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Having made yourself comfortable in what can only be described as a less than comfortable seat, you watch the presenter tentatively take their place on the stage, filled with anticipation and apprehension. As the applause dies down and last minute adjustments are made, the first slide appears before you and you are faced with… bullet points! Bullet Points, are you kidding me?! A presentation filled with text, text and more text, coupled with the sound of a monotone voice - a self-indulged presenter who has disengaged from the audience completely. The perfect recipe for driving a lethal stake into any presentation! Disappointed and bored to the point of almost falling asleep, you remove your phone from your pocket and proceed to log into Twitter, “#boredom #whoisthisguy #badpublicspeaking” you tweet.
Now if you can resonate with this, then perfect! Take a snippet of that boredom and reflect on what you shouldn’t do when presenting yourself, because your goal as the speaker is to engage your audience. We all have those times where we need to present - sometimes just to the boss, or to your team, or to a wider audience. Understand that the most vital part to any presentation is to conceptualise and frame your story - the rest will unfold from here.
Easier said than done you say, therefore the question still remains, what is the secret formula to an engaging presentation? Well the aim of the game when giving any presentation; short or long, is for it to be relevant and interesting; to ensure that your audience learns something or perhaps can reflect on their current position about your topic. In order to succeed at this, you need to be compelling – which can be defined as “evoking interest or attention in a powerfully irresistible way”. One way to initiate your introduction is by starting with a story that your audience can relate too.
A great presentation can be broken down into three parts; planning, preparing and presenting. With these three ‘P’s’ in mind you’ll see your presentation move from ‘good’ to ‘great’!
Karl Gude, Creative process & visual storytelling instructor at Michigan State University, explains this concept further.
Ensure that when you are planning your presentation that you do so with the audience in the foreground. Stick to topics that you know well and can speak about with ease – you don’t want to be speaking to a power point (or similar) for the duration of the presentation. Make eye contact with the audience, and really speak to them. To find the right place to start, consider what people in the audience already know about your subject—and how much they care about it. If you assume they have more knowledge or interest than they do, or if you start using jargon or get too technical, you’ll lose them.
Just like a written proposal, do the research on your audience to make sure your topic you choose will be truly of interest. The most engaging speakers do a superb job of very quickly introducing the topic, explaining why they care so deeply about it whilst convincing the audience that they should too.
Make sure your points are logical and simple. Don’t over crowd your slides with bulk amounts of information, rather use strong, eye catching visuals and key words. Whilst a good presentation contains valid, fact-checked information, a great presentation contains minimal information.
If any information is not 100% relevant, it does not deserve to be included in your presentation. This leaves only information that drives impact and emotion.
Consider collating a handout that can be taken away by your audience, this can contain more detailed information about what you’ve covered.
The golden rule when preparing a presentation is: 1 x PowerPoint slide = 1 x Point made. Guy Kawasaki follows the 10/20/30 rule with PowerPoint slides. Kawasaki states that a PowerPoint presentation should have no more than 10 slides, lasting no longer than 20 minutes and have no text in less than a 30-point font. This could be little exaggerated – but we can see his point. If your power point slides can stand alone – meaning someone could just read them instead of attending your presentation, then you have overindulged with the content.
Great presentations are a story, a journey for your audience to experience. We all know that humans are wired to automatically listen to stories and that metaphors abound for the narrative structures that work best to engage people. Take your audience on a journey by unveiling your emotion, interacting with your audience and moving your body when explaining or to emphasise a point. And no ramblings, a rambling makes for a self-indulgent, unprepared and unorganised public speaker.
The aim of any presentation is to cause the audience to learn and reflect, to inform and enlighten. The more personal and authentic your presentation is, the more powerful the receptions from your audience you'll receive. Presentations that are done well can change the thoughts and minds of others; a successful talk is a little miracle in itself – people view the world differently afterwards.
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