10 Presentation Tips
Business presentations do not have to be boring! As a matter of fact, most content is not boring, it’s the speaker who is boring. Usually speakers are boring because they don’t know how to have fun when standing in front of an audience. If the speaker is boring, the audience will definitely be bored. If the speaker has some fun, the audience will be engaged and retain the information that the speaker is communicating. Having fun is definitely the way to go. Here are a few ways to add some fun or spice to your business presentations.
1. Get rid of PowerPoint (or at least learn how to use it). That’s right, I said it, get rid of text heavy PowerPoint slides. Too many people use PowerPoint as a crutch to hide behind. I have watched many brilliant business executives turn their back to the audience and speak to the PowerPoint slides instead of speaking to the audience. PowerPoint is a tool to design exciting presentation graphics that will help the audience retain the message. PowerPoint is not book publishing software. Business executives are creating boring, text heavy, guaranteed to put the audience to sleep PowerPoint visuals and it has to stop.
2. Use a story to communicate a point. There are so many places to find stories; the newspaper, trade publications, books, your life. Adults love to listen to stories just as much as kids do. The trick to using a story during a business presentation is to make sure the story is relevant to the topic. If you are talking about customer service, tell a story about your favorite or worst customer experience. If you are talking to an audience about safety, share a story about an employee who got hurt on the job.
3. Use current information. Good speakers are well read and current. If you are delivering a presentation during a week when a national or world event is making headline news, incorporate that news into your presentation. I delivered a presentation at a Japanese pharmaceutical company in April 2011 after a massive earthquake hit Japan. I had to incorporate the earthquake and its impact on the pharmaceutical supply chain into my presentation.
4. Add a prop. That’s right, a prop. Do you remember show and tell from grade school? When you hold a prop up in front of an audience, everyone will look at you and wonder what you are going to do. If the prop is too big, take a picture of the prop and put the picture on a screen.
5. Use humor. Audiences love to laugh. If you’re not a joke teller, don’t attempt to tell a joke. It won’t work. If you are naturally witty and funny, use your humor to engage and relax the audience. You can also add a funny cartoon or photo as long as it is relevant and you have permission to do so. You can find plenty of business cartoons by Goggling business cartoons. Self deprecating humor also works extremely well with most audiences; it puts you (the speaker) on level ground with the audience members.
6. Get the audience to participate. You are there for the audience, not for yourself. When you figure out how to engage the audience, they will love you for it. There are so many ways to do this; you can ask a question, you can ask for a show of hands, you can ask for a volunteer, you can interview an audience member before the presentation and ask him to come up on stage, you can ask the audience to turn to the person next to them and share something. The things you can do with an audience are limitless but you need to be flexible because anything can and will happen once you involve the audience.
7. Be passionate! When you are in front of an audience, you are on stage and have the power to influence others. Crank up your passion and enthusiasm as much as you can. If you are not passionate about a new project, a new process, a new team, reorganization, a customer complaint, how can you expect anybody else to care?
8. Consider a costume or at least a hat. Last week, I listened to one of my favorite speakers dressed in a baseball uniform; talk about how being a professional speaker is like being a catcher on a baseball team. The conference was in Anaheim, California so the speaker wore a red shirt and Angel’s baseball cap. He also had a catcher’s mitt with him and used the mitt to make a point. I have a keynote program titled How the West Was Won: SMART Strategies for Leading Change. I have delivered the program with a cowboy hat on. When you wear something unusual, you grab the audience’s attention from the start.
9. Create a memorable close. Most business presentations end with a question and answer session. That’s a terrible way to close. There are too many ways a Q&A session can go wrong. What if an audience member asks a difficult question and you look foolish answering the question? What if an audience member decides to argue or yell at you? What if an audience member tells you that you don’t know what you are talking about? A better way to end a presentation is for you to prepare a dynamic, memorable closing statement and deliver that statement with passion. Schedule time for Q&A, just don’t end with it!
10. Add a photo. Some people are visual learners, some are auditory, and some are kinesthetic. Visual learners like to see pictures, graphs, charts and diagrams. Auditory learners listen and pay attention and kinesthetic learners learn by doing. Good speakers know how to tap into all of the senses. They add a picture, use an engaging voice and get people to participate.
It is a privilege to get up in front of an audience. The next time you have that privilege, don’t bore the audience. Have some fun instead!