Presentation Skills – 7 Myths that have not been serving you well
You may have been to many public speaking courses over the years and received some great advice. Getting tips and advice from other professionals is a fantastic way to grow your knowledge and skill base but what about all the advice that doesn’t serve you well?
Here are a few presentation myths that if used on the platform may have the potential to make your presentation go sour.
- Open with a joke – Jokes are generally designed to offend somebody. You don’t know your audience as well as you think you do. Humour is a must in most presentations but steer away from the cheesy jokes.
- Don’t read your slides – This one is a tricky one. Definitely don’t design your slides to read from them and never read your slides instead of speaking to the audience but your audience is very well trained in eye contact so they follow your eyes. A little more difficult with a very large audience but in a smaller presentation, if you want your audience to look at an image on your slide, you can look too and guide your audience to where you would like them to focus – If you wanted them to look at your feet, you would look too right? So, if you are watching a short video or referring to a special photograph, be a part of the conversation. Give it a try. And your audience cannot read and listen to your voice at the same time anyway.
- Introduce yourself and the topic with a polite opening -Boring! Give the audience what they don’t expect. An opening should get attention and incite curiosity, sure, introduce yourself and your topic soon but be a little more creative with those opening words or actions. The law of primacy and recency is at play too, so don’t fight with the brain rules.
- Prepare a speech -A conference full of attendees or a boardroom filled with decision makers are not wanting to hear a perfectly crafted speech – They are looking for a conversation from an expert. You can prepare some great content, you can prepare relevant stories and examples and you can structure and rehearse your presentation but save your one-way speeches for a speech competition or a perhaps a political platform.
- Facts and figures are what counts – A business presentation supported by the facts and figures is expected but if you want a powerful presentation tell stories too, share your why and connect with the person who is listening to you speak. People like to do business with people they like and trust. People invest in people. Your presentation should have the right balance of both.
- Always finish with questions – That rule of primacy and recency again. This rule suggests that people remember the first and last things they hear. Let’s hope the last thing your audience hears is your key message, not the irrelevant question about the coffee break. Questions should be embedded into the last parts of your presentation then you can end with your key messages, calls to action and the powerful words you wish your audience to remember.
- Give as much information as you can – How can you possibly share 20 years’ experience and know-how into a 60-minute keynote or 2-hour workshop? you can’t, so stop trying. One piece of relevant information delivered well that impacts the audience enough for them to make a behavioural change is more powerful than you trying to prove you know it all. I’m sure you have been at the receiving end of one of those presenters though. The power is deciding what to leave out, not what to put in. If you get this right, you will get asked back to share more when the time is right.
Then there is the rule that says stick to the rules – ‘there are no rules that suit every presentation’.
I have listened to very raw presenters, with no training at all, just speaking from the heart and having the entire audience in the palm of their hands and I’ve seen professional speakers with 20 years speaking experience bomb with the same keynote that was a huge hit the day before. Sometimes it is just all about the right message for the right audience at the right time.
More often than not though, if you are winging it the chances of missing the mark are pretty high.
It’s just not worth the risk
Take the time to learn about the art, science and practice of presenting for business. Those who take the time to master these skills are those you want at your event.
I hope you will join me in my next public master class or consider booking an in-house presentation or workshop for your key people.