Friday, August 16, 2013

5 Ways to Screw up Your Next Presentation

1.) Copy and paste stuff from other people's slide decks
 I know, I know, you're a very busy person.  You don't have time to reinvent the wheel (or in this case, the visuals for your presentation). It's easier and faster just to go into your colleague's presentations and copy and paste stuff.  And that's exactly why it's so detrimental.  It requires hardly any effort, or any thought. It's kind of like shopping in a grocery store (even a really good grocery store) without any idea of what you want to cook.  You come away with some interesting ingredients, but no way to make it a meal.

A good presentation, like a good meal, requires thought, and a lot of it.  If someone has a slide that shows exactly what you want to say, copy and paste away.  But please don't put your brain on auto-pilot and go shopping in other people's slide decks. 
2.) Click through your slides a few times and decide you're good to go.
Clicking through your slides may help you become familiar with them, their order, etc., but it is not the same as PRACTICING OUT LOUD.You must PRACTICE OUT LOUD in order to work through the inevitable kinks.  You want to be sure you can talk through transition points, talk to what the audience is looking at, determine if in fact they should be looking at that particular thing at all.  There is no way to know how the presentation will go, what it will sound like, how long it will take, if you've got things in the right order, if there's too much of one thing and not enough of another until you PRACTICE OUT LOUD.  Oh, and once you get everything the way you want it you'll want to PRACTICE OUT LOUD a few more times for familiarities sake. 

3.) Put EVERYTHING you're going to want them to 'know' on the slide.
If you've put together a PowerPoint deck that says everything you're going to say in the presentation, do your audience a favor.  Email the deck to them and let them read it in the comfort of their own offices or homes.  Don't drag them out and into a boardroom or ballroom to watch and listen as you tell them what they can read on the screen.  Remember, we read and listen with the same side of our brains.  We cannot do both at the same time.  Plus, putting something on a slide - particularly text, does nothing to insure that our audience will 'know' it.  Want them to remember a key point in your presentation?  Tie it to a story. People remember stories, and they'll remember the point that went with it. 

4.) Apologize to the audience right at the start, and repeatedly throughout.
Unless you're two hours late or the air conditioning or heat isn't functioning in the room there's no reason to be apologizing.  Audiences don't care if you're nervous, they won't like to hear you "just whipped this together last night", nor will they realize your slides are out of order - unless you tell them.  Audiences are there for themselves.  Apologizing for your nerves or your slides only draws attention to things they wouldn't have noticed or cared about otherwise.  Don't do it.

5.) Wing it.
Every once in a while I run into someone who brags to me that when giving a presentation they "wing it". Like this is something to be proud of. Any time you gather people together to hear what you have to say it behooves you to know what is going to come out of your mouth. If you are a nervous speaker, hate public speaking, or think you stink at it, try PRACTICING OUT LOUD. I guarantee you will have a happier, more confident, all around better result.  Be kind to your audience and to yourself.  Quit winging it.

See yourself in any (or all) of these five?  If you do, turn things around.  you'll be on your way to creating and delivering great, successful presentations.  In short, you'll be heard.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Trombone or presentation; we must practice practice practice

When my friend and loyal newsletter reader, Isaiah Cooper, read my August issue he wrote me with the following insight.  With his permission I share this with you.  What's good for the trumpet player is equally good for the presenter!

"When I read the part(s) about practicing out loud it reminded me of things I learned about practicing the trombone when I was a professional trombonist. 

When I was preparing for a concert or for an audition I would record my practicing (in those days a decent “Walkman” would provide a reasonable recording).  I would then listen to it three times: 

(1) once to get out (and get rid of) my super self-critical chatter (which is meaningless, really),
(2) once to focus on what was wrong in the recording, and
(3) once to focus on what was right in the recording. 

I learned that if I had a clear mental (or aural) image of how I wanted to sound and if I just noticed where my performance was not matching up with that mental image, when I played it next I would correct many things automatically.

A speaker has to have a clear idea of what they want to communicate and let that guide their practice.

Given time constraints, it is easier to use this system with short segments (phrases, not whole movements) of a musical piece (or of a presentation). 

A speaker or presenter could use this approach to practice their presentation with respect to each slide or each group of slides."

I could not agree more - even with the listening to the recording three timesWe must practice OUT LOUD in order to make what we want to say match up with what actually comes out of our mouths.  (or in Isaiah's case, his trombone).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Put some meat on those bones!

