By Cheryl Stein
Monster Business Coach
Lots of people have written lots of advice on how to give a great presentation. In fact, an entire industry has been created to help people be effective presenters. We read books, magazines and even listen to presentations on how to get up in front of a crowd and keep them interested.
Has anyone other than me noticed that those presentations on presenting bore you to tears and within five minutes you are yawning and looking at your watch praying that it will be over soon? If the presenting experts can’t keep our attention maybe there is something a little off about our conventional presentation wisdom. We have all come to expect some sort of electronic slide show to accompany the people who stand in front of us. We want fancy graphics and neat pictures but in this Power Point age, we have forgotten that we also want a presenter that knows what they are talking about and can talk to us in a semi intelligent way.
The Power Point Addiction
Power point did for the presentation what the laugh track did for the sitcom. It allowed mediocre content to be presented as if it was good. If you have to use Power Point, and I know most of you feel that you do, don’t use it as a crutch. Use it as a tool. That means actually knowing your stuff and delivering content that you don’t read off your slides. It also means working a little less on polished graphics and a little more on your delivery. Here is a novel idea, practice before you present so that you come across as someone who is familiar with his or her material and can talk about it easily and comfortably, and yes, I mean practice out loud in front of a mirror or in front of your family or friends. People will be way more interested if they feel that you are really good at saying the stuff you need to say.
Keeping it Real
One of the most important presenting skills is actually not a skill at all. It is a state of mind. To effectively convey your message, and to have people believe your message, you need to be authentic. Authenticity, or being genuine, is essential to keeping people’s attention. If your audience senses that you aren’t sincere, they won’t believe in the idea or product that you are selling. They will tune you out and forget everything about what you were saying but they will never forget that you were phony. My advice, don’t deliver it unless you can deliver it in a way that makes it seem like you believe in it.
Watch, Rinse and Don’t Repeat
Whoever came up with idea of “tell them what you’re going to say, say it, tell them what you said” was probably a really boring person. People don’t like being treated like they are stupid. They get resentful when you keep driving home the same points over and over again. Say the thing that you have to say once, watch your audience’s body language to see if they have gotten the point. If it seems like they have, get some audience participation in the form of questions or personal experience. Adults learn by applying knowledge. When you teach people something and then give them a chance to make it personal, you will have a greater chance of having them retain what you have said.
Keep it Simple
I know that it is tempting to get up and use the most complicated words that you know so that the world will think you are smart but that will only serve as a tool for putting people to sleep. It is hard for people to pay attention and if they have to struggle to translate what you are saying into language that makes sense, they will get tired of working and start fantasizing about what they are going to have for lunch.
Looking Good, Feeling Good
When you feel good about how you look, you make yourself sound smarter. That’s because people tend to be self -fulfilling prophesies. A successful looking person will give their audience a better first impression, which will make people sit up and listen to you because you will look like you know what you are talking about. The energy being emitted from your audience will boost your confidence and you will have an easier time delivering your content.
Question and Answer Should Not be the Period.
Why presenters save questions for the end is baffling to me. Audience participation during your presentation keeps people awake. Audience participation helps people remember. Audience participation gives you a break from being the center of attention. People generally remember the last thing that they heard. Do you want it to be that totally off topic question that the guy who likes to hear himself speak asked at the end or do you want it to be you and what you are trying to tell your audience? Make a point, explain it and then ask people if they understand it.
The power in a presentation is the points that you make not in the slides that you show. Put that remote away and start telling people what you want them to know in a way that gets them to understand it. If you don’t, they are going to use their remote and they will turn you off.
Cheryl Stein is an Associate Certified Coach, a credential that is designated by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit Stein Consulting and Coaching.