7 steps to building a kick-arse presentation

November 13, 2017  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

I still remember that first time.

Standing there shaking, heart racing, palms sweating; damn it was scary.

Breathing deep, I fought back my wish for the earth to swallow me whole, and silently repeated the words of my mentor:

“Get out of your way”

The next forty-five minutes were an absolute blur, as I stood and delivered my very first keynote to a packed house, at a business breakfast hosted by prestigious city firm.

That was nearly eight years ago and since then I have delivered talks to tens of thousands of people, at hundreds of events across the world.

From that nervous start, presenting has become something I love and adore – something that provides a deep sense of validation. The elation that comes when your audience sit spellbound, hanging off your every word, minds expanding into new territory; is addictive.

In fact I LOVE it so much, that if there’s a significant gap between talks I start to question the direction my life is heading… weird hey.

A friend recently asked me for some advice on presenting tips, so these are my seven steps to developing a kick-arse talk:

1.      Create your presentation

2.      Structure your presentation

3.      Simplify

4.      Visuals, visuals, visuals

5.      Practice

6.      First grab their attention

7.      Then deliver with impact

1.      Create your presentation

Every person or group that asks you to speak wants you to fit into their agenda, however presenting on someone else’s terms is usually boring so instead I focus on presenting the things that I love.

This probably goes against the ethos of presenting stuff that your audience want to hear, but my theory is that if I love the presentation I’m delivering then others will too – so far its worked.

So the first step to building a presentation, is to dump all the points and stories you find fascinating into a random PowerPoint file – Generally speaking, personal stories are better than someone elses, but not always.

The main aim is to get a collection of things you love that surround a topic along with various attention grabbers you can use throughout.

Then this gets grouped into logical chunks, and ordered into a flow that presents the themes so people can snowball their understanding throughout the duration of the presentation. This is the start of the presentations structure.

2.      Structure your presentation

At the start of learning to present, structuring was stressful; I had a heap of cool things to cover but had no idea how to develop a coherent order.

That was until I learnt about the Magic of 3:

i.                    Situation/Pain (What was happening?)

ii.                  Approach (What did you do about it?)

iii.                Outcome (What was the outcome you took forward?)

The Magic of 3 is a simple and effective formula that is a fractal and can be repeated throughout your presentation – in your introduction, your presentations body (once for each main chapter or point) and its conclusion.

The presentation, at this point, is usually quite rough and full of words – its messy, ugly and has all the appeal of punch in the nose.

Its amazing how many presenters make the mistake of stopping here.

3.      Simplify your presentation

Put your hands up if you love seeing presentations full of wordy descriptions, facts and figures?

Me either – it sucks.

People who are new to presenting often fall into the trap of trying to convey everything they know in the shortest possible timeframe – dont! People listen quickly but comprehend slowly; so fewer points and more stories are good (FYI stories are usually the only things people remember s0 don’t skimp on these).

If people are giving you their time, then you owe them to make it engaging – so if you want to convey detail, use handouts they can refer to in their own time.

4.      Visuals, visuals, visuals

The next job in making it simple is to get rid of as many words as possible by replacing them with images that engage and encapsulate the idea. The aim is to have nothing left but a summary image that acts as a trigger for the points you want to talk about.

Aside from been visually offensive, the main reason for the war against words, is that as soon as they are shown, people start reading and stop listening. Images are also more emotional so a presentation full of stunning images engages your audience at a primal level (especially images of contrast, danger & extraordinary beauty).

If the image you find is something you look at and react too, then it’s a good indicator that others will too. I will literally spend hours looking for an evocative image that sparks an associated emotion in my audience.

The other benefit to images is this: Words lock you into delivering a very particular presentation, which limits your ability to play on stage – images don’t. This means you can tailor your presentation, add in jokes, include new research or link back to the points made by the days other presenters without missing a beat.

If you must use a slide with heaps of words, do an onscreen build that introduces one concept at a time. This means people can’t read ahead and you get to make your points whilst holding peoples attention.

5.      Practise

The last thing I do is practice privately about 30 times until I’m happy with the timing, flow and have mentally embedded the points I want to make. I practise my presentations until the exact words I want to use get embedded into my head.

A friend once told me that humans think between 500-600 words per minute, we speak between 60 to 70 and we write between 30 to 40. Thinking yourself silently through your presentation does not count as practise – your mind needs to feel the friction of squeezing 600 words through a device that can only manage 70 (our mouths).

Once the order, the rhythm and the wording is right, I’m ready to present.

6.      First grab people’s attention

If you’ve done all of the above, then congratulate yourself – you’re already positioned to do better than most speakers – all that’s left is to deliver your talk.

As much as we love our content, the reality is, that the people waiting in the audience don’t care about you at all. Prior to starting, people are usually consumed with small talk or thoughts of emails and stuff back home – you have no place in their world.

This is why grabbing peoples attention is so important.

Bringing the audience to silence before you begin is a great start – this includes people talking, plates been cleared or noises drifting in from open doors etc.

Far too many people start their presentation without waiting for silence in the vague hope that people will go quite once they get a few words in – don’t do this – it communicates that “my presentation is less important than your conversation”.

Get rid of the distractions – close the door, announce you’ll start once the plates are clear and when you are ready to go bring the room to silence – Then begin!

If you’re not sure how to bring a room to silence, think back to school assemblies: some teachers yelled and were ignored, whilst others were too quiet and were ignored… the most effective teachers confidently called for attention, then left an uncomfortable silence to allow the audience to feel awkward for a moment, before repeating the process until everyone was ‘awkwarded’ to attention – no one wants to be the last person speaking in a room full of staring eyes.

7.      Then deliver with impact

There is a heap of things that could be said about delivering, but these are my top 5:

i.                    Stress is your friend: I still get stressed, but its not an issue any more thanks to the TED talk by Kelly McGonigal. Kellys idea is to think of stress as your body storing energy, preparing to be brilliant – it works for me. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU

ii.                  Own the space: people who are new to speaking often try to hide at the edge of the stage or behind the lectern – Don’t. Stand in the middle, use confident gestures and if there’s something you don’t like about the stage either move it, or stand somewhere else (ie in front of the stage). Its your space, own it.

iii.                Make eye contact with the audience: Nothing keeps peoples attention more than making eye contact. To do this my mentor taught me to repeatedly scan my eyes, in a large figure-8 across the audience; from the front left, pause; then front right, pause; then to back left, pause; to back right. Her theory was that if you used this Figure 8 movement the whole audience felt as though you’d looked at them at various parts of the presentation – so far its worked.

iv.                 Use your voice as an instrument: A monotone voice is dull, and nervous people tend to race their words. Simple things like pacing your words, using emphasis and inserting pauses are great ways to inject life into your talk – After years of presenting I’m still learning how to maximise my voice.

Of all these tips this last one is the most important:

v.                  Get out of your way: As mentioned at the start of the article this is the advice I whisper to myself each time I climb the stairs to the stage. You’ve done the work, you know your topic; its time to get out of your way and trust in whatever comes next – irrespective of outcome.

So that’s it; my 2 cents on public speaking. The creating, structuring, simplifying and delivering.

Others might be able to do it without so much fuss, but that’s what works for me.

What works for you?

Scott (35 Posts)

CEO Digital Infusions

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