…this is what a participant told me last friday during a training. It was his conclusion on the tips and tricks I had just given. And in fact he’s right. Getting the attention of the audience is not something that happens just like that. If you want attention of the audience, you have to give it to the audience yourself ! Give them your full attention, look at them, go as close to them as you possibly can, be and feel one with them. And the best way to do that is to make sure you have no slides to begin your presentation. Let the audience focus on you so you can focus on them. No distractions, just you and your story. Experiment with it…
Today I interviewed Els Demeester, head of Tech Data in Belgium and the only woman in the board of directors at the European level of the company. Why is this of any importance ? Because I am interviewing women in top positions in Belgium to see how important their presentation skills have been in their career as research for my book on this topic. And she had something extremely important to say. The last question I ask these women is what advice they would give to ambitious young women at the beginning of their career. The first thing she answered was : I have followed a training on presentation skills and (smiling she added you’re going to like what I’m going to say…) if I would have known, I would have followed this training much sooner in my career. So my advice to young women is to follow a training on presentation skills as soon as possible…In the beginning of your career the way you talk to an audience is even more important than the content. When you move up the ladder, the content has most importance !
I just did a half an hour telephone coaching with someone who has to do a presentation for a very big audience end of January, and in the end what it all comes down to is ‘being authentic’. And this is not the first time I come to this conclusion. I am interviewing women in top positions in Belgium to see how important their presenation skills have been to get that position in their career. I have interviewed 22 women now and what they nearly all say is how important it is, not just in presentations, to be authentic. Now what does that mean for me in presentations ? I always stress that of all the techniques I advice, you can experiment with that, but it is so very important that it feels good to you. Because if it doesn’t feel good, it won’t sound good. I like people to start their presentations with a personal (not necessarily funny) story but if that feels very unnatural to you, please don’t do that. Look for something that feels good to you. In preparing a presentation ‘feeling your words’ is crucial. I have coached some beginning news presenters and very often the first time when they read from an autocue I can’t feel what they say. They pronounce everything right but it is a though they don’t hear what they say themselves, that it is just words. The more I coach them to ‘feel’ the words they say, the better they read from the autocue. And that is exactly so for presenters. And it begins with your ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’. Really welcome yur audience, welcome them in a smiling way. Don’t make your welcome sound as the obligated first sentence. Feel it when you say it. Whenver you can smile in a presentation, please do that. You don’t have to smile throughout the presentation though. Being authentic means being hones as well and sometimes you have bad messages as well. My mean message for you in this post is TO FEEL YOUR WORDS when you speak them in a presentation.
Chris Lytle is sales expert and the author of ‘The Accidental Salesperson’. He interviewed Dave Paradi who is a ‘technical’ PowerPoint specialist. With technical I mean that he gives great advice how to design a good slide. On top of that he knows the best way how to put sound, images or movies in your PowerPoint. You can find more information on this great site of his www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com The topic of the interview was ‘How can sales professionals make their presentations more effective’. In the interview you hear him talk on the biggest mistake sales professionals make when they present, and you hear 3 golden rules to make your PowerPoint presentation more powerful.
I recently attended a debate on gender and leadership. Before the debate there were 3 presentations on that same topic. One of the speakers explained about the 4 different types of leadership. She could have explained it merely in a ‘theoretical’ way explaining what each style meant, what most speakers would do. But on top of that she gave an example of every style. The typical ‘male leader’ was Margareth Thatcher, the typical ‘female leader’ was a very well known Belgian politician who easily shows his emotion and I think everyone has seen him in tears at least once…And when she mentioned that name, the audience laughed. There was laughter because there was recognition, everyone understood. And this is in fact the message I want to get across. Use examples or comparisons in your presentation because only then your audience can laugh. In a presentation you normally give new, unknown information (otherwise there is no need to present). However new information is often abstract information. it is difficult to understand and that is why it is so interesting to make your information comprehensible by linking it to something known for the audience. Make you abstract information concrete. And in doing that, humour often arises automatically !
