We are often gifted the opportunity to present or share some information to a group of people and we focus almost instantly on “the nerves” and how we feel. We may think about “what to wear”, we always think about the “topic” and generally we can miss the basics in effective preparation. Rarely do we consider the delivery plan and techniques that will help you engage with your audience.
We see common themes, and challenges when working with our clients, and we would like to share our top tips to support you in your journey to delivering impactful presentations
Be Prepared – Perception is everything and captured in less than 7 seconds
The biggest way to lose your audience instantly is to be “seen as” unprepared. We know that perception is everything and the last thing the audience wants to experience is the presenter faffing around with bits of paper, fiddling around with IT equipment or flipcharts, or asking the audience to “hold on a minute”.
If you are presenting, the audience starts out with an immediate “trust” that you are an expert in the topic you are going to share – so being ill prepared could impact that.
Run through your content so you know the order of events. Make sure you have a backup plan to access your slides; be it on your phone, a USB stick or email in advance. If you are using a flip chart check your pens and paper beforehand – have a basic step by step plan of how your event is going to run.
If delivering virtually, test it the night before, “be ready”.
Be on Time – Make a good first impression and put your audience at ease, are they in good hands?
Short & Sweet – turning up late, or even at the same time never looks good. Despite having to overcome unexpected travel delays, technical glitches (although these seem to be more forgivable), even unforeseen circumstances will not be forgive, no matter how good you are. You do not want the reason you were memorable to be because you were late or kept people waiting in the virtual waiting room, turning up in a flap and flustered.
Make sure you know where you are going and get there early. Pre-empt any traffic issues, where to park and whether you need any cash – all of this can be done before the day.
Virtually, or when people enter the room, be ready, relaxed, and waiting, have all of your equipment and bits and pieces in place.
Monotone & Lack of Engagement – Command control with your assertiveness and confidence.
This may not be so obvious to you, but let’s not send the audience to sleep by talking with the same pace and tone, with little engagement or interaction, particularly online. If you notice that people are yawning, slumped in the chair, or glazing over, you are not reaching your audience, the impact will be that they do not retain what it is you are saying, despite, “no doubt”, that you have something great and worth hearing.
This is an opportunity for you to WOW your audience and enjoy yourself too. Spend time on your delivery skills and keep the pace up, not too fast and not too slow. Find opportunities to pause and breathe, take a moment to look your audience in the eyes and to engage with them. People are more likely to hear what you are saying when your delivery sings to them.
Boring Content – Trust you are the expert and share valuable information.
Regardless of the chosen topic, a bored audience will simply feed negative energy into the room which will affect your performance. The opportunity of sharing your important message could be lost. The last thing you want is to encourage people to pick up their phones and check emails and social media, worst of all talk to/private chat each other.
Be reassured that attendees will probably have something in common with the subject you are talking about or at least want to know more about it. Keep their attention by offering bite sized pieces of information to digest and information that may resonate. The more you can engage your audience the better their attention span. Face to face may come naturally with a gesture and body language but virtually you need to be direct, signpost and call people out and ask for engagement. You know your stuff, who knows what doors this opportunity will open for you.
Too many slides/too much detail – You know this stuff! Talk the talk!
If you are able to stand up and present to an audience, be it face to face or remotely, we’re sure you have good knowledge of your topic and do not need to be reliant on your slides. Having slides full of words will invite your audience to squint and disengage, and we want to avoid people looking at the back of your head while you read out the content or read it alongside with you in a virtual room.
Be confident enough to allow yourself to talk freely. Using wordy slides will set you back, if you get nervous you will lose your way and risk spiralling into a wobbly mess so keep visual content short and to the point. If you have too much information the presentation will be too long, people will switch off and start thinking about something else. Don’t pressure yourself to have your slides or flip charts as verbatim notes.
If you can master this, you will appear confident and in control. Virtually, more slides but less content will help keep the audience engaged, maintaining a level of FLOW
Some Top Tips
- Don’t wing it completely but allow a little bit of winging it. It’s about balance, how can you be authentic if you are repeating verbatim notes. By all means prepare and write things out in full initially, get used to talking the talk naturally. Trim down the content into smaller sentences and eventually bite sized prompts. Allow yourself to trust that you are the subject matter expert, rehearse key points and allow the real you to attend too.
- No more self-criticism. You have been asked to do this for a reason, remind yourself of the amazing achievements in your life so far. Focus on the Can Do and leave all the negative stuff where it belongs. “I do know my stuff, I am prepared, I have it all under control”.
- Limit paper notes. If you have decided to have slides, make sure they are bullet points and a few visuals. Having lines of text on a slide show is boring, and it encourages you to read off them which means no eye contact with your audience. Sometimes no slides or visuals at all can work (scary thought)? If you must refer to some notes, its ok, you can still be professional with the occasional check rather than holding a quivering piece of paper and getting flustered.
- Practise Practise Practise. Use the mirror, practise with the dog, friend or family and make sure you stand up and deliver. Talk the talk, walk the walk and use the skills and techniques you have learned from others. Practise as if it is a real dress rehearsal.
- Freestyle it. The nerves tend to kick off when you start talking and the room goes silent, so allow yourself a couple of minutes to ‘ramble on’. Introduce yourself, thank the audience for coming, talk about the weather, coffee, the window blinds/zoom backgrounds – anything that comes to mind. This allows you to do is to get used to talking, breathing, relax into your environment before you start with your planned content.
Saving the best until last – THE “TOP TOP” TIPS
- It starts immediately. On the day of your presentation, ‘switch on’ your energy and delivery style as soon as you arrive or dial in. If you are greeting someone onsite or entering a virtual room, as soon as you come into eye contact, this is an opportunity to engage with anyone and everyone. All of these moments are valuable connections, be it a hand shake, a virtual compliment or observation; speaking at volume, deliberate eye contact, are all opportunities to get used to performing and focus, and combat any nerves before they start.
- All eyes on you. When you start your delivery there will be a moment when you realise the deafening silence of your audience and realise that all eyes staring at you. Remind yourself that people are simply looking, they are calmly listening intently, they are paying attention and interested in what you are about to share. Its okay.
- Curve ball Q&A. One of the recurring concerns that we hear are; what if they ask me a question and I don’t know the answer. Okay, so let’s think about that, what if that happened? Think about 3 possible generic answers that you could pull out of the bag. Example: “I would like to think about your question further and I will come back to you after today with a detailed answer”.
- I am fine….. Often we engage with friends or colleagues beforehand and share how you that you are nervous, or unprepared. Do not feed the anxiety, thoughts become things and what you think about affects how you feel and how you feel affects how you behave. Write a positive statement, an affirmation of How it will go, how do you want to behave and feel. You’ve got this.
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All the best
Lindsey & Charlotte