I’m pretty sure every business owner I’ve met and will meet, has to deliver a presentation at some point in their careers. Indeed, many entrepreneurs deliver presentations of one kind or another every day. Whether it’s to investors, employees, suppliers, financial institutions or clients and prospects, the ability to deliver a killer presentation is a necessary part of your toolkit.
My career has spanned more than 40 years and, at a guess, I must have notched up more than 5000 presentations. Here are my top six pointers for delivering that killer presentation.
Only start talking once on stage
The first 2-3 minutes of the presentation are the most important. The audience wants to like you and they will give you a few minutes at the beginning to engage them — don’t miss the opportunity. Most presenters fail here because out of nerves they start talking as they’re walking on stage, or they begin by rambling on about superfluous background information. Instead, quietly make your way to the stage, find your place, take a deep breath and begin your presentation. To you it will seem long and drawn out, but actually it effectively communicate to the audience youre confident and in control.
It will feel uncomfortable, but be sure to slow down your delivery. When we get nervous or indeed excited, our speech speeds up. And yet fast speech is like fine print. It’s easy to ignore. Radio and television commercials sometimes rely on this. At the end of an otherwise great offer you hear an announcer running through a list of restrictions and qualifications that water down the offer. This part of the commercial is spoken so fast that you can barely understand it. More importantly, you tend to tune out.
Listeners tune out if speakers don't make listening comfortable. It's your job, as the presenter, to make it easy and comfortable for the audience to listen. Simple techniques to slow down your speech include taking a breath more frequently and pausing between phrases.
Tell a story
Your audience wants a story, and ideally a funny one! Academics and marketers alike have found that our brains are hardwired to process and store information in the form of stories.
People relate easily and emotionally to stories, and they remember them. Stories are engaging and make facts more digestible. And, in telling them, you, as a speaker, appear more human, more approachable and more audience friendly. The best speakers reach into their bag of stories and bring their presentations to life.
How do you incorporate storytelling into your presentation? Well, that calls for a whole new blog, but for now, this is a good article to get your started.
Be passionate about your topic
Let that enthusiasm come out. The biggest item that separates mediocre presenters from world class ones is the ability to connect with an audience in an honest and exciting way. Don’t hold back. Be confident. And let your passion for your topic come out for all to see.
In an ideal world you shouldn’t ever deliver a presentation on a subject you aren’t passionate about. After all, how can you incite interest in others, if you have little regard for the subject yourself?
Make contact with your audience
Eye contact is part of everyday communication and an audience can feel uncomfortable if they are denied it. Making eye contact helps to maintain an audience's interest and encourages them to believe that you are genuinely interested in talking to them. This tactic not only creates a deeper connection with individuals but the entire audience can feel it.
Get closer to your audience
Move away from behind the podium, it’s a barrier between you and the audience. You may feel safer behind it, but it’s physically blocking a connection between you and the audience and will inhibit building rapport.
To advance your presentation slides and builds, use a small, handheld remote; this again allows you to move away from the podium.
Don’t hide behind your slides
I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the best presenters in the US and UK. The ones that stand out as exceptional are the ones that don’t rely on a single PowerPoint slide. Not a one.
Now these people are few and far between and I’m not saying, don’t use slides (I still do). But use them to complement your content and not as a crutch. Too much content on a slide is distracting and diagrams with small copy are not only useless, they’re frustrating for the audience. The best slides are simple, with complimentary imagery and few words.
Have you seen any awe-inspiring presentations recently? What are your tips for delivering a killer presentation? We’d love to hear from you.