tend to be very generic, are they still worth creating?

I would value your feed back on this question.


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