Presenting to an audience is a daunting task. No matter how old you are, the nerves tingle, the senses are heightened and palms are sweaty. I'm not the best presenter in the world, but I have learnt a few things and marvel at the best. The best being Winston Churchill. His ability to combine phrases and timing make him one of the best public speakers the world has ever seen. How did he do that?
I have a dream
I don't recall where I got this piece of advice, but it is good. Before you start, look at your audience and start to count to 10. You will most likely never make 10, but that delay and the silence and attention it produces will make sure most people are at least listening. Make sure you have a killer opening line or key phrase. You may not think your sales presentation needs this, but it does.
Pace, change of pace and understanding rhythm is key to making any presentation powerful. Syncopation, the change in rhythm is vital for keeping your audience engaged. Be fast and passionate about the issues that you feel are important to you – but more importantly that matter to your audience. As a rule, if it feels slow for you then it's the right speed for your audience's ears. Take your time.
Tell a story
We discussed this in our PowerPoint email, the importance of telling a story in any presentation. No matter what you think, every presentation you give has an underlying story. That story is gold, you must tell it. I'll give you an unlikely example, "My app will change the world" It might, but tell the story from a user's point of view, considering what their issue is – and how their lives will be changed by your app.
Actually don't kid yourself. Droning on about your own issues or your company's services is dull, old news. Take a look at your content and edit it. Whenever you read, “And x company provides a blah, blah service for xyz,” change it to, “People want... and that's what we deliver”. Make it personal. Never, ever use a generic presentation; always customise it to your audience. Adding the client's logo does not count as personalisation: write content for your audience.
Beats and prompts
Presenting is a performance, and you’ll need peaks and troughs to keep your audience engaged. Change your pace; lower your voice – this can help when making an important point; ask questions. They won't want to answer, but it will pique their interest. Think about rhythm – pause before making a point and pause again after. Stand-up comedians are the masters at this. It is not just pause for effect – think about your delivery. Less Andy Murray and more Al Murray :-)
Infographics are the darling of presentations. They communicate messages quickly and at a top level. They are visually interesting and speak volumes. Take a look at our blog on best practice for infographics. If you can, get some killer numbers in there.
Get them designed so that you can use them not just in PowerPoint, but also as Twitter graphics, in reports, you name it.
You're at the end of your presentation and you are bringing things to a close, wouldn't it be great to give the audience something to take away with them? Ask your audience to engage with you after the event. If you are presenting work, give them a framework for responding. If you are presenting an idea to a funder, ask them to respond. If you are pitching a campaign, ask them to act. But get them to do it right away. Never underestimate apathy after the event.
Presentation techniques are all about the personality – but good technique will bring any presentation to life. Have fun.