I’m going to start this article off with a real-life example. Because there’s nothing like real life to make a point.
In October 2017, Ford’s Chief Executive Jim Hackett delivered his strategy update to investors. According to the Financial Times, his presentation was festooned with “visual clichés.”
The message wasn’t convincing, and the markets not convinced. The bottom line: Ford’s share price didn’t budge. Cue disappointment.
The lesson here is that the message alone is not enough. Content is one thing. Presenting it successfully is quite another.
So how does one prep and deliver a high impact presentation? These ideas might help:
1. Avoid complicated visualizations
When Alan Smith spoke at TEDxExeter, he went through example after example of how the visualizations we use can either boost our message or hinder it. Some people include bars, graphs, and complicated visuals just to appear serious.
Don’t be one of those people.
Yes, images help tap your audience’s “visual memory” – which is far more effective than our recall for words and sentences. But this visual memory boost only comes into play if the visual aids presented are intuitive and easy to understand.
2. Be organized
I don’t just mean be organized as a person. I mean make sure the story you’re telling makes sense. Every presentation must have a story. Stories are the only way our brains process facts. The very act of memory means that our minds are creating stories and narratives out of what they see and hear.
As a presenter, it’s a good idea to help the process along. It’s best to ensure a logical flow to your presentation. Don’t just hop from fact to fact; rather, group what you’re saying into themes.
Also, tell your audience what you’re going to tell them. Then tell them. And finally, tell them what you’ve told them. Introductions and recaps encourage massage recall, and help your audience hold on to what you’ve presented.
3. Speak their language
This is a complicated way of saying, “Know your audience.” Understand who you’re pitching to. Remember: Your audience is there because they want to gain something from your presentation. It might be new insight, new ideas, or solutions to problems they’re facing. Every single person listening to you has some sort of a pain point – something they wish were otherwise, something they need your help addressing.
Silos. Blinkers. Perspectives. Call them what you will, but we all have them. We approach topics in a way that interests us. But the cardinal sin here is that we fail to address them in a way that interests our audiences.
But stop. Take a minute. Think about not why you’re there, but why your audience is. And once you understand that, you can speak their language and offer them what they need. Presentations that address the needs of the audiences assembled are harder-hitting than irrelevant waffle by default.
4. Don’t waffle
We’re all guilty of waffling. Of taking too long to hit our main points. It’s human nature — we find what we have to say infinitely more interesting than anyone else. And as a presenter, this is where your downfall lies.
I’ve had the privilege of hosting over a hundred conferences where industry leaders have had their say. And without fail, short and tight presentations have been greeted with more energetic applause than longer-winded ones.
As human beings, we’re also generally very bad at understanding what is interesting and useful to others, and what isn’t. When I started emceeing, hosting, and broadcasting for a living, I made it a habit to run my opening spiels across other people. And realized that a good 40% of what I was saying could be crossed right out. Humbling realization: I really wasn’t as interesting as I thought.
The one secret to not rambling on is to run your presentation by other people – preferably people who have the same interests as the audience you’ll be addressing. They’ll cut you the chase, and you’ll be grateful for it on presentation day.
5. Make that personal connection
Most people giving presentations feel their first allegiance is to their content and their words. It isn’t. It’s to the people gathered to listen. And it really helps if you can establish a bond with them. Perhaps a smile. Possibly pointing to a group or table that’s engaging with you.
As a professional presenter, I know it’s practically impossible to engage a 700-strong audience all at once. But if you can build temporary connections with a few people in the audience, their energy will sustain you. And that energy is infectious. If they’re listening hard, others will catch on, too. As I’ve argued elsewhere, this boils down to stagecraft and charisma – both skills that aren’t innate but instead can be learned.
There we go. I hope this helps you give killer presentations, or at least boost your delivery a bit. Do let me know how you got on in the comments below.
About the Author:
Hisham Wyne is an internationally recognized MC, presenter, broadcaster, and a moderator who helps the world’s best-known brands create memorable occasions. He regularly hosts panel sessions, conferences, gala dinners and award ceremonies for some of the world’s best brands. With 150+ events under his belt, Hisham is the professional speaker that brands and agencies turn to when wanting to interview, engage and entertain government VVIPs and Hollywood celebrities.