How to be a professional speaker.Below we will discuss some of the best practices for presenting your content with maximum effectiveness while maintaining your viewers complete attention.
Standing out from the crowd
I am sure that everyone reading this blog post has sat through a presentation that did not resonate with them for one reason or another. I want you to think about this for a moment and write down a list of the reasons that you were not engaged. It could be as simple as not getting a good nights sleep and being tired, to a major technical issue and the content being rushed to finish on time.
Got it, good. I want you to hold on to this list and take a look at it before you accept a chance to present at a meeting or event. Make mental check marks to this list as you are creating your content and planning out your session material.
Having great content is the most important aspect of any presentation, but the hurdles we must overcome to share it can often be the a challenging factor.
Getting your message across effectively while presenting doesn’t need to takes years of practice.
The first step to offering a memorable presentation that stands out from the crowd is a great title for your session. Depending on your field of expertise this could mean a clever pun, or a hyper focused name that is current and relevant. If you can find out the titles of other presentations ahead of the event, this should help you.
As for the presentation material that you will creating, we have some best practices that we feel should be adhered to from our years of experience.
Nothing will make your content look more dated than a 4 x 3 deck. 16 x 9 has been the standard for the past 5 years and should be adhered to. So, throw out that old template that you have been using for the past 25 years and start fresh. Or, the latest version of powerpoint offers the user a way to convert old 4 x 3 decks quickly and easily to 16 x 9 without the dreaded stretching of images. Under the [design] tab, select and choose [widescreen, 16 x 9]
Another pitfall we have seen time and time again is the overuse of video content in presentations. If you will be presenting for 15 minutes and 5 minutes of time is taken playing a video, to the audience that just seems lazy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are utilizing video and offering commentary to emphasize the content or have an exercise based around it, this is an EXTREMELY useful presentation tool. Any time that your audience views a piece of content on the screen while juxtaposing it with audio commentary the engagement process becomes easier. Nothing loses a viewers attention faster than a presenter reciting the exact content of their slides or just standing silent as a long video plays. Have you ever heard of “Death by PowerPoint?” Also, we do not like to see numbered slides on a lengthy presentation. We have sat through a number of events where slides have numbered in the 200-300 range before completion. Occasionally this is needed for reference purposes, but generally should be avoided.
The Presentation Setting
One of the first things your audience will notice when entering the space is if it is inviting. A great way to create a warming environment is through music and appropriate lighting. There are a number of great music streaming services, but if internet is not available at your event have a playlist downloaded and ready to go before arriving onsite. If you are offering an early morning or after lunch presentation, see if you can make some coffee or snacks available for your room. Caffeine can be your best friend to keep everyone attentive! I have seen presenters go as far as bringing their own Keurig and K-Cups into the room for guests.
Depending upon the content you are presenting, it can be advisable to offer slide handouts with an area for taking notes. This can be done in PowerPoint by going to [Print] selecting [Layout] and then [Handouts] then [Handouts (3 Lines Per Page.)] This will give your guests space to write their own notes on the right hand side of the paper. If you are going green we would advise putting a link to your presentation online and showing it on the title and closing slides. Make sure that if your guests are trying to navigate to the site that you give them a moment before presenting.
Engaging with your Participants
As they always say, first impressions count! It doesn’t matter if you are presenting for one person or 500, starting off on the right foot is imperative to successfully capturing the viewers attention. If you are in a small room, welcoming your guests at the door as they arrive is a great ice breaker. During your presentation, always make eye contact with attendees for a brief period. This helps to make your presentation more of a conversation than a one sided lecture. Ask questions of your audience and get responses. Perhaps offer some team building exercises in small groups to gain further understanding of the content. It gets them out of their seats and conversing with their colleagues.
Interfacing with the Tech Team
Just as important as engaging with your participants is doing the same with the technical staff and meeting administration. These folks are crucial to your success and we cannot emphasize this enough! Arrive early and bring your computer with the power supply and any necessary adapters to connect to the equipment. Make the team aware of any technical needs that you may have and I am confident that they will make any arrangement necessary to accommodate you.
The Art of the Webcast
One of the most challenging aspects of presenting is addressing an online audience. This can be especially difficult when you have a live audience present as well. It is easy to forget about the guests that are not in the room however, it should always be in the back of your mind as to what their online viewing experience entails. Sometimes they are able to ask questions of the presenter as well as take surveys and “raise their hand.” Be familiar with the capabilities of the webcast provider and try to blend this aspect of the event into your discussion if possible.
We hope this is a good starting point or helps you refine your presenting style and remember to practice your lecture in the mirror or record it on video to review. If you have any tips that have worked for you, please let us know! Happy presenting.