Your industry has asked you to present on your field of expertise. But the thought of presenting makes your palms sweat.
Calm your nerves. Follow these seven tips and you’ll likely get applause from your audience, not rotten tomatoes.
Remind yourself nobody’s going to throw rotten tomatoes at you – Your audience is rooting for you. Still, establishing rapport up front helps. Ask about someone’s lapel pin or laptop case. Don’t glad-hand everyone – that comes across needy. Be friendly but be authentic.
Don’t let a slip break your stride – Correct your malapropism (or excuse your cough) and keep on presenting. People care more about how a presenter reacts to a snafu than the fact they made one. Just smile, say “oops,” and offer your next key point. Your audience will be impressed you withstood a faux pas far better than they would have.
Move around. But don’t make people seasick – When you start, anchor in a location and remain there for several minutes. Once you’re into your presentation, however, feel free to gently roam. Audiences like to know their presenter isn’t some remote-controlled robot. But you’re not a thoroughbred vying for the Triple Crown, either. Glide. Stop. Present for a while. Glide again.
Dialogue more, monologue less – Engagement is the goal. People learn more through conversation (and are less likely to doze off). Pitch questions: ‘Who has encountered this challenge and how did YOU solve it?’ Even let your audience answer one another’s questions. But control the room. This is YOUR presentation, not The Jerry Springer Show.
One point per slide – I’m stunned some presenters still put six bullet points on one slide. Like there’s a dearth of PowerPoint slides out there and we need to conserve them. Deliver your points one at a time, visually as well as orally. You’ll more easily recall what you have to say and your audience will more easily recall what you said.
Expect pushback. Know how to manage it – Challenging authority has replaced baseball as our national pastime. Expect someone to dispute some point you’re making. Here’s where “getting along” must transcend “proving you’re right.” Ask challengers how they derived their view (you may find some truth in their perspective, allowing you to then show how nuanced your topic is). If their view’s incorrect, or outdated, don’t say that. Focus on what the evidence reveals (“We used to think the world was flat, but explorers have disproven that by sailing around the world.”) That moves the dispute from one of opinions to facts.
Conclude by asking for questions. And, for enlightenment – In wrapping up, I ask what surprised the group most about what they heard. What they learned that they hadn’t expected to. What they’ll do differently as a result of my talk or continue to do with greater passion. Their answers should convince your hosts that you got your points across well. And, that they should invite you back to present on another topic.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER
Jeff Herrington has conducted hundreds of writing workshops in the U. S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., and Germany. Companies that have been brought Jeff’s workshops on-site include JPMorgan Chase, American Century Investments, Arizona Public Service, IBM, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Jeff also has provided consulting expertise for such companies as Coca-Cola France, Whirlpool, John Deere and Wausau Insurance.
By Paul Barton Phoenix Public Speaking Founder and Owner
IMAGINE you are going to build a house with the finest building materials available, but without a foundation or a frame. What you’d have is a mess. That’s what a speech or business presentation with great content but no structure is like. Structure helps your business presentation to be digestible. It keeps you on point and helps keep you on time.
In a previous blog, public speaking coach Michele Trent wrote about the need to have an introduction, a body and a conclusion to every speech or presentation, and she explained the format in the easy-to-understand terms “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, tell ‘em, and tell ‘em what you just told ‘em.”
Intro, body, and conclusion are the fundamental parts of a presentation.
Here’s a different way of thinking about the structure of a presentation that may help you organize your thoughts and frame your points – what, so what, now what.
Here’s how it breaks down:
What (Introduction) – What is your presentation about.
So What (Body) – Why does it matter to the audience.
Now What (Conclusion) – What are you asking the audience to do (the call to action).
Sequence is Key
One key to this organizational format is that it must go in the proper sequence. Have you ever been asked to sign a petition in a parking lot of a grocery store? I never sign them. Why? In part because the petitioner is skipping the “What” and “So What” stages and going directly to the “Now What” stage. I don’t know what they are talking about or why it matters to me, so I can’t commit to taking action.
Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about. Establish a good foundation. Build facts and examples upon that foundation to clearly outline why the issue is important. Then clearly explain what action you want your audience to take.
With a solid structure, you can build a strong case for the change or action you are seeking. Next time you’re preparing a presentation, think about your structure. When you apply a solid structure, you’ll have a great presentation.
You probably remember giving class presentations or speeches in middle school or high school. If it was anything like my experience, you weren’t given a tremendous amount of guidance. You were given a general idea of what your topic was to be about, you were told how long to speak, whether you could use visual aids, and not to talk too fast.
As for the structure of your remarks, it was pretty much – tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em. Albeit simple, this is still sound advice. When it gets right down to it, your presentation will have an open, a body, and a conclusion. Of course, there’s quite a bit you can do within each section but, at its core, this is the basic structure.
