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Presenting: a refresher course

So let me just say this right upfront, and with total transparency: Nothing you read below will be revolutionary, surprising, or even beyond the reach of common sense. But still, all of it is worth repeating. Working as a presentation and event support specialist, graphic designer and event producer for the last two decades, has provided me with an unparalleled level of insight, expertise…….and frustration, when it comes to corporate presentations.

I thought it would be valuable to highlight a few of the most common issues that I tend to see. Sure, there are books, workshops, seminars, videos, etc., all on the subject of presenting, but after taking hours and hours to wade through all that information, I believe that we’d end up cancelling out 95% of that instruction, and settling on the following core issues. Following these tips will not only help the presenter, but also the audience and event staff.

PREPARE For the sake of all of us, please prepare sufficiently…and well in advance. The time for finalizing your presentation IS NOT on site. This means finalizing your content early – making final tweaks several days before your actual presentation. On site will be hectic enough, without making last-minute revisions, which will do nothing but throw you off balance. Being well prepared, will make you a better speaker, and fill you with confidence.

KNOW YOUR STUFF! This has several components. The first is obvious – rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Once you have settled on your content, rehearse until you know it cold. This means rehearsing in front of a mirror, or record yourself on video, or practise in front of someone else. Whatever method you choose, do it until it becomes almost second nature.

DON’T READ Simply put, if you need notes, then you don’t know your content well enough. There are only two reasons for reading notes as you present –a lack of confidence or a lack of preparation. Neither option is acceptable. Don’t get the wrong idea though, notes are fine when used as notes – not a script. Bullet-form reminders are perfectly fine. These would be a few words, which you could glance at, in the event you lose your place, get nervous, etc. Simply an emergency backup plan, which would only require you to look elsewhere for a second or two.

TELL A STORY This one cannot be overstated. Even the most technical, involved, dull (sorry) content can, and should, be told in story form. I’m not suggesting that you add “Once upon a time” to the beginning of each slide, but rather to personalise your content, and follow a journey from beginning to end. Beginning, middle, and end. Every good story should have a beginning, middle and end, and so should your presentation. Use names, personal experiences, and case studies. Remind your audience where you are in your story. Inject emotion into your talk. All of these skills will make your presentation easier to listen to, and easier to believe.

Prepare. Know your stuff. Don’t read. Tell a story.

Sounds simple, but those four tricks will transform any presentation from a C-level, to an A-level. Remember, the goal of any presentation is to teach, convince, inspire – or all of the above – and that simply cannot be accomplished unless your audience is engaged. Follow the above, and you’ll be on your way.

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