Some people love to give presentations. Some people hate it. Most people fall somewhere in between these two points on the presentation spectrum.
What outcome do you want from your presentation? A decision? Enthusiasm for a idea? A sale? A way to present bad numbers so they look good?
I've given thousands of presentations — from a small status update for my division, or an 850+ audience at The Hartford Insurance Company, all the way to major sales presentations to McDonald's and Home Depot.
It could be a myriad of things — but all great presentations have a few critical areas where they excel — Purpose, Resonance, Enthusiasm, Experience, Narrative. Let's look at each one and how it impacts your presentation:
Purpose - Why are we here?
I can't tell you how many presentations I've been to where two minutes into the presenter speaking, I'm already lost. They've given me no semblance of what they will be covering and some basic guideposts to gauge where we are in the presentation.
How to fix: One of your first slides should cover a brief summary of what you will be speaking about and what you expect from the presentation. Something as simple as: "Today, I will be covering why we should begin to move all of our executives onto iPads. I'm going to cover the current state, impact, and desired state of our mobile systems." It's that easy.
Resonance - Win your audience.
You are not reading out test scores — you're trying to sway your audience to feel for your position. So empathy and communication play large parts in how you give and relate your presentation to your audience. One definition of resonance is 'a quality of evoking a response'. Your job is to feel for your audience — understand how they are absorbing the information you're presenting.
How to fix: Keep scanning the audience — watch body language — see if they are engaged or distracted or puzzled. If they are checking out — get them involved — ask questions of the audience. Ask for their opinion and get them to raise their hands. Also, move around — engage all parts of your audience — get down to their level. Ask 'WHO' questions — "Who has this problem?" "Who would like to go first?". Ask 'WHY' questions — "Why do you think this is happening?" "Why did he react that way?"
Enthusiasm - Rally the troops.
Here's a little secret: All presentations are 90% Broadway. They're performances. Why? The more your audience is emotionally engaged in your presentation, the more likely they are to like it, take away key information, and tell others about it. If you just stand there and recite slides, they're going to check out, miss key information, and tell everyone you stunk.
How to fix: You are an evangelist of information. Live and breathe your info — get them excited about it too! Smile, raise and lower the tonality of your voice, and move your hands to make points. If you aren't excited about what you're speaking about, who will be?
Experience - Show them your stuff.
You need to know your topic. Many speakers get up and immediately venture down unchartered territory. When one errant question arises, they sudden fall silent or stumble with an answer. You have to know your topic cold.
How to fix: Keep your presentation on point — less is more. Stick to your topic and hammer all points of it — be prepared — anticipate most of the questions that will be asked. If you don't know something — say it: "Wow, that's a good question. I don't know, but I can find out. Let's talk after the presentation." It's that easy.
Narrative - Tell them a story.
Just spilling out facts will not help you with the other four areas. You have to relate stories - people LOVE stories.
How to fix: Tell stories. I usually incorporate at least 1-2 stories during a presentation. Make sure they stay on topic, are interesting or funny, and can be told in less than two minutes. Pick a situation in your career, someone who made a positive impact on you, or an item you found in your research. One caveat — too many stories about you will bore the audience.
P.S. If you’d like more information about how I deliver powerful presentations - Let’s talk. I’ve worked with thousands of business owners and executives and find this is a perfect way to start a coaching relationship — sign up to schedule a live, free coaching session. It's not just the mechanics — it's building confidence and knowing you can knock it out of the park.