Presentations, love them or loathe them, they are a daily occurrence for many of us. Even during my studies at LSE, we’d have to present M&A models and even the odd BOP theory. I soon realised that most occupations would require me to regularly present to other teams, organisations and CUSTOMERS so it was important to get it right.
On the CEMS MIM programme at LSE and ESADE I had the chance to really develop my presentation technique. As president of the CEMS Student board, I often presented to students, company board members and university deans ensuring I was well rehearsed. Whilst working at L’Oreal, they invested in professional presentation training and I began to feel more confident in presenting. I also learnt the art of building an engaging presentation and how important it was to adapt your style to different audiences. I also realised just how much fun presenting can actually be.
Someone who knows a lot about this topic and more is, the voice of Siri itself, Jon Briggs. With over 30 years’ experience as a broadcast journalist, here are his top tips to improve your presentation technique and become a better presenter.
- Remember you are only talking to one person.
There may be lots of one “persons” sitting together listening to you but that’s pure coincidence. Avoid using phrases such as “all of you” or “you all”. Don’t refer to your audience as some amorphous mass. No one wants to be an amorphous mass – we are all individuals and want to be treated that way, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re addressing a vast audience. There’s only one person listening to you at any one time.
- Make sure your visual support is just that – Visual Support.
If you have more than 5 words on a slide you need to think again. If are reading your slide out loud – then why are you there? Any more than 5 words and the audience stop listening to you and start reading. In fact 5 is too many – make that 3 if you can. Pictures say far more than words, so use a great picture to back up your statements. If you can send someone your PowerPoint presentation and by looking at it they know what your presentation is going to say – then stay at home. Don’t bother to turn up – simply send the delegates your presentation and save everyone a lot of time, as well as reducing your carbon footprint.
- Never ever apologise for anything.
If you stand up and announce that you’ll “try to be brief because I know I’m the only thing between you and your lunch” – please leave the stage immediately. Do not pass GO, do not collect £200. You’ve just admitted that what you’re going to say is less interesting than a curly sandwich and a lukewarm coffee. If you don’t think what you are going to say is interesting, then no one else will.
- What you do on stage is contagious.
If you were to stand on the stage and simply laugh for no reason, after about 30 seconds the audience will begin to laugh too. They don’t know what they’re laughing at any more than you do – but they’re catching what you’re doing. So similarly, if you sound bored, your audience will be bored. If you sound motivated and excited your audience will be too. There will always be a handful who you can’t convince to go with you on your madcap adventure – but most will and your message will get through.
- Know exactly what your message is.
When preparing and writing your presentation, start from the end and work backwards. What is the single thing you want your audience to go home remembering? Start from that premise and then construct your storyline in reverse. Most audiences won’t take away any more then 3 or 4 ideas from a whole day’s conference. Make sure that one of those ideas is yours. That old adage of: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them and then tell them what you told them” is actually pretty accurate. Oh and if you’re speaking for more than 18 minutes, a typical audience (if there is such a thing) will have left the room and be daydreaming about all sorts of things; what’s for lunch? Did I put the cat out? Do I even have a cat? That sort of thing….
- We’re very visual as a species.
Which is why a great picture as your visual support will work wonders, but we also like a good story. Tell people a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, and again the chances are your audience will remember it much more clearly. Ah – I hear you say- but where’s the story in the latest cash flow projections for Doorknobs4U.com? That’s’ where you have to think a little differently. If you have to present a diagram or two and talk us through them – that’s perfectly ok – but explain some scenarios, use examples of previous years or customers experiences that created that squiggly line on the graph. Even the driest set of numbers has a story behind it – because the numbers were driven by people, they didn’t just magically happen by themselves.
- Audiences want you to succeed.
They’re not sitting there waiting for you to screw up. They’re actually on your side. Unless of course you’re a stand-up comedian, in which case an unspoken deal has already been struck between performer and audience. They will be funny and you will laugh. If they’re not funny – you don’t laugh. No such deal exists for your presentation. Because the audience are well disposed to you – otherwise they wouldn’t be sitting there in the first place (they’d be checking out the curly sandwiches) – the only thing you can do is make them feel uncomfortable. If you seem lacking in confidence or just plain frightened by the whole experience, the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt, but only until such time as they can’t watch the car crash any more. But if you’re really that bad, then you shouldn’t be standing there in the first place. Get Bert from Accounts to do it instead. He’s done amateur dramatics and everything…
- This is one hell of an opportunity.
Don’t waste it. Your audience have brought their two most valuable assets into that presentation room. Their time, and their attention. On a daily basis they are bombarded with messages trying to attract them – and instead of fighting for it – they are offering you their attention right there and then. Your beautifully crafted 18 minute presentation should have been rehearsed and polished so that it is worthy of the attention being paid to it. In a world where attention and time are the scarcest of commodities, relish this opportunity and treat it with the respect it deserves.
I think you’ll agree that these are truly excellent points and will serve you well when preparing your next presentation. Don’t forget, the key is to prepare, practice and present!
Jon Briggs has been a broadcast journalist for the BBC and ITN for 30 years. His credits include anchoring BBC Radio 5’s Breakfast News show, reporting for BBC Radio 4’s current affairs programmes, and chairing London’s top weekly political discussion programme for LBC. He is an experienced interviewer – having grilled everyone from Bill Clinton, Jack Welch and John Major to Buzz Aldrin, Sir Richard Branson and Alan Greenspan. He has trained and coached many C-Suite executives in that time passing on the tricks of the trade to ensure they deliver spellbinding presentations. You can find out more at www.jonbriggs.com/coaching or contact him at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @voiceofsiri.
Photo credit: 1246542 by www.stockunlimited.com
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