By Matthew Hill
You have done 5 to 15 presentations and you have overcome your shock and dread. You are thrilled that people seem to be engaging with your material. But you have yet to experience an ovation. You have not been clapped to the point of personal embarrassment. And you have yet to be pestered to sign a business contract directly after one of your speeches.
How can we change this?
Here are 5 tips to further refine your excellent presentation skills and get you closer to being a commercial presenter that generates warm commercial interest.
1 Identify with your audience – You have less than 10 seconds to verbally connect with your audience. If you don't grab them then some shiny object in their periphery will.
Ask yourself what are they thinking? What are they feeling? And what's top of mind for them NOW? A trick that I use is to make a reference to my journey to the venue, a conversation that morning or some extremely topical news event that I heard about on the radio earlier. This builds a wonderful connection, proves that you are confident enough to spontaneously busk in a presentation and shows that you are professional enough to care.
2. My brain hurts – it is tempting because you put so much work into your Ph.D. to give the audience the benefit of your 7 year working process and an insight into the long journey that led you to your 500 page dissertation.
But just DON’T.
Slides full of words, overly complex graphs and a philosopher's lexicon will lead to cognitive overload and the smell of smoke as your audience’s brains are taxed beyond reasonable expectation.
K.I.S.S. – humans can hold 7 or so items in their memory at one time (plus or minus 2.) if you are sending the audience an excess of information to their mental processor they will no longer listen to your message. Whilst complexity seems like a good idea and a badge of credibility, it is more likely to be perceived as a cowardly shield covering up a lack of certainty and confidence about the veracity of your core message.
Steve Jobs, whilst a complex and sometimes unpleasant person, understood that one word and a picture made a memorable slide; that a turtleneck and charisma made up for lots of data and a simple demonstration beats complex theory every time.
3. Selective attention – there is no one setting for attention level for an audience. Monday morning blues, post-lunch carbohydrate low or following the wittiest man on the planet will contribute to your audience NOT giving enough attention to your wonderful show.
Whilst we would love full engagement by everybody all of the time, this is a fantasy that we need to give up. I like my audience to listen with selfish attentiveness – being stimulated by keywords that bring them back from their daydream and get them to focus on your next 3 sentences. Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, money, wealth, health, sleep, infidelity, danger, secret, celebrity, free prizes, death and happiness. These buzzwords, overused by the Internet, bring people's attention back to you, the speaker.
The only difficulty now is following up your buzz word with something that makes it worth while for the audience to stay focused on your presentation.
4. Say, repeat and repeat again – in my early days as a group trainer in global corporations, I would encourage the audience to discuss and share ideas. I made a naive assumption that when one audience member said something intelligent and in a fairly clear way that the rest of the audience words hear, process, understand and remember that nugget of gold.
How wrong I was.
Unless you nail it to their foreheads you cannot assume that the information has gone in.
There's an old army saying from the parade ground that says, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell it to them and then tell them what you have just told them.” Whilst that sounded ridiculous when I first heard it, it now makes perfect sense.
Telegraph what you are about to present with hooks, fliers and cut through text. Spell it out in the core of your show and always provide a summary at the end.
5. A Goldfish with ADHT – there is much debate about modern gadgetry, information overload and the competition for your audience’s time. Whilst the population of planet Earth has probably not turning into 30-second listeners, you do need to mix up your delivery to keep people going past about magic 10 minute mark.
Contrasting media – changing from flipcharts to roving microphone to video film clip to a song and summarising with a picture on a PowerPoint will certainly give you full marks for professionalism, variety and ingenuity.
Robbie Williams hit the nail on the head when he said, “Let me entertain you."
I have taken up 3 min of your time and must stop before shiny objects, inappropriate thoughts or the next e-mail ping take you away.
Good luck with your perfect and professional presentations.
Matthew Hill is a Trainer, Author and Coach working with international audiences to help them uncover their deeper potential and shine in public.