THE ART OF PRESENTING: PART I
Imagine having to sit in a 30-min presentation with the usual introduction, point 1, point 2, point 3, and conclusion, and the presenter reads through one bullet point after another right off the slide. And you are sitting and wondering, “What if the presenter had simply emailed us such slides, and we could have stayed home, relaxed, and read a lot faster than having to endure through such uninspiring presentation.” You get annoyed with the way the presenter handled the presentation. At times, the content is great, but the way it is delivered is boring. At times, the delivery is amazing, but there is nothing much to get excited about in the content.
And at times, you just want to throw the presenter out of the window into the streets. Because you know the presenter is simply wasting everyone’s time with his or her inability to gain attention and hold it throughout. And you know the presenter is drudging through the content without any clarity and meaning and purpose. And you know the presenter is going to end his or her ego-show and switch next to the mandatory “Thank you” slide without leaving anything for the audience. And you clap because you’re glad that the ordeal is finally over.
Why does this happen often? The same mind numbing and dumbing presentations one after another. And, is there any way to cure this epidemic? So that the audience members do not look like a bunch of worn out zombies at the end of the presentation?
We believe there is. The cure is: connect with the audience, inform them well and leave them inspired so that they take meaningful action.
Connect. Inform. Inspire.
A classic mistake presenters make is that they want to ‘jump right in’ to the content. They come in front to the stage with a mindset of giving. “I’ve got so much of ingenious content that I have to give that to the audience” – that’s the monologue they’re having. But they tend to forget that a presentation is a two-way conversation. And, the most important rule in a two-way conversation is that the speaker has to build a relationship with the listener first, and then only can the speaker make the listener listen.
Thus, without establishing an emotional connection with the audience, a presenter cannot hope to make them listen to what he or she wants to say. The audience might hear, or just out of courtesy, they might pretend to hear, but they won’t listen.
So what can a presenter do instead? Make them understand the purpose of your presentation by creating a common ground first. For that, the most effective tool is a build-up story.
And, when you lure your audience into your presentation by establishing an emotional connection, then you can easily shift your audience into your main content – the thing that you wanted to inform. It could be an annual report, a book review, research outcome, lesson learnt, and so on.
And here’s another classic mistake presenters make while ending their presentation. They speed through their conclusion and switch to the customary “Thank you” and “Any questions???” slide. Why not leave something for the audience – an insight, a bigger picture, a call to action. (More about this in the next part of the article).
Awesome Presentation is like an awesome song
Think of your all-time favorite song. You love the song because it has amazing lyrics, the singer sings really well, and the music is really good. For instance, here’s our favorite Metallica song – The Unforgiven II. The lyrics is no doubt amazing and with James Hetfield as the singer, we get goosebumps with every word we hear. Adding more to that, the music makes us tap our feet, bang our head (in a good way), and sing along even with the guitar solos. No doubt, the song is awesome and it’s only because of the perfect combination of the lyrics, the music and of course the singer.
An awesome presentation is no different. Just think of lyrics, music, and singer as content, design, and delivery respectively. Content is the king, undoubtedly, and that’s what people listen to us for. The slides on the projector – they need to look really good aesthetically. And the presenter is the singer. If we could structure great content, have beautifully designed slides, and keep the audience excited about having you on stage and the way we are talking, nothing can stop us from delivering an awesome presentation.
Now that you know about the Connect-Inform-Inspire concept, think about ways you can establish relationship with the audience before you start informing them about your content. One useful trick is, whenever we sit for someone else’s presentation, to start imagining how we would have delivered the same content. We’re sure, you will start figuring it out.