Perfect Presentation skills

As an occasional extrovert, I believed I could present at will- stand up, talk.  But when I saw Rob Campbell– Weiden and Kennedy Strategic Planner- present I immediately realized that my comfort with talking could also become a weakness when it came to giving useful presentations.

Equally, some of my colleagues are introverted and so avoid presentations when ever they could and when forced into it would really over prepare in great detail.

So when it comes to presentations, both extroversion and introversion can be the cause of presentation jitters.

Here are my tips to great presentations.

Background Psychology; Equip yourself with some knowledge and Stamp out your self-doubt

There are good biological reasons why no one likes public speaking.  I have heard this hypothesis from lots of people but in the normal course of human existence, any more than 5 or 6 pairs of eyes on you means trouble. If there are 300 pairs of eyes looking at you, you are about to be ambushed — you are someone’s dinner.

Once I realized that, I started to become OK with it. Embrace this curse of biology.

The reason there are 300 eyes on you is that you have something they desire- your knowledge. And if you follow the rest of these tips in preparation, you will be able to impart your knowledge with poise and skill.

But you may also be a victim of impostor-syndrome. That despite tangible evidence of your skills and competence, you remain convinced that you don’t deserve the success you’ve achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, good timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than you believe yourself to be.

Many people think that when they get on stage their audience will figure out their dirty little secret that they were just luck and have no skills.  Remember the meeting organizers asked you to speak because you’re good at something and have knowledge worth sharing. Embrace that, and know that everyone that attends the conference, paid hundreds-to-thousands for a ticket, woke up early and walked to the auditorium are really looking forard to you imparting your knowledge and skills. The audience want you to succeed and give the best presentation possible. You’re not going to let them (or yourself) down because you’re going to tell a great story, practice the sh*t out of it, and make your story look good.  These are the three tips t a great presentation…. its all hard work from here.

1. Craft a story
This may seem like an obvious point, but when I learned about basic story structure from watching Rob Campbell craft his stories, it changed my presentations forever.

If you don’t craft a narrative with an introduction, a plot, maybe a character or two,  and a resolution, your audience will attempt to do those things in their heads for you, because that’s how we humans have shared our knowledge for thousands of years.

So first ditch your typical powerpoint presentation.

You know those giant slides filled with 5-10 bullet points and hundreds of words of text. It’s not fun when you just read the slides.

Rob taught me the basics of story telling, the whole “3 act play” idea.

Act 1 (part 1 of the presentation) is used to establish the main characters, sets up their relationships and the world they live in. Later an incident occurs that confronts the main character leading to a second and more dramatic situation. The dramatic question should be framed in terms of the protagonist’s call to action, (Will X recover the diamond? Will Y get the girl? Will Z capture the killer?).  Act 2, depicts the protagonist’s struggles as they attempt to resolve the problem initiated in Act 1. Part of the reason for struggle is because they do not yet have the skills to deal with the problem. Act 2 outlines the new skills and a higher sense of awareness of what they are capable of, in order to deal with their predicament. Act 3 features the resolution. The main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered.

And after this I did some research and found out about BBP- Beyond Bullet points- which paints a pretty good picture about how to set up a great presentation- check out the video here    The gist of the idea is in three parts.

  • Content: You organize your content in a story-like format- as outlined above. The basic story structure has three stages, an introduction where you set up a thesis, secondly there’s a challenge to the thesis- testing your basic idea- and have an ending balance the challenge to your thesis with your solution. In between you lay out the evidence pro and con to your idea, and then summarise at the end, restating your line of argument. Meh, I like the three Act play description above- more interesting
  • Design: the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, is correct. The foundation of your presentation should be a series of stirring images, over which you may add some text to explain the key point you are trying to explain Each slide is different, although the artistic style should be similar throughout the presentation. And here’s a site where you can find all the visuals- I’ll cover it later.
  • Delivery: You never read from the slide; instead you prepare detailed notes- see the format at the end of this post. For handouts, you always provide the Notes pages so people can see your text.

2. You can’t over prepare
One of the ways I motivate myself to improve in making presentations is to remember my very worst presentations. The one or two bad experiences I’ve had on stage were due to winging it up on stage. So now I’ve taken on a more serious approach of spending as long as I can working on major presentations.

I try to pin down the organisers as soon as possible on a timeline as soon as possible. I work out the skeleton of my talk, what my point is, and what three points I would like the audience to remember, and then word on the content select appropriate images and then rehearse.

By the time I’m a week or a few days away from the presentation, I’ve given the talk dozens of times in my head and out loud to, Im now thinking or recording myself make the presentation to listen back to it.

I will have tightened and tweaked, and streamlined. So I can take the stage with confidence due to all the preparation leading up to it, exuding expertise instead of worrying if I can remember my salient points. I don’t think it’s possible to over prepare, but it’s almost guaranteed you’ll sabotage yourself if you under prepare.

3. Don’t skimp on the visuals
The greatest free stock photography source is the Creative Commons licensed archive at Flickr, where you can search through hundreds of millions of photos;

Go ahead and pop any word you can think of in the search box and you’ll likely find some impressive results. The attribution license requires that you give the photographer credit and typically presenters will either put a small photo caption in the corner of each slide or include a list of Flickr source URLs on their final slide.

4. Fewer words are better
One of my slides typically looks something like this:

presentation example
Nice, big images with just 5-10 words max, with fonts at very large sizes. You rarely want to have more than a short sentence of text on any slide. This is the Rob Campbell effect.

Give your audience a break

ppresentation slide

Whenever I switch between sections of my talk, I change to a simple black slide with a title that covers the subject matter of my next set of slides. This gives the audience a visual cue that things are changing and give them a rest from the visuals, it really grabs attention. Typically your audiences span of attention will fluctuate and so as I change subject and topics, I give everyone a break with section title slides in a simple black with white text.

5. Timing
Don’t forget the importance of being on time. Typically I speak 20-60 minutes, and in general, shorter talks are harder as you have to compress your points into as few slides and words as possible. Aim for about 10% less than the allotted time, to ensure that you finish early instead of running long, and getting the timing right is a major component to practicing a talk leading up to a presentation.

6. The technical bits
Find out as much as you can about the presentation venue and specifics of the A/V setup as early as possible. Travel with a bag of every connector your laptop will need, and format your presentation to the final presentation screen size. Have copies of your presentation on your laptop, in the cloud (I save mine to Dropbox), and on a USB stick just in case. I also create a plain exported PDF backup of my slides in case everything goes wrong and I have to borrow someone else’s laptop.

So now you should be prepared, below I’ve attached the format suggested by Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson. It can help you structure any length of talk- 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 45 minutes. Each box is a slide and should be a point or a story.

I hope I’ve shared something you can use to improve your presentations. Some of us are overly-confident of presentations and others are scared of giving talks in big rooms, we can all  learn to organize our message, make it look nice, and practice it enough that we can relax on stage (well, at least a little) when the spotlight hits. Good luck!

So what are your presentation tips to share with our readers?


presentation template2