Body Language

January 6, 2010

Whole books have been devoted to body language.  This is not intended to compete with such texts but provides a few basic pointers on how to stand and the effect your posture has on yourself and your audience.

When you slouch on to the stage, staring at the floor, and mumble your presentation, no matter how fantastic the words are you will not get a good reaction.

Likewise, if you stand up proud, talk clearly with variation in pitch tone and speed and recite nursery rhymes to senior executives you probably will not sell any products.

When you are presenting stand proud with your stomach in, chest out, head up and look the audience in the eyes.  This will make you feel more confident, and you will come over more confidently as well.

A lot has been written about hand gestures and moving around on stage when you are presenting.  Rather than worry too much about what to do with your hands, my advice is to act as naturally as you can. Stop worrying about what your hands are doing.

The main thing to remember is that little things tend to irritate.  So, try to avoid small repetitive movements.  If you normally use your hands to emphasize what you are saying, then carry on and use them when presenting.  However, remember that you are on stage so you need to be more dramatic than when talking one-to-one.  Hand movements should start at the shoulder not the wrist or elbow.

Use gestures to help create a mental picture in the minds of your audience. 

Feel free to move around the stage, but watch out that you are not constantly walking across the beam of your projector, if you are using one. 

Another thing to avoid is tottering or walking up and down or side to side repetitively, or swaying back and forth on the spot.  That is the type of little thing which can become irritating to your audience.  If you find yourself starting to move, move properly, walk right across the stage.  After all like it or not, it is you that they have come to see and the more you move around, in a purposeful way, the better it is likely to be.


January 5, 2010

It is surprising where the time goes to when you get up and start talking.  In a 30 to 45 minute presentation, you have only time to get across between three and five main to points.

Keep it simple!  If you cannot state your central message in one or two sentences, you probably have not narrowed your topic enough, or clarified your thoughts enough.

  • Decide on three to five key points.
  • Develop supporting evidence for each key point.  Include statistics, stories or examples.
  • Develop a strong introduction and powerful conclusion with a call to action.
  • Use visual aids, which help to communicate your message.
  • Perform the presentation with enthusiasm, variety and passion.

Structure of your Message

How do I set about creating a presentation?  What structure should I use?

Every persuasive business presentation should have a similar structure, based on the problem/solution model.  In business, if you are not trying to solve someone’s problems, I would have to query how you are earning your money.

It all starts with an attention grabbing Opening. There is no point in talking if everyone is not listening and thinking about what you have to say.

When the audience does not know you or your company well, you may then need to establish credibility.  This is best done in a fairly subtle way, e.g. highlighting your track record in the area of the presentation.  The objective of this part is not to boast of previous accomplishments but to build a level of trust with the audience so that they know why they should believe what you are saying.

Now you should outline the problem that you believe exists and that your audience are likely to be suffering from.  People do not buy things unless there is a problem or opportunity of some sort. By highlighting this problem or opportunity at the start of your presentation you are providing a fundamental reason for the presentation. Then, create a vision of success as to how that problem can be overcome or the opportunity exploited. It is imperative that you audience buys into this vision, otherwise there is little incentive for them to listen to how you can achieve it.

Next, outline the detailed areas you are about to cover.  Depending on the subject matter, the details can be organised in a variety of different ways including: topically, chronologically, spatially or alphabetically.  Having a structure, for the order in which the details are presented, will help the audience to understand and keep track of your presentation.

The main body of the presentation consists of the detailed problems / solutions.  It is best to use reasoned logic, facts, figures and anecdotes to back up your arguments.  Cause and effect based arguments, which describe the benefits of success as well as the downsides of failing, can also work well in this main body.

Each topic area can almost be treated as a mini presentation in its own right.  The overall presentation structure being rippled down to each detailed area.  Do not forget to link the different areas together, using a series of verbal signposts and referring back to your structure.

End the details section of the presentation, with a summary of the benefits to be gained.  See F for FAB for a discussion on the difference between Features and Benefits.

Having provided all the detailed information, now is the time to call on your audience to join with you to help to achieve the vision of the future. All business requires two parties, two people, two companies or two sides the buyers and the sellers. It is impossible to do business on your own. So this is the point in the presentation to highlight that by working together you can achieve those benefits.

Now we are approaching the end of the presentation. It is now time to restate that vision of success that your audience bought into near the start, just to remind them where we are heading and provide a link back to your attention grabbing opening statement.

