January 5, 2010

These days, there is a vast array of technology that can be used to support your presentation.  This includes: PowerPoint on a laptop, LCD projectors, overhead projectors, multi-media systems, laser shows, PA systems, radio microphones, the list goes on and on.  The single most important thing to remember when using such technology is that no matter how well you prepare and how many times you have used it in the past, technology can go wrong.  Not only can it go wrong, it will go wrong, usually at the most inappropriate of times.

Now that doesn’t mean you should avoid using any technology, as it can when used correctly add value to your presentation.  However, always remember the technology should be used in a supporting role.  The experienced presenter is never dependent on any technology, so if it does fail he or she can carry on without it.

A classic example of what happens when technology fails is when a presenter is relying on their PowerPoint (or other graphics presentation software) to provide the cues for their presentation.  If the technology fails for any reason, not only are they left without their visual aids, they also have to remember what they are going to say and the order in which to say it. 

Losing what you consider to be a vital aspect of your presentation will invoke a level of panic in most presenters.  Compounding this with losing your prompts can be catastrophic.  I have seen very experienced presenters deliver very poor presentations when the presentation software fails because they were relying on their slides to prompt them.

To avoid technology failures ruining your presentation, I recommend practising giving the presentation without the technology or visual aids and having a set of cue cards to hand, just in case the unexpected happens.

There are occasions when the technology is an integral part of your presentation, for instance when you are demonstrating a piece of software.  My advice, in this case, is to thoroughly practise your demonstration exactly as you plan to give it on the day and only show exactly what you have practised.  Do not be tempted to vary your presentation. 

Technology has a way of catching people out, when the least expect it.  Think through the technology you are planning to use and perform a risk assessment.

Common things to remember are:

  • Put your mobile phone on silent
  • Turn off the screensaver of your laptop
  • Turn off WiFi on your laptop
  • Check pens have ink in them if you are using a flipcahrt of whiteboard
  • Make sure they are the right type of pen for a whiteboard
  • Know how to turn your microphone off when you have finished
  • Make sure colour scheme of slides works well with the projector
  • Ensure you know how to advance the slides
  • Have a blank slide at the end so as not to display your desktop
  • If you are planning on using an autocue or “presenter view” in PowerPoint have a spare set of cue cards

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


Tongue Tied

January 5, 2010

Even the most experienced presenter sometimes gets their words mixed up, finds that they just can not say a particular word or that when they try to say a phrase gibberish comes out of their mouth.  If this happens to you, do not worry.  You can make light of it with a humorous remark such as ‘I must remember to put my brain in gear before engaging my mouth.’, ‘Sorry I’ll try that again’, or ‘Has anyone got a set of teeth that work?’ while miming the removal of your false teeth.

World leaders need to be very careful what they say as every word and aspect of their presentation will be disected and analysed by reporters and commentators around the world. This is why many of them rely on speech writers and autocue for their presentations. Thankfully most people giving a business presentation are not subjected to such rigourous analysis, so the odd slip up will probably pass unnoticed. When you make a mistake, or get tongue tied just laugh it off and carry on.

Reciting some tongue twisters may help reduce the occurence of being tongue tied.

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


January 5, 2010

Before you can influence someone, you need to gain his or her trust.  They need to respect you as someone who knows what they are talking about.  Try giving them a piece of information they know to be true, suggest an opinion they already hold or express an opinion with which they can sympathise.  All of these things will help to build a level of trust between you and your audience. 

You need to establish credibility early on in your presentation as someone who knows what they are talking about. Exactly how you do that will depend on your audience and what they think is credible.

Relating a personal anecdote helps to build trust between you and the audience, as they feel you are sharing something personal with them.

In the situation where your audience are likely to have an objection to part of your message, there is little point in trying to evade the issue.  Confront it; bring it out into the open.  By recognising the potential objection, your audience will not only realise that you are telling the truth and want to hear more, they will think you are astute and someone who can be trusted.

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


January 5, 2010

Find out in advance how long you should be presenting for.  If this is an ad hoc presentation, ask the audience how long they can spare.  Then make sure you can easily see a clock or a watch, or have someone in the audience who can hold up time cards to let you know how long you have left.

If you are timing yourself the most important things is to look at the time just before you start, with all the other things you are thinking about this can so easily be forgotten and then you do not know if you are on time or not.

There are few greater sins than running over time when giving a presentation and there is no reason why you should.

Most novice presenters worry if they will be able to talk for long enough to fill the allotted time.  This is rarely a problem for two reasons: a) It usually takes longer to give a presentation than it did when you were rehearsing; b) Very few audiences will be worried if you finish ahead of time.

On the rare occasions that you do end up finishing well ahead of time do not apologise, just ask for questions.

It is more likely that you will be running over, in which case, you need to cut some of the anecdotes, go into less detail and maybe speed up your delivery.  If you are using PowerPoint or have a carousel full of 35mm slides, you have a problem, as you cannot miss out a slide.  One of the worst things you can do is put up a slide for a second or two and say, ‘In the interests of time we will skip over this one’.  This makes your audience feel a) that they are missing something and b) that if the slide really was not worth looking at why was it there in the first place.

You are far better to go through each slide but summarise the information they contain, it is surprising how quickly you can work through a set of slides.  You do not need to read out every bullet point, or talk about each of the items.  Summarise the slide and leave the audience to read what it says.

The one thing not to rush is the conclusion and the call to action.  The call to action is in many ways the reason for the presentation, so if you skip over that there was little point in doing the presentation at all.  This is why it is useful to mark interim timings on your cue cards so that you know you are over running before you reach the end.  That way you can speed up the middle of the presentation and leave time for the summary and your call to action at the end.

Of course, the best approach is to practise, practise, practise.  That way you will know you have the right material for the time available.  If you are timing a presentation in rehearsal, it is imperative that you say the presentation aloud when you are timing it.  I would then add an extra 20% to the time taken, as invariably people take longer in real life.

For a 45-minute conference presentation, where you are expecting to have a question and answer session at the end, I would prepare 30 minutes worth of talking.  This should then take about 35 minutes to give and leave 10 minutes for questions and answers.

Remember to give your call to action after the Q&A session not before it or it will be forgotten.

When you are giving one in a series of presentations and the previous speaker has over-run, the best policy is to cut your presentation short to bring the whole event back on to schedule. By giving a crisp, clear but short presentation you will earn far more browny points than by sticking to your original timings and compounding the over-run of the previous speaker(s).

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