Last summer… my wife Louise, who is a nurse, attended a daylong health conference that cost us $200.00 for her to attend. When she came home that night I asked her how the conference went and without hesitation she told me it was long, boring and was a waste of money. Louise went on to explain to me that for five hours she watched and listened to a woman, the featured presenter, lecture with a monotone voice and never once moved from behind the lectern. What a shame!
My wife’s experience… made me think that if I only had that proverbial nickel for every boring, run-of-the mill presentation I’ve slept through I’d be rich. Don’t get me wrong. I have seen some outstanding presentations over the years. However, just as I’m sure you have, I have also seen bad presentations that made me wish I had spent my time and in some cases my money more wisely.
Hear me now… if you are going to be presenting anything in the future, please know that you have a tremendous obligation to your audience to be interesting, engaging and excited about whatever it is you are presenting. If you are not interesting, the audience won’t be interested. If you are not engaging they will be disengaged. If you are not excited they will fall asleep.
Don’t ever… look at a presentation as something you have to “get through.” Presentations should be approached by you as an opportunity to inspire, motivate and sell your ideas. Anything else would be a waste of time for you and your audience. The key is to remember one thing when presenting:
Nobody cares about you… and this is why every presentation should be delivered in a way that appeals to 100 percent of your audience. Trust me when I say that the success of every meeting, lecture, talk or presentation of any kind will be determined by whether or not you appealed to the individuals who were listening to you. The best way to accomplish this is to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE and to consider these five tips to make sure that you deliver your presentation in a way that will resonate with your listeners even after they have left the room.
Here are 5 tips… to keep in mind to make sure that your next presentation “pops!”
TIP 1 – Be Prepared
I once heard that there a three types of presentations that you can give. The first is the one you planned on giving. The second is the one you gave, and the third is the one you wish you had given as you are driving home. You can avoid that feeling of failing to give the presentation you wished you had given by being prepared. It goes without saying that a lack of preparation will result in you being tense, nervous and disorganized. Trust me when I say that when you are not prepared your listeners will notice and you will immediately lose credibility. Your presentation will feel like a cat-and-mouse game between you and your audience.
Spend time in advance getting to know who your audience will be and know your topic(s) backwards and forwards. Practice your presentation by running through it several times. You’ll be amazed at the ideas that will come to you during each practice run. Remember: preparation leads to success. The more prepared you are the more comfortable you will be while you are presenting.
TIP 2 – Be Excited
If you want your listeners to be excited you’d better be excited and eager to share your information. This doesn’t mean that you have to give your presentations doing cartwheels and smiling uncontrollably. Being excited means that you bring a passion to your topic through your body language and tone of voice. Being excited means that you use gestures and animation to bring your ideas to life. Avoid being monotonous by using different tones of voice and inflections throughout the presentation to help clarify your message. In other words, match your body language and tone of voice with the words you are using. Without doing this you risk sending mixed messages that could confuse your listeners. It would be like telling an audience that you are happy to be there as you say it with a flat voice and a frown on your face. So get excited with your body language and tone of voice, and make sure it matches up with the words you use.
TIP 3 – Be Creative
Right now, please rid your mind of the notion that presenting means that you have to stand behind a lectern while you read from notes or Power Point slides. Kill me now! There are a lot of things you can do to add some creativity to your next presentation. One idea is to start off with an ice-breaker relevant to the topic. This is a great way to get people moving and thinking. Also, during the presentation you could include some participation activities related to the topic. This would give you an opportunity to get your listeners involved by introducing the activity and soliciting feedback from your audience. You could incorporate technology by showing a relevant video clip, playing music or creating eye-popping Power Point visuals. Lately I have been conducting live polling in my seminars using Poll Everywhere. Poll Everywhere is fun, interactive and allows people to use their smart phones.
Creativity and something different is always a great way to make your presentation shine but please heed my warning. Don’t overdo it! Too many activities or over-the-top creativity may take away from your message if you’re not careful. People may leave your presentation saying it was interesting and that they had fun but they may have missed the point(s). Also, it’s crucial that any activities or creative elements you incorporate relate directly to your topic. So be creative, but be mindful that this creativity doesn’t overshadow or not relate to the ultimate message that you are delivering.
TIP 4 – Be Positive
Motivation doesn’t come from using words that are full of doom and gloom. It’s easy to complain and focus on negative things but rarely will it generate positive enthusiasm. More than likely, negative words will lead to intimidation and desperation. That is why when you present it’s imperative to use positive and encouraging words and phrases that will inspire people to take positive action.
I realize that not all news is good news and that there are times when delivering facts or making a certain point may require negative words and information. There is no problem in doing this as long as it’s being used as a motivator by using it to convey a positive and uplifting message in the end. The following is an example of how you can present negative information and using it to motivate by having an uplifting reason for bringing it up.
“We were way over budget last year and it resulted in heartbreaking layoffs.This year we have a tremendous opportunity to be creative in streamlining our expenses in order to retain our most important asset… our people. I’m confident we will succeed.”
Always look at presenting as an opportunity to move people to embrace change and new ideas. If you stay positive you and your message will serve as an inspiration that will help you to inspire people to embrace your message and take action.
TIP 5 – Be Genuine
One of the best ways to shine and connect with a listener is to be genuine by speaking from the heart and being you. If you are trying to be something you are not the audience will see it right away and your credibility and believability will be lost. I understand that at times nerves can get in the way of how you want to be perceived. If you feel like nerves will get the best of you try telling a personal story (which I recommend doing regardless) that relates to your topic. Personal stories are great evidence to back up your point and will help you to relax and be more relatable.
Over the years I have seen presenters who try to be someone they are not. It’s almost as if the presentation is being forced and as a result the speaker comes across looking fake and disingenuous. This usually happens when the presenter is doing things that appear to be unnatural or uncomfortable. If I’m attending a presentation of any kind I don’t want to see the presenter putting on an act. I want to see a presenter who I feel like I could bond with when the audience is gone and the shoes come off. One of the tips I always give to students in my presentation classes it to just have a conversation with me when they are presenting.