One simple way to elevate your next presentation is to give extra thought to the opening and closing. Many times, presenters just want to get to the guts of the presentation and forget to set it up for the audience and let them know what they are going to hear. Likewise, at the end, it is tempting to go right to the questions and then neglect the close. If you sum up the points you have made, you will drastically increase the likelihood that your audience will remember what you’ve just said.
One reason you may sway from this tried and true formula is that it might seem redundant to you. If you mention your main points three times and then unpack the points during the body of the presentation, isn’t that overkill? Nope. You are familiar with your message. Your audience is not. While they may have varying degrees of knowledge (your manager may have heard the points from you already), they are not immersed in the details the way you are. Plus, we live in a fast-paced, content-overloaded, culture. People are getting message flung at them from all sides. When you have their attention, walk them through your material in such a way that it is impossible to be misunderstood. It is better to have one person say “sheesh, I’ve got it already” than five people walk out scratching their heads wondering what the heck that was all about.
As part of your opening, clearly lay out what you are going to present. Then, present it clearly with illustrations, examples, data, and application. Finally, sum it all up, so that everyone knows the key takeaways. If we all applied this simple structure that was given to us in grammar school, we would find that many of our meetings would be more productive simply because we would be walking out with the same set of important learnings.
Do you have a business presentation on the horizon? Think through your remarks. Are you planning to tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em? If not, you may be missing a simple and direct method for clearly communicating what it is you have to say.
It’s hard to believe PowerPoint has been around for more than 30 years. It has become a common tool used by most companies to produce business presentations. Although the program is easily accessible, not all presentations are successful. A well-designed presentation helps make your content more understandable, as well as more memorable. Unfortunately, good design is not a template in PowerPoint.
If you’d like to maximize the impact of your PowerPoint presentation, here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind:
> Consistency: Use master slides to help give the presentation structure, and save you time as you create new slides. These also can be customized if needed.
> Focus: Don’t speak to your slides—talk to your audience. Each slide should support and reinforce your messaging.
> The Opener: Open with something surprising or intriguingthat appeals to your audience’s emotions. This will quickly get their attention.
> Slide count: Limit the number of slides. If you are not sure, try to go with one per minute.
>Format: Never use paragraphs. Bulleted items are best—no more than six bullet points per slide. Try to avoid centering the copy. Left-aligned text is best, as it makes for a smoother read.
> Pacing: Animated builds (text that appears with a mouse click) control the pacing of the presentation. This keeps the audience focused on you and not reading ahead.
> Fonts: Stay with a few standard fonts and avoid trendy typefaces that are hard to read. Sans-serif fonts are easiest to read. Some of the oldest typefaces, such as Helvetica or Arial, never go out of style. Use varying weights for emphasis—never use all caps.
> Photos: One of the most common mistakes is using low quality, gimmicky photos. Keep in mind that quality images are a reflection of your brand.
> Special Effects: You’re not trying to make the next Star Wars epic. Avoid overused transitions, fly-ins, inappropriate animations, and sounds. These quickly become annoying and distract from your communication.
Using these tips will help you to have well-designed PowerPoint slides that support your key points and give you a more powerful presentation.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER
Tim Fisher is the founder of Summation, a brand design firm in Scottsdale, Ariz. For 20 years, Tim and his team have worked with a wide range of clients, from Fortune 100 companies to start-ups. They provide brand development/brand revitalization, corporate identity, packaging, print, and website design. They especially enjoy working with smaller companies, developing their brands one project at a time.
WHEN you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you present with greater confidence and poise. What’s more, your attire is an important part of your visual communication. Just like your body language, the clothes you choose to wear send important messages to your audience. So, knowing how important your business wardrobe can be to your speaking and career success, our own Paul Barton asked fashion expert Mary Zarob for some advice.
Q. A business professional has a big presentation coming up that could make or break their career. They want to look their best and they come into your shop. Where would you start?
MZ: I would start by asking about their business, the event and who they are presenting to. Lawyers? Real estate professionals? Sales teams? CEOs? In today’s business world, you need to dress for your customers and clientele. Also, I would learn about their personal style and how they like clothes to fit. It’s important to me that my clients feel comfortable in their clothes and like what they wear. I wouldn’t put them in a three-piece suit when they are presenting to technology executives and should wear a jacket and jeans. You want to look professional and tailored, however, it’s important that the audience is focusing on what you are saying and not the color of your shirt or shoes.
Q. Would your fashion guidance change if the person was in their 20s versus someone like me in their 50s? Does the age of the speaker in any way influence appropriate attire?
