Presentation Folklore and Myths – Part 1

May 19, 2015

Ask most people how to give a good presentation and the response is likely to include a few common myths that are often regurgitated. Rather than help you to give a great presentation these snippets of presentation folklore will often be a hindrance and not a help.

This is the first in a series of articles that will highlight the myths and point you in the right direction to make sure your next presentation is effective.

Common myths include:

“Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”

“You shouldn’t wave you hands around when you talk”

“To reduce the nervous tension imagine that your audience is in the nude, or sitting on a toilet”

“Your slides make a good handout”

“Always ask if anyone has any questions at the end to make sure that they have understood you.”

 Unfortunately, while these things are said with the best of intentions, they are often open to being misunderstood.

  1. Tell them, tell them, tell them

The advice to “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them” is one of the most misconstrued pieces of advice for a presentation. I’ve also heard this referred to as “Tell then how you are going to bore them. Bore them. Tell them how you bored them”.

You definitely do not want to tell people everything three times!

The first part of this statement “the tell them what you are going to tell them” does not mean put up an agenda slide, by doing so you run the risk of people thinking they know what you are going to say and assuming it will be a boring presentation which is not of interest to them.

A better approach is to start your presentation by making the audience want to listen. To engage your audience’s curiosity about the topic on which you are presenting. Not just tell them what you are going to talk about.

The last part of the statement, “tell them what you told them” means end with a summary. This is okay if you the objective of your presentation is purely information transfer but if you are trying to motivate or persuade your audience you need to end with a call to action, which tells them what you think they should do next.

The majority of presentations in business are not just about transferring information, they are about influencing, motivating and persuading people to do something. As such a summary of the information is a particularly weak ending. Your call to action is the reason you are giving your presentation so make that call to action the last thing you say before you sit down.

  1. Keep your hands still

When I was younger I went on a presentation course and was told not to wave my hands about. I was told to keep them at my side or if I found that too difficult to hold them behind my back. I think this was very bad advice. Some people, me included, naturally talk with their hands. The hand gestures emphasising and re-iterating the spoken word.  Hand gestures can convey enthusiasm and energy and make the presentation far more lively and interesting.

As long as your hand gestures are natural, don’t waste your effort trying to control them, let them emphasize the points you are making.

  1. “To reduce the nervous tension imagine that your audience is in the nude, or sitting on a toilet”

This is a tactic for combating your nerves which has no place in modern business presentations. I agree with the sentiment that your audience are just people like you or me, no more and no less and as such are nothing to be scared of. But I think there are far more successful ways of reducing any nervous anxiety. I have written about this recently in my article Handling Presentation Nerves.

  1. “Your slides make a good handout”

Slides and handouts are two different things which fulfill different purposes. If your slides make a good handout which can be easily understood and digested without your presence then they are not good slides.  Everyone is likely to be reading your slides and not listening to you.

Slides are also known as visual aids, and the clue here is in their name. Visual aids are meant to be pictures which help your audience to understand the message that you are saying. They should create strong mental images that help people to understand and remember what is you said. Handouts need to have far more information in them to replicate the spoken part of your presentation when you are no longer there.

My advice is to prepare a separate document as a handout and then hand it out after you have finished your presentation. See my article on Visual Aids

 5. “End with a Question and Answer Session”

Ending with “Has anyone got any questions?” is definitely the wrong ending for any type of presentation. You want to leave the audience with your summary or call to action ringing in their ears, not with them thinking about your answer to the last question that was asked, or even worse an embarrassing silence because nobody has any questions.

Now I’m not saying you should never ask if anyone has any questions, I always like to encourage audience participation throughout a presentation, but a Q&A session is not the best way to finish a presentation. The end of your presentation should be a call to action that encourages your audience to fulfill the objective of your presentation.

 

That’s all the myths I’m busting this time but in future articles I’ll tackle a few more prominent presentation myths and folklore including:

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

“That 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”

Follow my blog to get an email when the next installment is published.

