I gained some great insight about what really intelligent people often do the moment they know they need to do a presentation. I guess it’s our default presentation mindset.
I was running a two-day presentation skills workshop where 30 delegates (all leaders) had to do a five-minute presentation on their role. They had 24 hours to prepare and the initial results weren’t great.
The biggest issue? The great majority of people created notes in PowerPoint and then read these out to the audience. As such, their back was towards the audience about 50 per cent of the time. Each five-minute presentation had between six and 20 slides that were mostly notes.
It amazes me that this is still what so many, really smart people revert to this style of audience torture. It’s scientifically proven that reading notes while someone reads them to the audience kills learning and deflates an audience. The great thing was that this story had a happy ending. Everyone re-presented the next day and the results were great. The top five changes we explored were:
- Pretend that you are in Mad Men in the world of 1960s advertising and you are going to give a huge presentation next week. You need your designer to put together some boards to use as part of your pitch. Do you ask them to write up your presentation and you will then read these out to the audience? You ask them to design visual aids that will reinforce your key points and enable your audience to be engaged and understand what you are talking about! If it’s making a powerful point, great. If not, get rid of it. You are not a PowerPoint junkie. You are better than that.
- Start with a bang, summarise your three key points at the end and finish on a high.
- Tell a story. We love to listen to stories, they are engaging, we connect with them and they enable powerful recall. Metaphors, analogies, examples, case studies are all part of the great story family.
- Find stimulus to engage your audience and help make your key points. This can be anything. It may be music, a real life model, an animation, a movie, a photo, a graph, anything really as long as it helps make your point.
- Your presentation HAS to be about your audience. Put yourself in their shoes. Is what you are saying really interesting to them? Are you speaking in their language? Do they like looking at your back? Do they like your mumbling?
If your presentation is all about you typing out your notes so that you can read them, your font size and clipart, is this really what your audience wants to hear? Time to check your default position before you hurt your audience.