Seven steps to getting your next presentation just right
When you present before a live audience, the number one thing to remember is, more than your beautifully animated slides or your meticulously gathered data, you are the most important element of your presentation. In fact, you are the presentation. Therefore, you must commit to bring your whole self to the event.
I'm writing to you from the Westin hotel overlooking a clear but chilly Melbourne. I'm scheduled to tour three cities in Australia this week as part of a speaking and training circuit for Facebook and my strategic partner Enablo, an organisation which improves employee engagement by improving internal communications platforms.
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I was reminded of my "bring your whole self" approach to presentations as I crafted a new keynote speech especially for this tour and as I worked with a top executive from a multinational company who was preparing to make a high-stakes presentation of her own.
She confided during our coaching session that she will be speaking immediately following a presentation of a female leader from a different company who, according to my client, has "amazing presence".
"She commands rapt attention when she presents," my client told me. "Recently, I asked her how she had become such a compelling presenter and she said she's been working with a presentation coach for the past 20 years!"
That's no surprise to me, of course. As Robin Sharma, one of the world's top leadership advisers writes: "All pro athletes have peak performance coaches and so do all extraordinary businesspeople."
From the moment you walk into the event centre to the moment you exit the stage, let's review step by step, some things to bear in mind next time you're presenting face-to-face. I want you to be extraordinary too.
1. Switch yourself on
How you behave when you are greeted by the event co-ordinator or the assistant matters. What expression do you have on your face? How engaged is your posture?
Don't turn the lights on inside yourself only after you are fitted for your microphone.
How you are perceived even when you are not on stage adds to the image your audience will have of you.
We teach people how we want to be treated. Importantly, the way you behave and brightly interact with everyone throughout the day - and every day, frankly - will prompt more positive responses from your audience, which in turn will also impact you more positively.
The way you change your feedback loop will transform the experiences you have in your life.
2. Optimise pleasantries
Some will say that your opening words should launch you right into the introduction of your script. I disagree.
Unless it's a theatrical performance, it's more real to take a quick few lines to greet your audience with a warm "Good morning, it's wonderful to see you."
Name-check a few people if you see them out there. This allows you to get comfortable with hearing your voice projected or amplified and gets people comfortable too.
Take a few seconds to get into the zone, and then launch in.
3. Use your body
Unless you're on an extremely large stage and have a specific reason for moving from one side to another, I prefer my clients to plant their stance in the centre.
Don't rock or shift uncomfortably from side to side. But don't be a statue either. Try taking a step forward or bending your body from the waist to lean toward your audience. Don't pace, but do show some life.
4. Reflect the emotions behind the words
Mark up your script like a musical composition. What are the emotional phrases? Important words? Give them the right tone and engage your face as you speak.
Nobody wants to hear a monotone drone on and on. Listen to yourself rehearse. Do you sound boring? Then change it up.
5. Practice backward and in chunks
One of my clients will be giving the opening hour-long keynote for a big conference in Athens later this month. Knowing he must cover a lot of material, he asked me how he should learn his slides.
It can overwhelm our brains to think about starting from the top - "Oh no, I have 70 slides" - so much that we procrastinate from ever beginning.
So I recommend starting from the back. Then practice the middle. Then put it all together. Don't set aside two hours. Set aside 15 minutes over several days. Make it bite-sized.
6. Don't read your presentation
Communicating is not the same thing as connecting. You simply cannot connect with an audience if your face is bent over your tablet or pieces of paper while you read. This is a complete no-no.
7. Crush your closing
Don't fizzle at the end. Wrap up your main points with care. What did you say that will improve your audience's lives? Remember to remind your audience why it was important that they just sat there and listened to you. Act like you enjoyed yourself and they will too.
When you begin to take ownership over the way you purposefully show up to a presentation, your job and your world, you can catapult yourself and others to greater heights.
Sunday Indo Business