I know, I know; you want to give your audience their money's worth. You want them to feel their time is well spent.  SO you pack your presentation full of references, statistics, lists from a to g.  You've got five main points to your presentation and about 7 sub-points under each one of those. Those audience members are going to leave your presentation with lots of really important stuff in their heads if it's the last thing you do. Well, my well intentioned reader, it may not be the last thing you do, but it may be the last time you or your "stuff" are thought about.  

Tons of stuff; main points and sub points and statistics and expert references don't put meat on the bones of your message.  They're just more noise.  At some point, none of it sticking - the audience tunes out.  almost worse, there's nothing they can take away.  So how to put meat on those bones?  How to make it stick?  

First, think of your main points more completely.  WHY is this point important?  If you're suggesting a change in thinking or acting, HOW does this change come about?  WHAT great things will happen if this change is adopted?  These are the questions you must answer in order for the audience to hear, digest and internalize your message. 

For example, I tell audiences that one of the most important things they can do to become a more confident more compelling speaker is to practice out loud.  If I left the point there and went on to the next thing, how likely do you think they'd be to remember this advice, let alone adopt it?  Exactly.

Instead, once I tell them to practice I tell them why; "Your presentation never comes out of your mouth the way it sounds in your head and there is nothing scarier than hearing words come out of your mouth for the very first time in front of  a real live audience."  Now I've got their attention because chances are good they've had this experience.  Next I tell them how.  "Shower and car.  We all take a shower, at least every other day.  Showers are great places to practice.  The distractions are few and the acoustics are great.  The car is another great place to practice.  years ago you'd have looked like an idiot riding down the highway talking to yourself; now everyone's doing it!" Lastly, I tell them what they can expect from practicing out loud.  They'll be exponentially more confident, more compelling because they will have heard what they're saying.  They'll know it's organized properly, they'll know they're using the right words and stories.  Knowing these things instills confidence, composure and conviction. 

See ?  It's not rocket science; it's plain old common sense.  take the time to really think about the important points in your next presentation.  Develop the why, how and what.  Don't stuff your presentation with stuff; lists and author references and complicated charts.  Put real meat on the bones instead.  That'll stick, and you'll be heard.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Want the audience's undivided attention? Earn it.

 Yesterday morning I was asked a great question by an audience member at my presentation to the New England Professional Products Association, "What do you do about audience members - particularly in a small sales meeting - looking at their smart phones instead of paying attention to you?"  My immediate answer, email the client ahead of time and request their full attention so that they can make a well informed decision, was a bad one.

If we want the audience's attention, be it one person, eight people or eight hundred, we must earn it.  How?  First, we must do the hard work to make sure we are speaking directly to their needs and interests.  In a sales meeting this is a matter of asking the right questions, asking thoughtful follow up questions, listening carefully to the answers and then coming up with solutions.

We must work tirelessly to insure that our meetings are so completely customer focused that they can't help but give us their undivided attention.  I always say every audience member is like every 15 year old you've ever known in your whole entire life; they only care about themselves.  In a sales meeting it's their job to care about themselves.  (As an audience member at a conference or other event it's their natural point of reference.) It's our job to focus on them.  The more diligently and accurately we do that the more they'll reward us with their attention.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Take 'em the short way

As if filler words like "like", "you know", and "I mean" weren't enough to make a listener's job harder, now presenters are throwing "sort of" and "kind of" around all over the place, peppering sentences and confusing the heck out of those of us desperately trying to follow them.  It's enough to make an audience member's hair hurt.  In working with a few of those guilty of this kind of meandering I've learned that they're intentions (as one would expect) are all good.  They don't want to be too direct, too pushy, too forceful.  by inserting "sort of"s and "Kind of"s into their sentences they feel they're making their message easier to absorb.  In fact, they're inadvertently making their message torture to follow.

Think about it;  you're following someone to their house at night.  They make two lefts, then a right, then another left and a quick right.  You've no earthly idea where you are - terrified you're going to lose them when they suddenly turn into their driveway.  Walking to their door you suddenly realize you've taken a very long way to go a very short way.  Why? you ask your host. "Oh," he replies, "It's only two turns on major roads and one third the time to get here, but I thought you'd like to go the back way."  Seriously?!?

The same is true with presentations.  Don't beat around the bush, don't worry about being direct.  DON'T run the risk of losing your audience!  Take 'em the short way.  They won't be bored, offended and most of all, they won't be lost.  And you'll be heard.