All the Best

Graham Young

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Eye Contact in Presentations

January 12, 2015

In this article we are looking at the importance of eye contact in public speaking. As Edwin Starr sang in his 1978 disco hit, it is all about “Eye to Eye Contact”.

Look a person in the eye and smile at them and they will smile back. It is part of our inbred human nature. I’m sure you have all seen the bumper stickers, smile and the whole world smiles with you. This basic human nature is a wonderful ally when you are presenting.

Another basic instinct is to avoid eye contact when you are telling someone a lie. These two traits emphasise the importance of eye contact when you are presenting.

Ideally, you should look each person in the eye for about 1 to 3 seconds, the time it takes to say a sentence or make a point. Moving randomly around the room to ensure everyone gains the benefit and feels that you are talking directly to them. With a large audience, where it is not possible to make personal eye contact, split the room into four or six areas and look to each area in turn. The effect will be that everyone in that area will think you are looking at him or her.

With a smaller audience, there will be some people who give better facial feedback to your eye contact than others. They will smile more and look like they are enjoying the presentation more. These are good people to look at when you first start the presentation. They will boost your confidence and calm your nerves but once you are get going and are into your stride be careful not to favour these people too much. They will get more out of your presentation but it will be to the detriment of the others.

I have heard some presentation trainers and coaches suggest that if you are too shy to look people in the eye, to look just above their heads or at the back of the room. It doesn’t work! People can tell you are not looking at them. They all start thinking “What is he (or she) looking at, what is so interesting on the back wall?”

When you are giving a sales presentation, a useful trick is to identify the decision makers in the audience beforehand and ensure you give them the majority of your eye contact.

When I used to run half-day seminars, I would always get a lower rating from the people I did not look at much. I know now, that you have to look at everyone, not just the people who are easy to look at or who return eye contact. Be careful to look at people round the edges of the room or people who are sitting in the corners at the front, areas that you will not naturally look towards.

You can use eye contact to control an audience and their reactions. If someone looks disinterested give them more eye contact, their interest should soon pick up. By ‘more eye contact’, I do not mean stare at them, but as your eyes move apparently randomly round the room, go back to that person more often than anyone else.

To avoid question time turning into a conversation between one or two people and yourself, ensure that you give the questioner only 25% of your eye contact and the rest of the audience 75%. If you do not want a follow up question from the same person, ensure you are not looking at the questioner when you come to the last part of your answer.

Your eyes can convey a lot about what you are not saying. Make sure the silent message is in tune with the words you are using.

Find out more about Effective Business Presentations on my web site http://www.businesspresentation.biz

All the Best

Graham


PYO (Pick Your Own) Audience

July 1, 2014

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

Pick Your Own

Pick Your Own

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

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

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

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

 

All the best with your presentations

Graham Young

http://www.businesspresentation.biz

 


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


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


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.


The right way to give presentations?

April 15, 2011

 Are you a lefty or a righty when it comes to giving a presentation?  Which side scores the most ticks for you?

How most people make a presentation How people make the most of a presentation
Worry about being nervous   Acknowledge the nerves and put them to one side  
Introduce yourself with your name and talk title   Grab attention – do something unexpected but in line with your talk  
Use colourful templates to add interest   Have a consistent design layout  
Use bullet points on their slide   Use visual aids which are visual and aid understanding  
Use small a font to include all the detail   Use big fonts to make big statements  
Ramble – or structure it so people know exactly what you are going to say next   Structure your presentation so audience can see where you have come from but not where you are going, maintain some suspense  
Talk about themselves and their achievements   Talk about their audience’s wants and needs  
Use clip art and unrelated images   Use pictures that create strong mental images  
Read the slides   Lead the presentation, with slides as an aid  
Use a monotone voice   Be emotional, give a performance  
Talk at their audience   Talk with their audience  
Forget to summarize   Summarize the 3 key points  
Give copies of slides as handouts before   Give detailed handouts after  
Stop talking when you have run out of things to say   Finish with a call to action before your audience stop listening  

If you scored more lefts than rights the right thing to do is to come on a presentation skills course.

If you scored more rights, well done, keep up the good work and keep spreading good presentation practise.


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