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

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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.


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


A brief history of slide design

July 30, 2013

Slides or visual aids  have changed significantly over the years. Ignoring the blackboard, whiteboard and flipchart which have been used for mainly hand drawn visual aids, the introduction of slides to support a presentation started with the use of 35mm slides.  These were prepared, usually by specialists well in advance of a presentation. They were expensive to produce and once created could never be changed.

Overhead Projectors

The first main revolution in slides came with the overhead projector. This enabled individuals to create their own slides, either hand drawn or printed using transparencies and a photocopier. Creating slides was still a fairly time consuming process and most slides were monochrome and textual.

A typical slide showing the three keys to good health might look something like this:

Slide3

Notice it is very text heavy with all the detail spelt out. Individual bullet points could be revealed one at a time by placing a sheet of paper under the transparency and pulling it down, point by point.

PowerPoint

Initially PowerPoint was used mainly to create the slide layouts for Overhead projector transparencies, but as technology developed an LCD tablet mounted on an overhead projector allowed slides to be viewed directly from the computer. Not only did this speed up the whole process of creating a visual aid, but they could now easily be created using colour and the omnipresent clip art.

Slide5

As corporate marketing departments became involved in the production of slides for staff to use then corporate branding became more important. Slides had to comply to a predefined format and display the company’s logo. Individuals were no longer free to use which ever of the many standard templates provided by PowerPoint they chose. In some ways the creation of a corporate standard was a good thing mainly because it limited the use of over zealous animation and slide transitions, which had started to detract from the content of the visual aids.

Corporate Branding

standard course

As the processing power and storage capabilities of the standard PC improved it became more and more practical to include photo quality images in a presentation, this co-incided with the advent of the internet, enabling images to be found and shared easily. Clip art became out dated and old fashioned.

Using Images

Slide3

De-Cluttering

In the above example, we still have the same corporate layout and all the main text is still present but now it has been augmented by an image. Often people would keep the bullet points they had become used to using but add a photograph on one side of the slide. However, in attempts to de-clutter their slides and make the most of the images many people decided to dump the corporate formats and concentrate on making the slide content as visible as possible and remove anything that may distract the viewer from their key message.. As in the following example:

Slide7

Keep it Simple

Current thinking has taken this idea of “keeping it simple” even further. There is now a the idea of only having one idea per slide and minimizing the amount of text shown on a slide. After all if the presenter is saying the words, why do people need to read them as well. Contrary to popular belief, people can’t actually multitask very well, so if the audience are reading the slide they are not listening to what the presenter is saying and vice versa.

One idea One Slide

This concept means that the visual aids to accompany a presentation on the “Basis for Good Health” might now consist of three slides rather than one and look more like this:

Slide4

Slide5

Slide6

However, this may be too simplistic. After all the topic is good health, rather than each of the contributors to good health, so you may prefer to bring them all back together like this:

good health

Visual aids have evolved in line with the capability and capacity of available technology.  Adding video clips and live twitter feeds into a presentation is now common place along with other technologies which encourage audience participation. As long as it is implemented in such a way that it continues to add to what the speaker is saying rather than distract the audience, I think any such improvements should be applauded.

Remember the purpose of visual aids is to add value to what the speaker is saying not replace the speaker or repeat what he/she has just said.

Finally, don’t forget that your visual aids don’t have to be slides at all, they can just as easily be physical objects.

All the best

Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz


Positive Power of Power Posing

February 1, 2013

Most people are aware that our body language affects how other people view us but did you know that it
can also affect how we feel about ourselves and even affect our body chemistrypowerpose

According to research by Amy Cuddy a social psychologist from Harvard Business School, “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain.

Testosterone is a hormone which is usually associated with power and dominance, people in a position of power usually have higher than average testosterone levels.

Cortisol is another hormone which is associated with stress levels, and people who are felling stressed usually have above average cortisol levels.

Amy conducted a study which showed that by adopting a power pose, i.e. one where we stretch out our arms and /or legs, to take up more room than usual, for 2 minutes, actually raises the level of testosterone and reduces the levels of cortisol in our bodies. While sitting in a huddled position, minimising the amount of space we take up, for 2 minutes results in a decreased level of testosterone and an increased level of cortisol.

What does this mean to you?

To increase your confidence and authority prior to a presentation, instead of sitting hunched over your laptop reviewing the slides, stand up, stretch your arms out and “power pose” for a couiple of minutes. You will feel more confident and your presentation is more likely to succeed.

For more information check out the video of Amy’s TED talk on Youtube.

