Saturday, March 1, 2014

7 Things I Do to Make My Presentations Less Imperfect

All of my presentations are perfect!  Ummm….NO!  (Not even close!)

Some presentations go REALLY well (not all of them :), but I’ve NEVER made a PERFECT presentation.

…and that’s okay!

However, there are some things I do to reduce my chances of really blowing it.

1. Arrive Early
2. Know—in Advance—What You Can Remove
3. Give Moments to Mentally Relax
4. Learn about Your Audience
5. Make It Clear WHY They Should Care (about Your Topic)
6. Use the Audience for Your Explanation
7. End with a Question

Some of these might be obvious; others might need more explanation.  In fact, I might even be missing important things.  However, I KNOW that if you incorporate ANY of these, you will improve your chances of delivering a presentation well enough…well enough to compensate for the fact that your presentation WILL NOT BE PERFECT.

1. Arrive Early
Someone had to tell me this one.

Do you know WHY this is really important?  (HINT: Though it’s important, it doesn’t really have to do with making sure that will be there “on-time.”)

No, there is a MUCH more important reason!

Which is easier to do, walk into a CROWDED room or walk into a room with only a few people in it?

Most people—answering HONESTLY—will say that it’s easier (and less intimidating) to walk into a less with fewer people.

I really like this, because I can bond with a few people before I give my talk.  Often, most people arriving early will have some connection with the group leader…if not actually BE the group leader.

Now, you are part of the “in-crowd.”

If you don’t think that’s important, try being outside that “in-crowd” and give a talk.  NOT VERY FUN!

Arrive early to your event so you can begin bonding.  If you’ve never done this, you’ll be amazed how much this helps you DURING the presentation.

I’m really glad I started to take this advice, because it’s a great way to start.

2. Know—in Advance—What You Can Remove

Sometimes, it takes longer to get through a presentation than you planned.  Actually, I’ve NEVER had a presentation take LESS time—it’s ALWAYS MORE.

After getting burned by this way too many times, I started realizing that some parts of my presentation were more expendable than others.

That’s fancy wording meaning that I include stuff that’s “nice to have” but not “essential.”  That’s that stuff I CAN remove if I find that I have more remaining material than time.

When I’m “on my game,” I note which parts can be removed, based on the skill level of most of the people in the audience.

Prepare with all of the material you would LIKE to deliver, but note the pieces that you can “skip” when (not if…but when) the presentation runs long.

Trying to force too much material with too little time is a SURE way to LOSE your audience.

So pick things you can remove.  At least, that’s what I’ve been doing lately.

3. Give Moments to Mentally Relax

Wow!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made THIS mistake.

As presenters, we get real excited about sharing as much of what we can with EACH MINUTE we have the audience’s attention.  (Maybe it’s our misunderstanding of their expectation, but whatever the reason…)

However, we forget that WE need mental breaks.   So do our audience members.

They NEED time to soak in what we’ve shared.

I’m learning to allow for this…NOW.

Here are some of the ways I give people a chance to take that mental breather:

--Show Video Clips (that are pertinent, but it’s better if they’re light)

--Give a Verbal Quiz…about something they might not get right…but is either important…or interesting.

--Recap in Small Chunks…What have we covered up to this point…or even in that last section?

Sometimes, I plan for these.  Other times, I just notice that it’s needed, and I think of something to help reinforce a concept I delivered.

4. Learn about Your Audience

Yes, I’m supposed to be the expert, but YOU are the expert about you…and what you need and want to get from my presentation.

Sometimes, I might have the benefit of getting information about you BEFORE my presentation.  Most of the time, though, I don’t.


It works best for me when I WRITE DOWN my questions in the front of the room.

I know what I want to get from their introductions.  So it’s on me to help provide a structure so they can answer my questions neatly.  A lot of people are nervous and aren’t sure what to say.  Other people will take up too much time and tell you more than you need to know (for the presentation).

Writing down questions helps me, and I begin by answering those questions myself…just to set the tone.

Then I take notes…maybe not about everything, but I try to find what is important…and see whether I can find a way to incorporate MY presentation into what they want to learn.

5. Make It Clear WHY They Should Care (about Your Topic)

After I learn some things about you, I owe you a COMPELLING REASON you should  CARE about my topic.

I try to do this at the beginning.

If possible, I will tell a story about some way I benefit from what I’m about to tell them.

If that’s not available, I try to find facts and other case studies and share them.  Actually, I only want to share the HIGHLIGHTS.

I don’t have to tell you everything at this point.  I just need to help you share my perspective, if not passion for the topic.

If I do this, now there is a MUCH better chance that you WANT to pay attention; there’s something in it for you, and now you know it.

6. Use the Audience for Your Explanation

Few things make a point easier to understand as when I find an example that USES YOU…within that example.

This does two (2) things.

First, it gives people a chance to take a mental breather…It’s not a new concept, but we’re just reinforcing a prior one.  So you can digest this more easily.

Second, it DEEPENS your understanding.  If I use you…or someone you know…within my example to help you understand my point, you have a MUCH better chance of remember it.

A bonus benefit is that it usually makes things more fun for the crowd…The more I engage with you, the more of a friend I am…not just someone spouting off facts at you.

7. End with a Question

My BEST presentations end making people think.  There are few better ways to do this than to ask a question…for you to answer for yourself.

The explanation for this is simple.  Do you understand something better when somebody TELLS you, or when you figure out things for yourself?

What do you wish us presenters did more (or less) to make our presentations better for you?  Are you doing these same things when you try to communicate with people you see every day?

It’s different, but is it really THAT different?

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