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

 

 


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


Presentation Endings

July 18, 2012

According to the results of a recent survey I undertook, 80% of people finish their presentations with either a summary of their main points or a Question & Answer session. While both these activities have their merits and should usually be included as part of a presentation, I think 80% of people are missing a trick.

Before I reveal what is being missed, let us start by looking at why we give presentations in the first place. In business there are three and only three types of presentation. I talked about these in an earlier post on Presentation Endings.  They are:
A. The Entertaining Presentation, the objective of this type of presentation is purely to entertain, make the audience laugh and smile.
B. The Informative Presentation, designed to transfer knowledge from the presenter to his audience.
C. The Influencing Presentation, which tries to influence the audience in some way, i.e. to make them think differently after the presentation then they did before.

In my view, the vast majority of business presentations are “Influencing Presentations”. They are trying to sell something, it may be a product, a service, a solution or maybe just an idea, or a new way of thinking or working but they are inevitably about instilling some change in the audience.

To get people do something you have to tell them what it is they should do. You can’t just hint at it, you are always best telling them straight, so that there is no ambiguity and it is clear exactly what they should do. This is where a “call to action” is very important. By having a “call to action” at the end of your presentation you can make it very clear what the audience should do next. Summarising the main benefits or having a question and answer session after your call to action dilutes that call. So 80% of people who do not finish with a “call to action” that tells their audience exactly what to do next are missing a trick. The have spent all their time and effort getting their audience all revved up, but not told them where to go.

There is an old saying in presentation circles, “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them”. While the sentiment is a good for a knowledge transfer presentation, if you are trying to influence people, it ignores the need for a call to action. I think a better phrase would be” tell them why they should listen, tell them, tell them what to do next”.

After all, the objective of an influencing presentation is to get people to do something. So when you are creating the presentation that place to start is with the statement that tells people what to do, which is the last thing you are going to say. Then work backwards from there to where your audience are now, in order to justify the call to action and make people willing to take the action. That will define the route your presentation has to take, which will take your audience from their initial state through the tipping point to where you want them to be when you issue your call to action, confident in the belief that they will be ready to take that step.


Preparing a Presentation

January 24, 2012

When you are under pressure at work it can be difficult to allocate the appropriate amount of time to preparing a presentation that you have been asked to give. But as we all know “failing to plan is planning to fail” and this has never be more true when it comes to giving a presentation.

There are three main parts to preparing a presentation:

  • Deciding what to say.
  • Deciding how to say it.
  • Preparing yourself to say it.

What to say

Let’s start with “Deciding what to say”, this is really all about your audience and what you would like them to do. What do you want your presentation to achieve? What is your objective? How will you know if you have achieved your objective? You need to be really clear on what your aim is, so take some time at the start to work out why you are giving the presentation and what you want it to achieve. If you can write this down in one or two sentences you will have a good foundation for your presentation.

Having decided your objective, then start thinking about your audience. Who are they? Why are they coming to listen to you? What do they know about the topic already? What is it that they want or need to hear? The more you can find out about your audience the more accurately you can pitch your presentation to meet their needs and desires. When addressing a mixed audience try to define two or three different segments of your audience and create two or three alternative scenarios.

Having established why and who, it is then time to start thinking and researching what it is your going to say. Having a structure to fit the points you want to make in to is very helpful. One structure I have used successfully many times is to start by outlining the problems with the current way of doing something and the describing a vision of success, a picture of how it could be if things were different. Then go one to describe how this vision could be attained, summarizing all the benefits of the approach, inviting the audience to join you in achieving this vision which you can then restate at the end of the presentation. Don’t be tempted to add in everything that you can think of, maintain a structure. Three key points backed up by evidence or anecdotes is usually sufficient for most presentations.

It is at this point that many people make the mistake of opening PowerPoint and creating lists of slides titles and bullet points. While bullet points may be a useful way to document the points you wish to make in a speech, they do not make good visual aids.

How to Say it

Having pulled all you material together and being familiar with the main point you wish to get across, you can now turn to planning how you are going to convey this information. Are you going to stand and talk? Will you have any props to help get the message across? Will you use visual aids and if so what will they be? Are you going to tell a story? How will you involve your audience? Will you ask them questions?

Rehearse your presentation by saying it out loud. Sitting at your desk clicking though a set of slides is no way to rehearse a presentation. You need to say it out loud to become familiar with your material and to become accustomed to saying the words. By rehearsing a presentation out loud you can develop the phraseology which will work best in the spoken form, rather than the more formal style of language we use when we are writing. A single rehearsal will improve your speech by up to 80%.

You don’t need to have anyone listening to you especially the first time through, although it can help to tape record or video record your presentation rehearsal so that you get a clear view of what you actually sound and look like. I often turn off the radio and rehearse a presentation in the car on the way to the location. It is a great way to rehearse and the presentation and make sure you know what you are going to say, plus it is fresh in your mind when you arrive.

Preparing to say it

Finally, you need to put yourself in the right frame of mind for giving a presentation. If you do not feel confident you need to address it. Tell yourself that being nervous is OK, in fact, if it is an important presentation it is perfectly normal to feel nervous, you just want to recognise that you are nervous and put it to one side, while you get on with the job in hand.

Use confident boosting techniques like telling your self that you are “Poised, prepared, persuasive, positive and powerful “ and that you feel, “composed, confident, convincing, commanding and compelling”.

To counteract a dry mouth, suck a mint beforehand. Use breathing techniques to ensure there is sufficient oxygen in your bloodstream or take some gentle exercise beforehand. Wear clothes that make you feel good. Remember, the facts will only take your audience so far, it is your passion for the subject and your emotion that will lift your presentation to new heights.

Make sure you arrive at the venue, nice and early, so that you have time to get set up and familiarise your self with the surroundings, before your audience arrive. Work out where you are going to put any notes, or props you intend using and think through how any equipment you are going to use will work. Check any pens have ink in them, check your laptop to ensure the screen save, or instant messaging won’t pop up in the middle of your presentation and make sure your mobile is on silent.

Don’t rely on an off the cuff presentation, just because you know about the topic doesn’t mean you can effortlessly give a quality presentation, it takes time, it takes thought and it takes practise.


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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