When I was young I was an enthusiastic Scout. I had great fun and many happy memories including the motto “Be prepared”. These two words sum-up what’s written here, because preparation is a key to success. You might be a natural story teller, confident in front of hundreds of people. It's more likely that you are like I was, nervous and worried. But whatever your natural abilities in front of an audience, they’ll be improved by preparation (and practice).
This is a 10 minute Checklist that you can use to prepare yourself, whether you haven’t written a word and your starring role is days ahead or if you are about to step on stage.
- A Clear Objective
Write down a single objective that you want to achieve from your presentation. (If you insist, you can have up to 3 objectives - but 1 is best). Your objective should clear and measurable. You want your audience to ‘do’ something - what is it? If you could get your audience to repeat 1 phrase or sentence later that day what would it be?
Focus on delivering your objective. Remove any clutter. Leave your audience in no doubt what you want, and why is right for them. How do I set a realistic objective?
- Your stage and agenda
What is the format of your meeting? Is it formal or informal, using slides or video or just talking? Will you be amplified or not, part of a panel or a solo presenter? Where are you in the agenda?
Your presentation needs to stand out. Avoid preparing for the wrong kind of meeting. Make sure that your content is tuned this event. Do I know all the questions to ask?
- Understand your Audience
You can’t connect with your audience, or have them connect with you, unless you understand what they want. So what is it? And what do they expect from you? Are you going to surprise them? Who among them is an ally and why?
You need to address your audience’s issues. Frame your content and objective as the solution to those issues. Make it easy to say yes. Refer to allies. What can I do if I don't understand the audience?
- Response and Empathy
While you’re delivering your presentation, you should be aware of your audience’s responses, and react to them. They might love what your saying, but maybe they don’t get it. Maybe they just want you to finish because the event is over-running and they are hungry. These things, and many others, might happen - so don’t just plough-on. Be prepared to adjust or cut your presentation short, or track-back. But don’t forget to emphasise your key phrases.
React. It’s human. It shows empathy. It will win you support How can I prepare to be flexible and natural?
- Knowledge and Passion
Your audience are there to learn something, or be entertained, or both. But you can’t be informative without knowing your topic. And it’s very hard to be entertaining (or even interesting) if you lack enthusiasm. Smile and show them the light.
Enthuse your audience. Show them you understand their passion (even if you don’t share it). Never be tempted to ‘bluff your way through’ and don't bore them with too much complexity.
How do I ensure I don't go too deep in detail?
- Start with a Bang
A strong start is essential. Its very hard to build to a crescendo if you don’t start strong. So think about your first 2 minutes. You want attention immediately, you want to grab the audience and let them know that the next 20 minutes are for them, personally. You want them settle down, and listen. You could use a prop or an image to help you; but tell a story. A story that gets them listening, empathising with you, seeing how you are like them. Tell a story that’s close to your topic without necessarily being fixated upon it. Tell a story that leads you into the rest of your presentation.
Focus on your first 2 minutes. Get these right and the whole presentation will flow I need really strong opening
- 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint
I am indebted to world renown brand evangelist Guy Kawasaki for these simple Powerpoint rules. “PowerPoint presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points.”
This seems impossible to some of our clients. They want to cram detail into their slides, including everything they’ll say.But never forget that your audience can’t see or read the small type. And if they can, they will read ahead of you and get bored.
Large images, simple phrases woven into the story by you, where you are the focus of attention and your words are the dialogue. What do I keep, what do I cut, to tell my story?
- It ain’t what you do …”
An old song came to mind “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it …. that’s what gets results”. Oh, it’s so true! That’s why the world’s top actors are worthy of their plaudits. The way that they use their voice, and body, to deliver a script is, simply, more convincing than the man in street. No-one expects you to be as skilled as they are - your skills lie elsewhere. But you still need to think about your voice and body. How can you use them both to amplify what you are saying?
Varying your pitch and tone to emphasise your points. Move your body. Try and appear natural and relaxed and simply talking to your audience.How do I sound and look, is it right?
- OK to be nervous
Being a little nervous is natural. It keeps you alert. If you were too calm you may not be attentive enough to your audience. But nerves can be distracting and disruptive. And yet, we all get nervous, and so the nervous presenter who admits to it, makes a story of it at the start or their presentation; usually does pretty well.
Try and relax, breathe slowly and visualise your first minute or two. Most of all practice … I need some tips and techniques to tackle my nerves
- Practice Practice
Practice makes perfect they say. Yes that’s true. But it takes a certain type of practice. The kind of practice where you are really trying to do it right, and yet you know you will mess up and you’re happy to learn from mistakes. So, don’t go through your presentation in your head, or simple re-read your script, or say it alound while sat at your desk. Do it for real! From start to finish. Do it privately at first. Film yourself on your phone, standing up and delivering it. Watch it back, look for things that could go better and improve them. Then do it again, better. If you can, practice in the actual location, with an audience, and the actual audio visual set-up.
Practice makes you better. Practice and adjust. Practice and improve. What can I improve, what could be better?