Thank the audience for their attention and take any questions from the audience if appropriate.  Then finally, present your call to action, which is designed to fulfil your objective for this presentation.


January 5, 2010

That’s you!  Like it or not if you are giving a presentation you will be judged.  Many of the hints and tips in this book are aimed at improving how you will be judged.  Helping you to overcome any fear/nervousness and turn it to your advantage by using the energy generated by the adrenaline to add more power to your presentation.

The biggest factor in your success as a speaker is your confidence.  If you are confident you will come across far better than if you are timid and nervous.  As perception is far more important than reality, looking confident can mask an awful lot of nerves that are bubbling up under the surface.  The aim is to look like a swan gracefully gliding across the top of the water, keeping the feet, which are paddling like mad, hidden from view.  Like the majestic swan, how you look and how you dress are very important in instilling that confidence in yourself and in your audience.

Look out of place because of the way you are dressed and it will affect how well your message is taken.  Although many businesses have a dress down policy these days, if you are presenting to a business audience it is usually advisably for a man to wear a suit and tie and a lady to wear a suit or similar business attire.  Shoes should also be polished, as it is surprising what assumptions are still made about a person in business, based on the state of their footwear.

When you are addressing a group of factory workers who are all dressed in overalls and you want to influence their behaviour, then a more casual appearance may be beneficial.  You may want to appear less like one of the managers and more like one of the team.  Every situation is different but there is never an excuse for not worrying about it.

By wearing clothes that make you feel good, it will help to boost your confidence.

Looking good is just part of it you also need to sound good.  This means three things:

  1. Speaking loudly enough so that people can hear what you are saying.
  2. Speaking clearly enough so people can understand the words that you are saying
  3. Omitting unnecessary words, grunts and groans.

When you are projecting your voice, you use your diaphragm.  This is completely different from shouting, which is achieved through muscles in your neck.  It should not hurt to project your voice unlike it does if you shout too much.

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

What do you want the audience to do as a result of your presentation?

To create an effective presentation the first thing you need to decide is what the objective of the presentation is.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But there may be more to that simple statement than you first perceive.  You could say that for a product presentation the objective is for the audience to learn about the product, but that would be a very poor objective, as there is no action associated with it and no way of measuring how successfully it has been accomplished.  The question you should ask yourself is ‘Okay, after my presentation they will know more about our product, but what do I want them to do next?’.

If your answer is ‘I want them to buy it’ then maybe you have gone to the other extreme.  This objective may be fine if you work on a market stall and sell a vegetable chopper that cuts, slices and dices everything from tomatoes to pineapples.  In that case, it may be realistic that after you have presented how easy it is to use and what a lovely job it makes, some people will want to buy one.  For a market stall presentation, “selling the product” is a very good and plausible objective, which is measured by the thickness of your wallet at the end of the day.

However, for most business-to-business sales, it is unlikely that the presentation will lead directly to the sale. The sale may happen months later by which time you will have forgotten how well the presentation went.

So what is your objective?  And how can you measure your success?  The best objectives are SMART objectives.  

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

In the above examples objectives “getting the audience to know more about my products” is not easily measurable or very specific, and buying the product is not very timely.

A reasonable objective, when the presentation is the first real contact that members of the audience have had with your company, may be for 40% to arrange follow up meetings with your sales force.

When you are presenting at a conference on a subject, in which your company specialises, you may measure the success by the number of people who come up to talk to you after you have finished. You can set yourself a target of say 10 people. If only two people want to talk to you afterwards, then it may be because your presentation did not stir up enough interest. If over 20 people come to talk you, you will have exceeded your expectations.

As every presentation has an objective it is important that the presentation concludes with a call to action that informs, encourages and directs people to meet your objective.  If you want them to arrange a meeting with your sales force, you need to tell them to arrange that meeting and make it as easy as possible for them to do it.  Consider having the sales force join you after the presentation so they can talk to their prospective clients, there and then.

With an objective of having people to talk with you after a conference presentation, you need to tell the audience where you will be and that you would welcome the opportunity to discuss any aspect of the subject in more depth, on an individual basis, or answer any more specific questions that your presentation has raised in their minds. 

As you can see, by objective, what I am really talking about is what action you want the delegates to take following the presentation.

