January 8, 2010

You can design, create and deliver a perfect presentation with an attention grabbing start, a well structured body and a clear call to action at the end but if you don’t put any emotion into it your presentation will not change anything.

You may have very strong logical arguments, you may even be right!  but if you don’t have emotion, if you don’t have a passion, if you don’t show that you care about the topic on which you are talking, your audience will not care either.

A common trait when giving a presentation is to become very formal. Some people put on their “presenting hat” and think “I have to do this properly”, “I don’t want people to see that I’m nervous”, “I need to speak slowly and carefully so that everyone can hear”, “I don’t want to say err or umm”. The problem with this approach to presenting is that in trying to do it properly they end up taking all the personal feelings out of the presentation, it becomes a presentation devoid of emotion.

Alternatively, some people intentionally try to remove any emotion from their presentations, particularly when they are talking on a technical subject. They feel there is no place for emotion in the subject or even no place for emotion in business.

I will say this only once, All presentation that lack emotion are boring!

To have any chance of making your audience believe what you are telling them, you have to believe it yourself and you have to show that you believe it. If you have an exciting new product, there is no point telling everyone it is “an exciting new product” in a monotone voice. You have to sound excited.

If you worry about the effects of global warming, you need to sound worried, not just quote facts and figures.

Not only do you have to be emotional as a presenter, you want/need to stir the emotions in your audience.

Rather than talking about for instance global warming abstractly, talk about how it may affect each and every member of your audience personally. What life will be like for their children and grandchildren.

History has shown time and time again, people are driven by their emotional needs. It is not always the technically best product that wins, or the cheapest, more often that not it is the product sold by the person the buyer likes most and trusts most. Why do you like some people more than others? It is certainly not down to logic and reasoning, it is about emotion.

The majority of presentations are forgotten, not because they were all uninteresting at the time, but because the speaker did not challenge our emotional state.

One of the easiest ways to conjure up emotions in a presentation is to tell a story, a personal story. When I run presentation training courses I often relate what I’m talking about by telling little anecdotes about presentations I have given or listened to in the past and the emotions that I felt at the time.

Not only should you start creating a presentation by thinking what you want your audience to do after the presentation, you also need to think about how you would like them to be feeling. Is it happy, reassured, confident, angry, determined, thankful, or any one of a hundred other emotions you can invoke.

In many respects this is the same argument as the difference between features and benefits. Most people will agree that if you are selling something you are better to focus on the benefits than the features. You not only need to present the features but tell your audience what they mean to them. Similarly, you don’t just want to argue the logical facts of your case but make your audience feel the emotions as well.

It is the emotional bond that you generate with your audience which will make them remember your presentation


Eye Contact

January 5, 2010

Look a person in the eye and smile at them and they will smile back.  It is part of our inbred human nature.  I’m sure you have all seen the bumper stickers, “smile and the whole world smiles with you”.  This basic human nature can be a wonderful ally when you are presenting.

Another basic instinct is to avoid eye contact when you are telling someone a lie.

These two traits emphasise the importance of eye contact when you are presenting.

Ideally, you should look each person in the eye for up to about 2 to 3 seconds, the time it takes to say a sentence or make a point.  Moving randomly around the room to ensure everyone gains the benefit and feels that you are talking directly to them.  With a large audience, where it is not possible to make individual eye contact, split the room into four quadrants and look to each quadrant in turn.  The effect will be that everyone in that quadrant will think you are looking at him or her. 

With a smaller audience, there will be some people who give better facial feedback to your eye contact than others.  They will smile more and look like they are enjoying the presentation more.  These are good people to look at when you first start the presentation.  They will boost your confidence and calm your nerves but once you are get going and are into your stride be careful not to favour these people too much.  They will get more out of your presentation but it will be to the detriment of the others.  If you spot a particular individual who is looking bored, give them more eye contact for the next few minutes, hopefully they will then start to respond and pay more attention to what you are saying.

Of course, when you are giving a sales presentation, a useful trick is to identify the decision makers in the audience beforehand and ensure you give them the majority of your eye contact.

When I used to run half-day seminars, I would always get a lower rating from the people I did not look at much.  I know now, that you have to look at everyone, not just the people who are easy to look at or who return eye contact.  Be careful to look at people round the edges of the room or people who are sitting in the corners at the front, areas that you will not naturally look towards.

You can use eye contact to control an audience and their reactions.  If someone looks disinterested give them more eye contact, their interest should soon pick up.  By ‘more eye contact’, I do not mean stare at them, but as your eyes move apparently randomly round the room, go back to that person more often than anyone else.

To avoid question time turning into a conversation between one or two people and yourself, ensure that you give the questioner only 25% of your eye contact and the rest of the audience 75%.  If you do not want a follow up question from the same person, ensure you are not looking at the questioner when you come to the last part of your answer.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever

Enthusiasm and Energy

January 5, 2010

There is an old saying ‘You get out what you put in’ which is true in many walks of life but very true when it comes to giving presentations.  The more enthusiastic you are and the more energy you put in to a presentation the more the audience will enjoy it.

Luckily enough the way we act and speak when we are excited and enthusiastic is not dissimilar from the way we are affected by nervous energy. 

After all it is all energy and driven by adrenaline.  Rather than worrying about your nervousness before a presentation, use that nervous energy to inject some enthusiasm into your presentation.  In this way, pre-presentation nerves can actually help us to be livelier and enthral the audience.

The opposite is also true.  Be very careful if you are giving the same presentation repeatedly.  It may be the tenth time you have said it, but it is the first time this particular audience has heard it.  You need to give it with the same energy and enthusiasm the tenth time as you did the first time.  A colleague of mine used to remind me to ‘sell it not tell it’.  It makes an enormous difference.  Just saying the words is not enough, you need to perform the presentation, you need to put the energy and enthusiasm into it and you need to sell it to your audience.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever