Some people live for making presentations; others consider it their worse nightmare. It could be five people in a boardroom or 500 in the audience, but if you are the presenter the spotlight is on you. You'll either be the hero or the goat.
No need to panic. Here are five ways to help make your presentation astounding and enjoy the opportunity to bask in the limelight.
1. Give it Focus
No one is impressed by a presentation that rambles. Rambling happens when the speaker is both self-indulgent and unorganized. Your purpose and prose must be specifically directed to interests of your listeners or they will mentally shut you down. Even if you hit upon a topic of interest, you will lose them quickly if they can't follow the logic of your ideas. Outline the structure of your presentation in a way that people can follow easily. Research your audience to make sure the topic is truly of interest. Promoting the benefits of beef at a vegetarian conference will likely empty your venue no matter how strong your passion for steak.
2. Tell Compelling Stories
There must be a reason you are presenting to these people. Most likely you want them to take action of some kind. Maybe you want them to write you a check, get involved in an activity, or to make something happen in their own lives. They won't likely take action just because you tell them to do so. You need to connect with them emotionally and inspire them to change behavior. Stories do more for emotional connection than any other speech technique. The more personal and authentic, the more powerful the response you'll receive. Learn how to construct stories that excite, motivate and compel people to action. Most importantly, make sure your stories have humor and Aha! moments to make them memorable.
3. Give an Entertaining Performance
Not every presenter has to be an actor or comedian, but no one wants to listen to someone drone on in dull monotone. There are powerful dynamics in movement and vocal inflections that will help your listeners feel your passion and energy. Give them an awesome experience. Take the time to create a script and memorize it so you own the material. You don't have to know it word for word but you should be able to clearly articulate the key points without your notes. Then you need to rehearse... a lot. As painful as it might be, watch yourself on video and work to remove Uhhs, Umms and physical tics so you appear polished and comfortable. Find a friend with a performance background to coach you so your diction is clear, you project emotion, and you connect with your eyes. Make your audience knows they are worth your effort.
4. Use Media Only to Enhance
PowerPoint, visuals and video are powerful presentation tools when used correctly. But they can be disastrous distractions when misused. They should never replace you as the provider of expertise. Don't ever let your audience feel they would have been better off if you had just emailed them the deck. Keep your PowerPoint to a few words and never read from the screen in the presentation. Ask yourself if a slide or video is truly necessary before adding anything. Visuals are good for making an emotional connection only if they are relevant and required, otherwise best to just leave the projector off and focus more on your storytelling and performance skills.
5. Create a Worthy Leave-Behind
So you just delivered the best presentation ever. Now your audience heads off to the next speaker, to lunch or back to their desks. People are busy and no matter how much you impressed them they will turn their attentions elsewhere. Give them something to remember you by. Professional speakers will give them a book or at least a couple of chapters. It might be as simple as a small flyer or premium item. Whatever it is, make sure it's relevant to your compelling story and reminds them of the action they should take. Be clever and appropriate so people will appreciate your thoughtfulness as well as your ideas.
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