Of course, yours is not the only objective you need to consider.  What are the audience’s objectives likely to be?  What do they want to get from your presentation?  Understanding your audience and their objectives is the key to an effective presentation and is discussed in the section entitled ‘The Audience’. 

Your OSRAM objective should be SMART and remember to use a call to action at the end of you presentation to reinforce your objective.

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

Room Layouts

January 5, 2010

The best way to layout a room is dependent on a number of factors including:

  • The space available
  • The size of the audience 
  • The level of activity and interaction required

There are 6 main styles which are described below.

Theatre Style


Theatre style seating allows the most people for a given size of room.  This is fine for an audience who will be listening to presentations and do not need to make many notes or interact with each other.

There is usually an aisle up the middle to facilitate the audience getting to their seats and also to help everyone gain a better view of the middle of the stage. By having an aisle in the middle it means the vast majority of people will be at a slight angle to the presenter so they can see him/her over the shoulders of the people in front, rather than having to look over the person in front’s head.

Classroom Style

Classroom style requires about three times as much space per person as theatre style but provides everyone with some where to rest their papers and equipment.  It also allows refreshments to be provided on the tables.

This style is good for audiences who may need to take notes or work individually during the presentation(s) but who do not need to interact with each other.

In the unlikely scenario that your event ends up with far fewer bookings than originally expected changing the layout from theatre style to classroom style can make a poorly attended event seemed packed out and add an extra feeling of quality to the event.

Cabaret Style

In Cabaret style, people are sitting in groups around tables.  This is not so good when there will be a lot of presentations from the front of the room, but is good for workshops, where each of the groups will be working independently from each other and then presenting their results.

When you want a mixture of presentations from the front and group based work, arrange the seats in a U around each table, so that no-one has their back to the presenter.

Boardroom Style

Boardroom style works well if the group is reasonably small and will spend most of the time talking to each other or listening to one or two speakers who are not using a screen.

Horseshoe Style

The Horseshoe is similar to the Boardroom Style except that it allows more people to participate.  It is slightly better than an ordinary boardroom layout for giving presentations, which rely on being able to see the projector screen, because most people will have a better view of the screen. 

The horse-shoe layout is often preferred by trainers, as it gives a good mix for sitting and listening and interaction between the class members. Walking into the “hole” in the middle of the desks is a good way to command attention as a trainer.

Open Space

Finally, the Open Space layout is ideal for interactive meetings, where everyone is involved in a conversation or series of short presentations from the members, which do not require a screen and projector.

There is nowhere for people to lean on while making notes but the fact that there are no barriers and everyone can see each other helps the collaborative and interactive nature of the event.  Of course, the circle can be either a horseshoe shaped open circle or a fully closed circle.

You can’t give long presentations at an Open Space meeting but you do need to have a strong facilitator at such a meeting otherwise the interactivity can quickly descend into chaos.

Whatever layout you decide upon for your next meeting / presentation remember the three golden rules for the Room:

  1. Arrive early – So you have time to cure or think up a work around for any problems.
  2. Ensure the room is tidy – don’t allow the state of the room or anything else that is going on to distract your audience.
  3. Know how ALL the equipment works – don’t get caught out if the projector blows a bulb, your screensaver pops up, or the flipchart pens have run of ink.

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

Presentations take place in all types and sizes of rooms.  They may not even happen in a room at all.  The space and the facilities the room provides can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of any presentation.

I have 3 simple rules about the room you are using for your presentation.

 1. Arrive early

You should always arrive early so that you can become accustomed to the room itself and check it over before your audience arrive.

Arriving just before you are about to present, means there is no time to fix any problems that you may find and no time to grow accustomed to your surroundings.

When you are one of a series of presenters, it is often best to practise your entrance.  How will you get up to your speaking position?  What does it feel like standing there? Where will I put my notes?

A word of warning if you are using cue cards or notes, do not leave them on a lectern, keep them with you.  It is all too easy for the previous speaker or the MC to pick up your notes along with theirs, leaving you helpless.

Make a note of where people come in.  Will late comers be able to join without interrupting your flow?

2. Make it tidy

You should minimise the number and level of distractions, so that the audience pays attention to you.

All too often presentations are made in an internal office room where various debris has been left behind by the previous occupant, including: writing on the white board or flipchart, books and papers left on desks or window sills, pieces of computer equipment that are not currently in use.  All these things work as distractions from your presentation and should be tidied up before your audience arrive.

Close the blinds on any windows in the room so that you audience are not distracted by what is going on outside.

