By Dr Denise Meyerson, Director of Management Consultancy International
I have attended a few conferences lately and have been appalled at the level of presentations. This is a personal plea not to fall into that category of dry, boring presentations that literally send people off to sleep!
You have the knowledge and you have the subject matter expertise — now it is up to you to convey it in a way that engages, interests and motivates your audience. Following are some tips on how to do this.
1. Get a toolkit together
Spend some money on a mobile device that changes slides. This prevents you from being glued to the lectern or from running up and down the stage to move a slide forward. Have your own whiteboard pens on hand and not some dried up, useless ones left over from other presenters.
At a large conference, ensure that you have a lapel microphone. You do not want to look like a half-eaten person hidden behind a lectern. Whoever invented the lectern did not know much about connecting with an audience. Get that lectern moved right out of the way.
3. Work on your slides
Yes, there is such a thing as “Death by PowerPoint”. Develop PowerPoint slides for the 21st Century. We are all ultimately visual learners and so need visual stimulation. We recall pictures and want to be entertained as though we are watching television.
We do not want so many words on a slide that we have to screw our eyes up to read it. Rather, hand out these precious and important words in a document. Look up the book “slide:ology” on the internet and follow these principles.
4. Get feedback on your presentation skills
Specifically ask for feedback from people you trust and listen to what they have to say. Have yourself video-taped and do some self-assessment. It all sounds basic, but wow, what a difference it makes. Out with the monotonous voice and in with variation in pace and tone.
Introduce movement — if you are stuck like concrete to the same spot, the audience loses interest fast.
And please … please do not turn around and read your slides from the screen. Adjust your computer to “presenter view” and read from the laptop if you need to.
5. Chunk your information
We do not absorb with real understanding for more than 20 minutes. Accept that fact of life. If you pour information down our throats for longer, it will not be heard.
Information needs to be delivered in short bites and every 20 minutes (at least), the pace and the level of activity needs to change. There is nothing wrong with saying to the audience, “I am giving you one minute to turn to the person next to you and discuss …”. It breaks up the session and people can then re-focus on your key messages.
6. Never, ever apologise for nervousness
So, you have never presented before to a large group? Well, no-one cares. Get over it and practise in front of the bathroom mirror until you feel confident.
Ask people for feedback and visualise yourself in the situation for days beforehand. Breathe deeply from the chest and have some water. Then, if you have something to say, stand up and say it!
7. Don’t hide before the presentation begins
Walk the room if possible. Meet and greet people as they come in to the room or during the tea break. It reduces the nerves and sets the scene for a positive presentation. It also gives you an opportunity to find out what people want to know more about and why they are there.
If you think no-one will ask questions at the end, plant a few questions by asking participants to ask about certain points.
At the end, mingle if possible to receive feedback!
This article was written by Dr Denise Meyerson and originally published in Management Consultancy International’s Edge eNewsletter 64