10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: It’s a performance

Tip #10: It’s a performance.

Oh yes it is.
Your talk is most definitely a performance, and you are most definitely a performer.

Are you on a stage? On a podium? Talking to a room full of people? Ever gotten an anxiety attack before your talk? Yep – you’re a performer.

Your presentation isn’t just the words you’re saying. It’s not just the slides, or your movements, or your transitions … it’s not even just your content. It’s all of that – content, delivery, visual cues, the way you talk, etc – all rolled up into a big wad of performance.

Those people who read “academic papers” word for word? Those people who do the PowerPoint 10-points-per-slide thing, and basically read their outline? They probably have great content. Sit down with them for dinner, and let them share – it’ll be amazing, I’m sure. But that thing they just did on the stage, in front of people? It was a performance … but probably not a very good one (and believe me – I’ve been there, done that, so I’m guilty as charged).

But you? You know better. You have great content. A great idea or new angle that you want to share. And you know that to deliver it well in a presentation setting … well, you have to deliver great content, and turn in an engaging performance, too.

No, you don’t have to be the most amazing presenter in the world. But DO give what you’re doing on stage some thought, and I’m guessing that you’ll be much more interesting than “those other presenters.”

Thoughts?

Pic by libraryman

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Interact with the audience

Tip #9: Interact with the audience!

OK. You’re in the middle of a presentation. Look up for a sec – what do you see? People! They came to hear you talk. Why not let them do some of the talking, too?

Make sure to interact with your audience. Why? Well – first, a selfish reason: it makes the presentations much more fun for the speaker. Lively audiences with lots of questions or comments just makes the presentation that much more interesting for everyone (assuming those comments relate to the topic).

Interaction also makes you, the presenter, seem friendlier and more approachable, too. Sometimes, I’d guess it even helps the audience develop bond, even just a little bit (you know, that “oh, they have the same questions I do” type of thing).

How do you get interaction during a presentation? Some ideas:

  • Ask for it. Ask a question … then be quiet. Someone is bound to answer. If they mumble the answer, it’s your job to ask them to speak up.
  • Include some “what do you think” questions in your presentations.
  • Tell people up front to ask questions as they come up (then actually stop presenting and answer the question)
  • Do a Q&A at the end of your talk. If it’s a long talk, pepper Q&A times in with the talk.
  • For longer talks, break up the audience into teams and have them do some 5-10 minute project, then report back to the larger group.

And there are probably others. What works for you? How do you encourage your audience to interact with you?

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Rehearse!

Tip #8: rehearse!

I always do a dry run-through of my presentations the evening before I give them. If it’s a longer, multi-hour seminar, I probably won’t – but I WILL look through my slides, give some thought to how long each section should run, make sure I have time for Q&A at appropriate places, etc.

But if it’s an hour-long presentation or under? Yep – I’ll probably run through it once or twice. I know – some of you are saying “well, gee David. Glad that works for you – but I don’t need to do that.”

Really? Sure, your presentation might be fine. Yay for you. But I’m guessing this – if you DID rehearse, even just a little bit – your presentation would be that much better.

For the rest of us – if you don’t rehearse, it shows. Here’s why I rehearse:

  • To make sure my transitions work.
  • to make sure my timing is accurate (ever seen someone get the 5-minute warning at the end of a presentation, and they freak out because they still have 20 slides to go over? Sure sign that person didn’t rehearse).
  • To practice saying any specific things I want to say, and to make sure I can actually talk coherently over each of my points.
  • OK – and to feel better about the whole thing, too.

So go rehearse – your presentations will rock that much more if you do.

Pic by Suzy Glass

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Tidy up those Transitions

Tip #7: Work on Introductions, Transitions, and conclusions.

Intros, conclusions, and transitions have always been a challenge for me – in writing and in speaking! In college, me professors frequently said “David, you need a transition here” or “you need a stronger conclusion.” So I’ve been working really hard on those transitions.

And I’ve noticed that I’m not alone. I’ve seen more than one presentation where the presenter was introduced, then starts their slides with an uncomfortable “um … I guess let’s get started now” and jumps right into the presentation. Or when they’re done, they end with a weird smile and a “um, I’m done now” (I have to admit, I’ve done that myself).

They’re not really that hard to do, either. Here’s what you’ll see me do:

Intros:

  • Usually, someone announces who you are. If they don’t, take a minute to introduce yourself. It gets you used to talking, and gets the audience used to you
  • You might start off with a question, or a statement (sort of a statement of purpose for the presentation). Then briefly cover what you’re going to talk about.

Transitions:

  • also easy. At the end of one point, flow into the next point with something that relates to it. Or at the least, say something like “we just learned about this. Next up, let’s talk about this for awhile.”
  • These transitions make it easy for people to follow along or take notes.
  • If you like to walk around while giving a presentation, it helps visually to actually move to another spot while making your transition
  • And of course, show something like “point #2” up on the screen if you’re using slides.

Conclusions:

  • Remind people what they just learned – something like “we’ve just covered these 5 things.”
  • Then I like to end with some broad statement about what can happen if you put these ideas into practice (ie., “put these easy steps into practice and you’re bound to improve your website and make your customers happy” or something like that).
  • Actually have an “I’m done now” slide. I wrote a book and have a blog, so my last slide says “Thank You,” shows my book cover, and displays my website’s URL.
  • If you know you’ll have a question and answer time afterwards, you might just show something like “Q & A time” on a slide, then say “it’s time for questions.”

Improve those transitions – I promise to work on them too!

Pic by dnnya17

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Do What you Said You’d Do

Tip #6: Talk about … what the program description says you’re going to talk about.

Has anyone ever read the description of a presentation, thought “that sounds interesting, I think I’ll attend it” … and then left highly disappointed, because the presenter didn’t actually cover what the description said they’d cover?

Yep. Me too. And that has never made any sense to me. Guess who writes those descriptions? Usually, it’s the presenter.

So presenters – if you say you’re going to cover five tips in your presentation, or answer three questions, or mention a list of take-aways … actually include those things in your presentation!

I know, I know – lightening-fast changes in technology mean that … well … technology changes. And if you’re presenting about technology, well darn – your presentation content might have just changed up a week before you actually present it.

In that case, make sure your description and your list of take-aways are general enough that they still make sense in 6 months time. When writing your description, don’t say things like “you’ll learn how to use Delicious.com to make web-based bookmarks (because that service might disappear). Instead, say something like “I’ll teach you how to create web-based bookmarks using the best tools available” or “… using tools like delicious.com.” See the difference?

So presenters – go clean up those descriptions!