10 tips for giving great presentations
Over the years I've seen, read and heard hundreds of different hints and tips on how to give a great presentation. Like everyone, I use the ones that work for me and discard the ones that don't. Here are my current top 10 most useful tips for presenting - see if they work for you too, and comment below if you've got any others that you'd like to share!
The power of three:
The human brain can only cope with a certain amount of things at once. Women have slightly more capacity than men but, in general, most people start to struggle once you go past three things. If you’re planning a presentation, have three facts that you want to get across or three primary points. That also makes it easier for you to remember them too meaning that you can have a cue card that has just three things on it. Use signposting to tell people you’re going to tell them about three things - three fingers out in front of you so everyone can see. Number one (holding one finger up for all to see), number two (two fingers up – palm of your hand towards your audience so as not to offend!) and number three (you get the idea by now). You’ll see this theme running throughout these tips. If you don’t believe me Google ‘the power of three’ – you’ll find speeches, quotes and presentations by people like Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, Tony Blair and Julius Caesar and look at how many times the power of three is used without most of the audience ever knowing it.
40/20/40 (Plan, do and review):
40% planning – 40% of the effort should be done before you ever get in the room to stand up and give your presentation. What sort of audience are you presenting to? Will it be face to face, over the phone or a virtual talk through Skype/Lync etc? How will you structure things, what’s your big idea, what’s your hook; do you need to send anything out beforehand? Who are you inviting, what do you do if certain key individuals can’t attend, what do you do if the meeting is forwarded to others etc. 20% doing – the presentation itself. Make it compelling – most of all tell a good story, give them something that makes them remember it. 40% reviewing – what you do afterwards i.e. sending the slide deck out or a summary of the presentation, what actions were taken away and by who? How will you know when they’ve done it, does there need to be a follow-up call with everyone or a smaller group?
The three T’s (touch, turn and talk):
If you’re talking about something on a flipchart or a screen it’s very tempting to talk to the board, therefore turning your back on the audience. The three t’s help you avoid that. You touch the flipchart or the screen, you turn to your audience and you talk about what’s on the flipchart or screen. That way you’re not just reading the words that they can already see and you’re adding your own personality and thoughts into it.
Tell them x3:
Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you’ve just told them.
Be comfortable i.e. not too hot or cold, not hungry and not hungover! Nothing should distract your audience from the message you’re trying to get across, observe the body language of your audience. Are they attentive? Are they fidgeting or are they on their phone or tablet? If you haven’t got their full attention start asking questions to the audience - people soon pay attention just in case they’re next.
How are the audience reacting? Make them feel like you’re talking to them alone. Try and engage every person through eye contact without just darting to everyone in a millisecond. Make eye contact until their face or head reacts in one way or another and then move onto the next person. Make a conscious effort to engage all parts of the room without ignoring or turning your body away from others. Go a little closer to them without making it uncomfortable for them or you. Remember though never to turn your back on any part of the audience for more than a second.
Volume and pace:
Can the furthest person away hear you? Speak so that it sounds as if you’re voice has been slowed down and that you’re almost shouting – trust me it will sound normal to your audience. Take a breath after each sentence and let what you’ve just said sink in.
Ums and errs:
Lots of people – including many of the great speakers and high profile CEO’s litter their presentations with ums and errs. If you do too don’t give yourself too much grief about it. Try and do less, replace an urm with a pause, introduce more silence to make your audience wonder if you’re forgotten what you’re going to say. If they think you’re about to trip up they’ll start to listen more intently. If writing on a flipchart make sure it’s legible and big enough for your audience to see – one inch high for each fifteen feet away the audience is. Use black or dark blue pens for text and red, green, orange etc for highlighting. A larger number of people than you’d imagine are colour blind and so can’t see red’s and greens and others view Red, Amber and Green as traffic light signals which show the state of a piece of work – green is good, amber is a warning and red is bad. You don’t want people putting labels to your slides or flipcharts that aren’t appropriate to the message you’re delivering.
Practice, practice, practice:
On your family – my kids love it when I practice a presentation on them and they’ll soon tell me if it made no sense and I can see if they were falling asleep after the first sentence. The mirror – not my favourite but if it works for you then go with it. In your head – as many times as you want, wherever you want. In bed, in the shower, queuing for a coffee or on the train etc.
Tell a good story:
I’ve already said it in one of the previous tips but this is so important. Above all else, you’re there to tell a good story! Remember every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The brain can cope with that because it’s been trained that stories are shaped that way from childhood. See how the power of three keeps reoccurring? That’s no accident, not only does it help your audience remember what you’ve presented it also helps your own brain structure it and remember it too. Remember that for most presentations you’re the ONLY one who knows what you’re going to say. As long as you get the three KEY points across the rest is just supplementary. You may only deliver 50% of what you’d planned beforehand but your audience won’t know that! If you do nothing else than make sure you’re three key points are covered then it’s job done.
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About Neil Robinson
Neil is a qualified, experienced and inspirational coach and facilitator/speaker specialising in career coaching and training.