Make sure everyone can see you and the screen or flipchart (assuming you are using one).  Try sitting in the back row to check that you can read the content of your slides. While you are there look around the room and make a note of anything that you can see that you do not need for the presentation and then remove those items.

3. Make sure that you know how to operate all the equipment

Do not forget to turn off your mobile phone and the screensaver on your laptop. During rehearsals you will never spend more than 5 minutes on any one slide but in an actial presentation it is not unusual for some one to ask a question and you can be on the same slide for 15 minutes or so, which is when your screen saver will pop up. No matter how politically correct your screen saver is, it is very unlikely that it was intended to form part of the presentation.  

These days many other background tasks running on a PC can also interrupt your presentation such as “You have mail” messages, Instant Messaging text, anti-virus scans etc. try to turn all these things off before the presentation.

Make sure the pens all work, if you are going to use a flipchart or whiteboard.

To make sure people can hear you, ask a friend or colleague to sit in the back row during the presentation, they can then signal to you if your voice is too quiet.

When you are using a microphone, make sure you know how to turn it on, and do not forget to turn it off when you leave the stage.  You do not want your private conversations being broadcast to the whole room.

While I’m on the subject of microphones, don’t be tempted to tap it or shout “testing, one, two, three” to see if it working, it will make you look very unprofessional.

With modern projection equipment, you should not need to turn the lights down for people to see the screen; however, it is always wise to check that there are no awkward reflections, which might interfere with people’s vision.

When using PowerPoint, a little known trick is to set the presentation up and then press ‘B’.  This turns the screen black so that your first slide is not displayed until you are ready to begin.  Pressing ‘B’ again turns on the presentation.  Similarly, ‘W’ will turn the screen white.

Sod’s Law states that if you rely on any machinery it will go wrong when you are most need it to work. Bearing this in mind it is often useful to have a back-up plan in mind in case your equipment fails.

Probably the best piece of advice I have ever been given is not to rely on your slides to remind you what you will be talking about. That way if the slides can not be displayed or the projector breaks part of the way through your presentation; you can still finish your presentation.

ZZZZZ The sound of snoring

January 5, 2010

Hopefully, if you follow all the strategies, tips and tricks that have been outlined in this blog, you will not hear the sound of anyone snoring during your presentations.

As you look round the audience maintaining that all important eye contact, if you see signs of people getting too relaxed, vary the speed and pitch of your delivery, speed it up, talk a bit louder, bang out more key points and reduce the filler.  If they still have their eyes open, give them more eye contact (i.e. look at them more often) you should see signs of a revival after a very short time.

You the Audience

January 5, 2010

While much of this blog is about how you should behave when giving a presentation do not forget that the only reason you are there is because of the audience, who are listening to you.  Without an audience, there would be no presentation.

In planning your presentation, it is vital to consider what your audience wants, what they are interested in and why they are listening.  In giving the presentation, you can then make it personal to them.  Try using the words you and yours as often as you can.  Do not present in the third person, it makes it too remote.  You need to get your audience involved, the more involved the better.  Appeal to their emotions, their dreams and aspirations, appeal to their egos and to their wallets.

When you are developing your presentation, try to use the word you and yours 30 times in the first 5 minutes. Not only will the audience like the fact that your presentation is obviously about them, it will make you think about your audience more, as it is impossible to use the words “you” and “yours” 30 times without thinking about the 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

You the Speaker

January 5, 2010

Like it or not you are one of most important parts of the presentation, second only to the audience.

While some of the hints and tips in this blog have their origins in the theatre, one of the most important things when presenting is to be yourself.  Do not try putting on an act.  Do not pretend to be someone else.  Few people can do it well and those that do have glittering careers as film stars.

Even, if someone else wrote the presentation and provided a set of PowerPoint slides, you need to put the presentation in to your own words.

So be yourself, use your words, your actions, your thoughts, and speak from the heart.

Be proud that you have been invited to stand up and make a presentation to this 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

X Marks the Spot

January 5, 2010

Knowing the target that you are aiming for, the affect you wish to achieve and having a precise message, will make your presentations far more effective.  Remember, in most business presentations you are not just trying to convey information, you are trying to use that information to influence the behaviour of your audience. 

See the section on Objective for more information about marking your target.

A scattergun approach is less likely to work than an accurately aimed rifle.  So mark your spot before you start to fire.

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