By Graham Young

Young Markets

www.businesspresentation.biz


To Move or Not to Move – When Presenting

October 10, 2012

Looking at various article and blogs there would at first sight appear to be a dilemma in the minds of presentation experts as to whether it is good practise to move around when giving a presentation. Some people state that the speaker should stand up straight and still, feet slightly apart, with most of your weight on the balls of your feet and hands at your side. While others suggest that you should step out from behind the lectern and move around the stage area while you talk.

So which is it to be?

Let us start with the basic premise that the speaker is the most important visual aspect of the presentation. Audiences want to see who is talking; they want to see some positive body language reinforcing what is being said. They rarely like the “voice for the gods” effect created by a speaker who is not clearly visible.

So, for my part, I totally agree with the idea of moving out from behind the lectern. Let your audience see you. Lecterns basically just get in the way. They create a barrier between you and your audience and create the feeling that you are talking down to your audience, rather than talking with them, which is a far better approach to gaining your audience’s engagement.

Movement attracts attention. It stimulates our visual senses and people pay far more attention to something that is moving than something that is standing still. So logically, if you want to be centre of attention, which as a presenter you should, then moving around will attract more attention to you as a speaker.

However, if there is too much movement that law of attraction can have the opposite affect. People are so attracted by your movement that is all that they concentrate on, the movement, not what you are talking about.

Many novice speakers move because of nervous tension, rather like a tiger pacing up and down the edge of its enclosure. The movement helps to relieve some of the speaker’s tension, but will end up distracting an audience from what is being said. Hence the advice from many presentation coaches to stand still, when giving a presentation.  Regular to-ing and fro-ing also tends to break the “little repetitive things irritate” rule of presenting.

So if you are going to move, move with a purpose. Make the movement fit with what you are saying. Some research suggests that if there are, for example, three aspects to your presentation you should stand in three different locations on the stage (or front of the room) for each different point. E.g. stand stage right when you are talking about what happened in the past, move to centre stage when you talk about what is happening now, and then stand stage left when you talk about the future. The audience then associate your journey across the stage with the journey you are describing. If later on in the presentation you want to refer back to “how it used to be” walk over to stage right, to compound what you are saying.

In general, if you can move closer to your audience, it will help to reinforce, an important point of your presentation.

But of course there is one definite rule, do not cross the beam of your projector. Set the room up so that you can move around without creating a shadow on your slides.

Overall, the answer has to be “To Move” but to move with a purpose, other than just letting off steam.

By Graham Young

Young Markets

www.businesspresentation.biz


3D Presentations

September 6, 2011

There are three dimensions to every presentation:

  • The verbal – i.e. the words you use
  • The vocal – i.e. the way you say those words
  • The visual – i.e. what people see while you are saying the words

You may think that the words you choose are the most important part of your presentation but by saying the same words with different vocal intonations you can convey different meanings. If you reciteyour presentation in a monotone voice and a constant pace most of your audience will get bored and stop listening. So the vocal aspect is in many ways more important then the words you choose. Of course the words do matter as nobody has ever made a multi-million pound sale by reciting nursery rhymes, no matter how well they recited them.

Is the visual impact more important the tone of voice? If you believe the old proverbs like “Seeing is believing”, “I saw it with my own eyes” or Confucius saying “I hear, I forget, I see I remember…” , then you would have to assume that it is.

Personally, I find it difficult to keep up a conversation while the television is on, because I am constantly attracted to the visual stimulus of the TV, rather than the aural stimulus of the other person’s voice.

This leads me to believe that the visual is more important than the vocal, which in turn is more important than the verbal aspects of a presentation. This also tallies with the research Alfred Mehrabian carried out in the 1960’s which showed that in one on one conversations the words contributed 7% of the message, the way they were said was 38% and the visual aspects were 55% of the communication.

However, more important than any one of these dimensions, is the fact the every dimension has to be synchronised with each other. The brain is very good at spotting things which are out-of-place, or not in sync with each other. If for instance, as part of your presentation, you introduce an exciting new product you need to do so in an excited tone of voice. If you yawned as you said it the words and the tone of voice would contradict the words and it would no longer be believable.

Similarly if you display a slide which says one thing and you talk about something else, or even talk about the same thing but use different words, the audience will become confused and not know which to believe, you or your slides. There are two ways round this, either say exactly what is on your slides (very boring and not good practise) or have slides with minimal text so they can’t contradict you.

In normal everyday conversations the intonations in our voice and the associated body language all come quite naturally, we don’t really have to think about it, unless we are trying to cover something up. The same is true when you are presenting. Assuming that you believe what you are saying, you need not worry about using the right tonal expression or having the right body language, just let it come naturally. It is only when you are thinking something different, from the words that you are saying, that you need to make a conscious effort to control your body language and control your tone of voice.

My advice is to make sure you only talk about things you believe in, or believe in everything you have to talk about.


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