Revisiting PowerPoint and knowing when to chill out will make a crucial difference.
Tell stories, pause, make eye contact, know your audience, prepare, “cut the fat”, smile, breathe, be yourself, start strong, close stronger, show passion and, whatever you do, ditch the bullet points. Can you achieve it all in a presentation?
It’s all good advice, but what is really important is guaranteeing that you’ll make a big impact – and traditional advice may not be the best way forward.
With the right practice, preparation and training, anyone can learn to give a powerful presentation and really connect with their audience. Here are some tips you won’t hear from your typical presentation gurus.
Don’t be yourself
I’m tired of hearing presentation coaches tell speakers to “just be yourself”. Being yourself is all well and good, but if your normal self isn’t conducive to engaging, inspiring and connecting with an audience, then why would they want to listen to you? Often, adopting an “I’m just going to be myself” attitude stifles growth, creativity and can end up being an excuse for complacency.
You don’t have to lose your authenticity, but if you have the attention of a room full of people who have given their valuable time to listen to you, then you owe it to them to be your very best self.
The only reason PowerPoint and other visual aids are so often shunned is that people abuse them. PowerPoint was never intended as an aide-memoire for speakers to read from – and yet that’s what even some of the most experienced presenters are doing every day.
Used correctly, PowerPoint can bring more energy and visual impact to your presentations. So help those in your audience to use their imaginations and make your presentation more memorable.
In fact, one of the most powerful things that you can do to your presentation is to add in visual aids. The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is still true today. So don’t listen to the PowerPoint critics – just learn how to use it to help your audience.
Don’t be so serious
Prior to coaching presentation skills, I spent many years as an executive and what seems like a lifetime in the boardroom. If I learned nothing else, it seemed to me that most leaders and professionals carry the mistaken idea that being professional means that you have to be deadly serious all of the time. This simply isn’t true: unless you’re making people redundant, informing them of a death, the building is on fire or your £12m project has run horribly over budget, there really is no need for it – especially in presentations.
People buy people first
Your priority as a presenter is to connect with people on an emotional as well as an intellectual level, and it is hard to do that with a deadpan face and stiff demeanour.
After all, you wouldn’t get very far at home with your partner and your children if you were so stately all of the time. Relax, add a little humour, charm, grace and fun.
Ask three questions
As you prepare your presentation, ask yourself the following three questions for everything you plan to say, show or do to your audience. First, why am I telling them this? Second, why should they care? Third, what difference will this make to their personal or professional lives?
If you don’t have great answers to each of those questions, then just leave the line or slide in question out.
Maurice De Castro is director of Mindful Presenter in London and a former director of Interflora UK.
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