Five questions to ask when preparing a presentation

Planning a presentation?  Before you begin, here are five helpful questions to ask yourself. Answering these will help you more effectively target your presentation.

  • What do you have to say that will interest others?
    Everyone has something interesting to say: an experience, particular field of expertise, a hobby.
  • Who are you talking to?
    It’s important to know your audience, their educational level, and biases (if any).
  • Why is your audience there?
    Have they come for a specific purpose? It may be an awards dinner, a banquet, a political discussion, an educational forum, a sales presentation.
  • What is your purpose?
    Your goal can be to inform, educate, entertain, sell a product or service, or challenge your audience on a specific topic.
  • How much time do you have?
    The less time you have to speak, the more important it is to edit your presentation down to its core. If you feel you have been allotted too much time, try adding more examples to bolster your main points. Or open your presentation up for questions and answers. If in doubt, remember that it’s better to leave an audience wanting more than overstaying your welcome.

Photo: Domiriel via flickr

A Hairy Story

Let your face shine

Some people may see stars in their eyes, but others only see hair. That’s because it’s in their face and distracting the audience. Women with long hair, in particular, run the risk of hair-in-the-eyes.

Jessica Biel hair
Long tresses might be stylish, but they can distract and take away from your message.

Have you ever noticed how someone will continue to push the hair away from their face? Often they’re not even conscious of this movement, but it’s a distraction for the audience.

Don't be like Caroline
Hair in the face gets in the way. Wear long hair away from the face.

The audience wants to see your face and your expressions. Bangs covering your eye may look sexy in a picture, but on a platform or stage bangs that hang over your eyebrow only hide your eyes.

Good hair: Facial expressions and eye contact are easier when hair is styled away from the face or pulled back.

If your hair is long, be sure it’s pulled behind your ears or in a pony tail.  So, let your hair frame your face, not cover it.

 

Five tips for presentation success

Number 5 for blogYou have an important presentation to give and you’re ready to captivate your audience.  But, wait a minute!  Before you start, there are a number of common traps that can be avoided with a little advance work.

Here are some tips to help you take control and put your audience at ease.  They apply whether you’re giving an informal  presentation to a small group, or delivering a more formal address to a large audience.

  1. Do a Test Run

    This may seem like a no-brainer, but how many times have you seen a speaker get up to show their slides, Power Point presentation, or video, and the equipment malfunctioned?  By doing an initial run-through with the equipment – especially testing microphone levels — you can easily save yourself from those embarrassing moments.

  2. Scope out the Room

    Just as people, rooms have their own personality. Each room has its own acoustics and its own particular lighting.  Before your audience arrives, get to know the room.  Does the lighting level need adjusting?  Do a sound check to be certain you can be heard at the back of the room, and get up on the podium to see what it will feel like.  Then walk around the perimeters of the room to develop a “physical” memory of the room for yourself.  It will add to your comfort level.

  3. Pace Yourself

    Don’t be a “Motor Mouth.”  Your audience needs time to digest material.  Add interest to your presentation by deciding in advance where you would like to add dramatic pauses, where you would like to slow down, and where you feel it’s important to speed up. Remember, variety is the spice of life!

  4. Bring your Personality With You

    Too often speakers leave their real personality behind in an attempt to sound authoritative on the podium or chairing a meeting.  Try to be natural and incorporate your personality into your presentation.  That’s what makes you unique and adds interest to your material.

  5. Make Life Easy on Yourself

    Don’t fall for the misconception that you have to memorize your presentation.  While you should be familiar with your presentation so that you are not glued to the script, a script serves as your map and guidepost.  Some of the finest speakers around deliver from scripts.  And remember: There is a difference between reading and delivering!

 

What the Academy Awards can teach us

Academy Awards Oscar statueThis year’s Academy Awards was about glamour, glitz, political statements, and the craft of movie making.  But beyond that, it was a great opportunity to see a multitude of speaking styles in action.

Perhaps one of  the best speeches of the night was Leonardo Di Caprio’s acceptance as best actor.  He gave an impassioned, articulate speech that ranged from thanking his screen collaborators to bridging into the case for global warming when he noted that the film, “Revenant” had to go far south on location to find snow.

Other notable presenters included Eddie Redmayne, whose timing and delivery were impeccable.  And then there was Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke with more energy and passion than I’ve ever seen him deliver, when he talked about sexual abuse.  Louis Gossett Jr. presented a dignified introduction to the “In Memoriam” tribute, while Louis C.K. delivered a wry standup routine (albeit with a little too much hand movement) praising producers of short documentaries.