I had an interesting conversation yesterday with one of my clients. Last year the company orgnanised for the first time a 3 day conference on a European level where the country managers and team leaders could explain about their accomplishments of that year and the objectives for the next year. Of course they explained that giving a presentation. However, this year quite some months before the next event, the company asked me to help the speakers prepare their presentations because their first event had been very successful although the presentations could have been a lot better. One of the managers told me yesterday that he had done some research on the effectiveness of the presentations of last year. He asked quite a number of people what they remembered from these presentations and nearly everyone remebered ‘the coffe machine’…Now what is the coffee machine all about you might wonder ? One of the presenters of last year, Andy, was in my workshop. During the exercices I noticed that he alreday had great qualities as a presenter and I very much liked his style. Before the workshop , I had received the PowerPoint presentations they had made last year and of the 20 presentations there was only one that I liked, Andy’s…Why was his presentation so memorable ? Because he had explained a new machine and while preparing his presentation he noticed how much this new machine resembled an espresso machine. You just press the button and the machine does all the rest the result being a nice coffee. This was just so with the new machine. So he explained that talking about an espresso machine. Now this is very important information because it illustrates an important point I want to make how you can make your presentation memorbale : use comparisons. People remember new information much better when you compare it with something they know ! And why was his PowerPoint the only one I liked ? Because he had few slides and the slides he did show were either pictures (now I come to think of it, there was actually a picture of an espresso machine), or very simple word or figure slides. Words in a very big font and only some 2 to 3 figures on a slide, not a whole table…
I joined a toastmasters meeting yesterday evening and it was a great experience. For those who are not familiar with it, some explanations. Toastmasters is a club that exists worldwide where people meet to improve their presentation skills. Some clubs meet twice a month, others more often. Yesterday I was a guest in the Brussels club and I was really amazed how effective these meeting was. Being a presentation coach I can not stress enough how important it is to exercise. You can follow a training course but the most important thing is what you do with it afterwards. Suppose you want to exercise your presentation skills but you don’t have the opportunity to present that much in your company…then toastmasters is the answer. In an extremely warm and welcoming environment you can exercise prepared presentations and impromptu speech, and on top of that you receive great and useful feedback from your fellow toastmasters. Highly recommended, especially for people who feel intimidated getting on stage !
The slides I see over and over again are what I call ‘compromise’ slides. Presenters do know by now that you can’t put too much on a slide. But on the other hand they give these slides afterwards as a handout so they tend to put more, and more and more on the slide… Look at it from a different angle. Make a difference between the slides that you show during the presentation, which are simple. And the handout document that you give after the presentation, which is detailed. When you make the ‘simple’ slide, just look at the bottom of the slide where it says ‘notes’. This is where you put all the details, full sentences and stuff you tend to put in the slide now. When you go to ‘print’, you have the possibility to print the notes and this is actually the document you will print out and use as a handout. So look at the notes as a kind of word document. The information you put on these notes is ideally all the information you have given the audience during the presentation while they see the simple slide. You can actually make the notes as detailed or to the point as you want. Just bullit points as a kind of summary of what you told or actually text in paragraphs. On the photograph you can see what the ‘notes’ look like when they are printed. The top of the document is the slide you have shown during the presentation. The bottom is all your explanation in bullits or full sentences.
When I ask people what they appreciate in a presentation they tell me most often ‘not too much text on a slide and just reading it’ or ‘a monotone speaker’ and one the first answers I usually get is ‘humour’. Now humour in a presentation is of course something completely different than telling a joke. I started doing some research on what humour exactly is in presentations. I started paying attention to humour in presentations : when do people laugh, why do they laugh, when do they laugh when I am a presenter…I absolutely don’t see myself as a humorous person and I am the worst joker there is (I simply never tell jokes because I never remember them…) but I do succeed in getting people to laugh during lectures. I don’t pretend to have the absolute and one and only answer to this question but I did discover that people laugh about things they know and understand. That can be because they recognize or have been in a situation themselves or because they know it as in a cliché. Let me share an example with you. Mark Gungor is a therapist who gives lectures to couples who are about to divorce. He explains how male and female brains are very different. Now he can do that in a serious scientific way, but he has chosen a whole different approach. The reason why it is humorous is of course the way he brings it on stage and his facial expression, but it is very recognizable for people.