Presentations – American Style

Believe it or not, there is no such thing as a bad presenter, okay, some of you may argue with me on this point, because you have had your fair share of bad presenters, but contrary to popular belief, the world is not split into good presenters and bad presenters, there is only those who take their time to organize their thoughts and those who ramble on.

The two most important points on giving a presentation is to have “structure and content,” if you have one without the other you will experience problems.

In order to obtain structure, you must look at the following:

  • Give your audience a short one-sentence overview
  • Explain the structure
  • Give them headlines
  • Present each topic
  • Tell them what is next
  • End with a short conclusion

Examples are as follows (fill in the blanks):

Sentence overview:
    “I am here to present ___________.”

Explain the structure:
    There are three points I want to discuss. (Then tell your audience exactly the points they should listen for). Giving things a number means to your audience that you are organized and that they should “listen to you.”

Give them headlines:
    I will be discussing ________, __________, ________. (Fill in the blanks).

You don’t want your audience to guess what your topics are going to be, nor do you want them to struggle to listen to you. Make their work easy, when you give them headlines, you are practically writing their notes for them, which will make listening, while retaining what you want them to know easier.

Present each topic:
Present each topic and cue your audience that you are starting a topic, cover the topic and summarize what you just covered.

    The first thing I want to talk about is __________ (discuss your first topic by filling the blank).

Every topic should follow the same pattern, cue, present, summarize. It may seem repetitive, but this is how your audience will be able to follow you and remember what you want them to know.

Tell them what is next:

Reinforce your structure and direct your audience as you move from one topic to the other. This tactic helps to keep people focused on you.

    Okay, we covered, ______, now I will talk about ________. (Fill in the blanks).

By having this format you are helping your audience to relax. You’re telling them that you value their time and letting them know how much longer you will be speaking. How many times have you listened to a speaker and wondered to yourself, “Oh goodness, how much longer are they going to talk?” Frustrating, right? When you tell people what is next, they know you are organized and they will pay attention to you. They will know that you are following your stated structure, and they will know the end is in sight.

The short conclusion:
Remind your audience of what you told them, in as short as time as possible, preferably in one sentence and conclude with a Q and A if time permits. You should always allow a few minutes for questions at the end of your presentation, but you must alert your audience to that fact, for example:

    We have just discussed __________, __________, _________, there are 5 minutes left does anyone have any questions?

TIPS:

  • Skip handouts, never give people things to read while you are speaking, they will read and not listen to you. If you must give handouts give it to them at the end of your presentation, and let them know in the beginning that you have handouts for the end of your talk. (This lets them know they will not need to take so many notes, because you have done the work for them).
  • If you must give handouts, make sure they are clearly organized and easy to follow and that the notes follow exactly everything you are going to say.

CONTENT
The content of any talk should be boiled down to two elements: what is happening and what you are going to do about it.

If your goal is to get people’s attention and inspire action, it is important that you add facts into your presentation. Give your audience one major fact, a point of evidence that stands out and that fact will become the “sound-bite,” the one important thing you want them to remember.

How to build a fact into your content:

  • If your talk is about numbers, ask yourself – “If could present one number, what would it be?” If you can’t memorize the number then it is too complicated.
  • Equally as important as picking the right number; is setting the context in which that number exists. If I tell you I was the track star in high school, and beat others by 10 seconds it could sound like a great achievement, or not, depending on the context. If I mention in the context that those 10 seconds was a school record for that year, that is impressive, but if I state it was only for one semester then that is not as impressive.
  • Give your audience a surprise; it is always a good idea to connect your fact to something specific and detailed. Rather than telling your boss that you lowered costs of your widget by $0.25 it would be far more compelling to explain that you decreased costs by 20%, which for your product it meant lowering the weight of the item to the weight of a single piece of paper, the mental image of a single piece of paper makes your point easy to remember and easy for people to say yes to any request you may have, in addition, it makes decision making less risky.

Creating a surprising fact takes time and effort, which is why so many people skip this important feature of presenting. But if you take the time to add this extra step into your presentations your audience is more likely to pay attention to you, you will more likely be asked to present to senior management, because you are able to make compelling presentations.

And for a conclusion: Please remember, you are not presenting to tell people everything you know, only what they need to know.

I end this piece with the following: “You are a foreigner everywhere, except in your own culture”. Candida Marques – Global Arrival © 2018.

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