Some, such as Patricia Arquette, recited in an uninterested-sounding, dull monotone. while others rushed through their presentation, nervously rattling off names of people they wanted to thank.

Reading from a teleprompter, as the presenters did, provides challenges.  They get one run-through rehearsal, and that’s it.

So, what tips can we apply from the Academy Awards when we deliver a presentation?

  •  Whether delivering your presentation from a teleprompter, a script, or notes, always be sure the font size is large enough and legible. You don’t want to squint, trip over your words, or look like you’re reading.
  • Ladies, if you’re wearing new shoes or high heels for any presentation, rehearse in them. Walk in front of a mirror, and notice your stance.  And – this goes for men and women – if you’re wearing a new outfit that you’re not used to, do a dry run-through.  Practice walking at home, look in the mirror and notice how you look.  You want to get used to the way you feel.
  • If using a script, teleprompter, or  notes that you or someone else have written, always familiarize yourself with the text in advance. Practice makes perfect.  When you’re nervous you’re more apt to flub lines, especially if you haven’t studied them.
  • No matter what you’re saying or reading to an audience, find the meaning, and put the passion in it.

You can find many more examples of good – and not so good presentations and acceptances – from the Oscars online.  Use them as a learning tool for your next presentation.  And you, too, may shine like a star!

Personalize Your Presentations

How do you spice up a presentation? Add a personal experience, anecdote, observation or a quote that appeals to you. Then apply it to the situation at hand. This will help capture your audience’s attention and help them identify with you.

Some examples:

  • “Fishing is the biggest participant sport in the world.” So, today I would like your participation as we go fishing for-….
  • “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”- Vince Lombardi. Today we would like to tell you why we should win your business.
  • The much loved film, March of the Penguins: “What can we learn from penguins? The importance of a group and working together. The film depicted how penguins huddle in a group, working together to protect themselves from the elements, and promoting the greater good. Like the penguins, teamwork helps promote the greater good.”
  • Studs Terkel said, “Unless there is memory of the past, there is no present.” I’d like to start off with a little history…

Think about anecdotes in your everyday life that you could use in your own speaking. What anecdotes have worked for you?

Preparing a Power Point Presentation

Powerpoint cover slide for one of our  courses
Powerpoint cover slide for one of our courses

As we all know, there is nothing more dull than a poor Power Point presentation. So, here are some hints on how to liven up your presentation.

First, ask yourself  about the audience.  Here are some questions I posed myself for a recent client presentation in front of an audience of about 100 people:

What do I know about the audience?

  • Why is the audience there? This audience was participating in an annual meeting, so some  members were more vested in what I had to report than others.
  • What is your purpose? Mine was to demonstrate the value of my public relations program.
  • Are you part of a larger program or the main attraction? My presentation  was part of an overall meeting with other presenters preceding and following mine.

Given the above, I knew that I had to make my presentation engaging as well as informative.

My solution:

  • Grab audience attention by starting with a video clip of a news interview showing the client. The combination audio/visual speaks action.
  • Build suspense. Rather than start at the beginning of the report , I used an excerpt and said, “We’ll tell you more about it later.” This creates a sense of anticipation
  • Spice up the slides with visuals and colorful charts. There were a lot of statistics to report. To add interest, I used visuals and colorful charts.
  • Minimize slide content. To keep the pace moving, I limited the text on each page.

Originally posted August 10, 2010.

Presentation Planning: Five Questions to Ask

Before you begin planning your presentation, here are five helpful questions to ask yourself. Answering these will help you more effectively target your presentation.

  • What do you have to say that will interest others?Number 5 for blog
    Everyone has something interesting to say: an experience, particular field of expertise, a hobby.
  • Who are you talking to?
    It’s important to know your audience, their educational level, and biases (if any).
  • Why is your audience there?
    Have they come for a specific purpose? It may be an awards dinner, a banquet, a political discussion, an educational forum, a sales presentation.
  • What is your purpose?
    Your goal can be to inform, educate, entertain, sell a product or service, or challenge your audience on a specific topic.
  • How much time do you have?
    The less time you have to speak, the more important it is to edit your presentation down to its core. If you feel you have been allotted too much time, try adding more examples to bolster your main points. Or open your presentation up for questions and answers. If in doubt, remember that it’s better to leave an audience wanting more than overstaying your welcome.

Photo: Russ Morris via flickr