The Art of Presenting

PresentThroughout my career I did and still do presentations. I remember the first time being nervous as hell and so close in forgetting my story line. My mentor at the time simply said, ” These are just people like you and me. just imagine them naked.” My mind got the picture, took the focus of the nervousness, and from then on I had a good time presenting.

Audience

While this is a great method to overcome stage fright, it is no substitute for not knowing your story. I assume you know your stuff and the topic at hand. And let’s take a wild guess, that’s why your audience has come. They want to hear from you what you gotta say about the subject. With that in mind there are still some distinct options. For example:

  • The audience knows about the subject, too and wants to learn more or hear a distinctive view.
  • The audience doesn’t know and expect news or clarification.
  • The audience is preparing for a decision and you present a recommendation or options.

Story

That brings us back to your story. A good presentation is like a good children story, it comes with a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. The beginning is setting the scene. This can be done in multiple ways. Start with a bang if time is of essence and your audience is known for making quick decisions. Tell a brief personal story that captures a large audience, or do something where the audience can relate to. The beginning is all about making a connection.

Body language

Now that you have it, don’t loose it. Make eye contact. Don’t stare but look at the eye brows. Let your gaze go from one end to the other. Speak confidently and assuredly. Loud enough to be heard at the back of the room or the end of the board table. Don’t yell – use a microphone if needed. Don’t hide behind a stand up desk with a fixed mic and your bunch of papers. Be visible and stand up. Even in the board room – stand up. Your voice carries more weight and you look more confident. Hands out of the pocket, even if it’s your team you are talking to. Avoid walking like a Tiger from one end to the other on stage all the time. Be in different places fitting to your story and acknowledging all parts of the audience.

Story

You are telling the main part of your presentation. This is the meaty part. Don’t let your slides do the talking. They are there to illustrate your point. The audience came to listen to you or you could have send them the slides. Remember that the human short term memory is good for 5 to 7 items. Also keep in mind people remember the first few and the last few best. When I present options I limit those to 3. That magic number works wonderfully and I can be assured people will remember those when it comes to decision making.

Conclusion

Your presentation must come to and end. Be on time. Steve Jobs rehearsed for weeks to that right. No shame to do it a few times yourself. You will become more confident and know where to cut fluff out and add more details in. The end of your story should highlight your main point. If anything what is the single thing your audience should remember? You made your case for a recommendation in the middle, now is the place to tell.

Questions and Answers

Allow for questions. Always. Make it clear from the start if questions are limited to the end or allowed throughout. Questions are fantastic. They mean the audience is listening, is interested, and wants to know more. Repeat a question to ensure everyone heard it. It also ensures you understood it correctly and gives you to time to formulate an answer. Be not afraid if you don’t know. Say so, offer to answer later (a good opportunity to present your contact details), or ask the audience of their opinion. It’s an opportunity for you to fill a gap.

In Summary

(1) Know your story

(2) Know your audience

(3) Use your body language

(4) Enjoy question and answers

(5) Emphasise your main point at the end

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Succeeding on Purpose

I didn’t go to TechEd in Auckland last week, but a friend of mine did. He pointed me to the recording of one of the keynotes, saying if you watch one, make it this one.

Succeeding on Purpose

Succeeding on Purpose

It’s a 1 hour recording and if you have the time, it is well spend. If not, here’s my 5 minute summary:

In this talk James A. Whitaker tells his personal 7 traits that everybody can use to succeed in life. The talk is limited to outline 4 of those and James makes sure he advertises his book about it.

(1) Ambition

This is the only trait that is not optional. Having an aspirational goal is a must. Set your goals higher. Even if you miss it you still end up higher than the mediocre goal you were sure to achieve.

(2) Specialisation

Specialising on something gives you an identity. It is an opportunity to master the topic. Although, make sure you choose something that matters. Be passionate about it. Then comes the important part: Make an elevator pitch in 2 forms, one to tell others “that’s what I do” and the other for yourself, “that’s why I do it”. And don’t forget – specialisation does only work for a limited time. You may need to change 2 or 3 times along the way.

(3) Story telling

James tells us 3 stories that matter. The first is about your role and your speciality (see above), the second is about your project and why it matters (this tells other what you do is interesting), and the third talks about you and what makes you special. The latter is probably the hardest part for me, there are plenty of folks who do similar stuff – how do I compare?

(4) Learning

“We are who we learn from” – The sentence didn’t first make too much sense to me. However, when James continues talking about mentors, yes many mentors, it starts to resonate. Having access to an expert in the field makes learning so much more fun. The trick is to find the right one for you.

(5) Mimic / Imitation

He is an advocate of imitating the chosen expert in that field. The advantage, you learn more – you learn the little things, the things people do unconsciously. Although beware, don’t become a carbon copy. Mimic multiple mentors and become the blend that is you.

(6) Innovation’s long nose >>> Derivation

Re-invent the wheel is the credo! But make it better so that it matters. He talks about clairvoyance and creativity in this context. Clairvoyance is about the knowledge you have about your industry and your ability to predict what’s happening next. This goes back to specialisation. Don’t specialise in ‘dead’ things, specialise in things that are going to matter. Some tips about a creativity are added, where he briefly talks about rituals (or habits) that stimulate creativity, distractions that gives your brain a rest, and being centered – a place or places where you feel comfortable and have the greatest ideas.

(7) Leadership

He left that hanging. I have to read the book!