Bad grammar is like bad breath: Even your best friends won’t tell you. And somebody should.
What is the goal of this presentation? What will we think, feel, or do differently after this meeting? Answers are absolute prerequisites.
If you haven't discovered www.ted.com by now, I urge you to watch some of these presentations. At least 90% are excellent. Think about the characteristics that make these people good presenters and "borrow" the ones that work for you. I'm not suggesting that you become someone else when presenting (authenticity is paramount)...just pick up on some of their best practices.
You've probably heard me preach time and again that a great presenter focuses on the audience. Many novice or mediocre presenters tend to focus on themselves. They take a bit of a narcissistic view by thinking they are the center of the attention and work hard to fulfill their own needs. This is one of the reasons why they are so "nervous."
The outstanding presenter's goal is to meet the needs of her audience. She knows how to shift the focus of attention so that the members of her audience are thinking about how the topic impacts them...how they are going to use or apply the information.
This does not mean that you should think less of yourself, is simply means you think of yourself less.
Most presenters tend to start off with something like “I want to tell you…” or “I want everyone in this room to know…” These phrases imply that it is about what you want (as the presenter) rather than what your audience wants or needs.
When you present, you are trying to persuade others to think, feel, or do something differently. This involves selling a product or an idea. Therefore, if you are the seller (presenter), then it is not about what you want, it is about what your buyer (audience) wants.
Try removing “I want” statements, especially during the first few minutes of your presentation. It’s simple to do. Try something like this, “Today you will discover…” or “During the next couple of minutes, you will learn…” Or use the collective “we” as in “Together we will explore…”
People crave closure. We like books and movies that wrap things up and say "The End." At the conclusion of your presentation, your audience wants you to wrap up the loose ends and bring everything into perspective.
Most mediocre presenters close their presentations by saying something like this, “Well, that’s it. Are there any questions?” There may be a question or two, then, realizing she is out time (or past her time), the presenter say’s, “It looks like we are out of time. Thanks for coming." There is nothing wrong with that type of closing. It is an acceptable and mediocre way to close.
The outstanding presenter chooses a different closing. Rather than closing on the thoughts of an audience member, the outstanding presenter allows time for the audience's thoughts and comments throughout and several minutes before the conclusion of her presentation. She saves the last few minutes for her strong closing, i.e, the message she wants her audience to remember long after her presentation. Then she ends with a simple and powerful, “thank you.”
Have you ever heard a presentation that sounded as if it were prepared by a radio broadcaster? Run-on sentences, no pauses, little time to digest the contents.
Keep in mind that you have already processed your information. You are speaking because you probably know more about the topic than your audience. Avoid the temptation to dump everything you know so fast that people feel overwhelmed. Your audience may be hearing your information for the first time. They will welcome a little extra time to digest it.
Allow three seconds of silence after making an important point or when asking a question, even if the question is intended to be rhetorical. Good attention management includes knowing when to place the attention on your audience. Allow people some time to reflect on what your information means to them.
I recently witnessed a workshop presenter who insisted that she was right about everything because she was the “expert.” If someone objected to her perspective, or presented a variation, she insisted on arguing to make herself appear right and the other person look wrong. Oh how I cringed. Talk about a control freak. Shutting down opposing opinions is a sure-fire way of shutting down audience participation.
Never make your audience wrong (unless, of course, someone is being terribly offensive to you or others). Even if someone’s idea seems a bit bizarre, acknowledge them by saying something like, “That’s an interesting perspective, one I have not considered.” (Be authentic!) And then move on.
There are always other perspectives. Thank others for their distinctive points of view. No matter how many times I facilitate a particular workshop or deliver a familiar presentation, I continue to learn varying perspectives from members of the audience.