MZ: It does! It’s important to dress for your age. However, a lot of my younger clients want to dress older and my older clients want to dress younger. An easy and inexpensive way to change an outfit for your age or to appeal to another generation is what accessories you choose. Shoes, belt, watch, handbag, jewelry, etc. can transform an outfit quickly. Pearl earrings vs. trendy hoops or loafer vs. Chelsea boot. Simple accessory changes and details can make your outfit age appropriate.
Q. What trends are you seeing in business attire for men and women? Anything in particular for Phoenix?
MZ: Overall, Phoenix isn’t a very formal town but I am seeing a lot of men and women turning away from casual (T-shirt and jeans) and dressing up more. For women, I’m seeing more and more jackets or blazers in the office. However, it’s not a full suit like the 1980s but more a stylish color or pattern. They also wear them out to dinner or happy hour. There is a feminine trend happening with more lace, florals, and ruffles on shirts and skirts. It’s still professional but with a feminine touch. Women in the office want to be taken seriously but still feminine (not sexy).
For men – (like women) – they are dressing up more. The untucked shirt is only for short sleeve shirts and not for the office or happy hour. Men are tucking in the shirts and showing off their belts and accessories. They don’t go anywhere without a jacket and aren’t afraid of color and pattern. Patterned slacks are very popular. If they own a patterned suit, they will wear the pants by themselves with a collared shirt to the office or on an appointment. Another trend I’m seeing for men is monochromatic dressing – wearing the same shade of color head to toe.
Q. What should business professionals consider when beginning or updating their wardrobes?
MZ: I always suggest going through your closet first and tailoring/altering anything that doesn’t fit how you like. If pants are too long, hem them. If a skirt is too big, take it in. If a shirt is too baggy, have it slimmed down. Often times, in people’s closets there are great clothes that aren’t being worn because they don’t fit right. Or, the style was fuller or baggy and now it’s more tailored. Simple alterations can help bring life to your clothes and it’s less expensive than throwing everything away.
Next, I suggest making sure you have the basics: a suit, a couple of slacks, shirts, skirts, dresses, and shoes in the basic colors that can go with everything. Then slowly add colors or patterns in key pieces like slacks, shirts, skirts, and shoes. Keep in mind when you shop, you don’t have to buy everything at once. The stores will always be there and offering great styles and colors. Also, watch what people wear at the office or in meetings and take note of what you like and don’t like. Ask them where they got what they are wearing or where they shop – especially if they have the same build or frame as you. It can help take headaches out of shopping because you know that store or brand will fit you. Don’t forget accessories like jewelry, pocket squares, belts, shoes and glasses can elevate an outfit. If you tend to wear the same shirts and slacks to the office, have fun with different heel weight or loafer or even belts. Simple details can change an outfit (for the better).
Q. I once worked with a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who often wore a black belt with brown shoes. It drove me nuts! What are some common fashion mistakes you see business professionals make?
MZ: The most common mistake I see with business professionals is their clothes don’t fit properly. Clothes are either too tight or too loose and it makes them look unprofessional or sloppy. Many people get hung up on only wearing a certain size but each brand fits so differently that you may wear a different size from store to store.
Q. Summer is coming. How do you look professional but stay cool at the same time?
MZ: Natural fibers are the key. Cottons, linens, and even very lightweight wools breath and allow air to pass through (especially for suits, slacks, and shirts). A lot of performance fabrics or brands have finishes that whisk moisture away and I recommend them as well. If you sweat a ton, no matter what you wear, keep an extra shirt or two at the office so you can change. Sometimes you can’t help but sweat when its 115 degrees outside.
Q. Business presenters usually move around and may sweat a little. Often, they have lavaliere microphone wires strung inside their jackets. They may need a pocket for a presentation clicker. Given all of these possibilities, what do you suggest for their attire?
MZ: I strongly suggest you wear a jacket or suit that you can move around in and that isn’t too tight. A higher armhole on a jacket allows for more movement vs. a larger armhole. Wear something that is lighter weight vs. a heavy fabric – it will move easier. Also, when shopping, practice walking around or moving your arms to ensure the clothing you are buying is comfortable and not restricting.
Q. Presenters are often on-stage and this poses a unique challenge for women. What are your thoughts on appropriate dress length?
MZ: I strongly suggest wearing dresses or skirts to the knee or longer. Also, wear stockings or tights if appropriate. If you are unsure, wear slacks. You want the audience to focus on your face and what you are saying vs. a wardrobe malfunction.
Q. Speakers may need to travel. When you arrive at your destination, you might find that your perfect speaking outfit is a wrinkled mess. Any thoughts on fabrics that pack well?
MZ: Clothes will wrinkle and some more than others. Many brands advertise wrinkle free or resistant shirts, tops, and slacks. I would start there. Another option is better quality wool suits or jackets. To look good and presentable, it’s going to cost some money and investing in yourself is worth it. It doesn’t mean you have to fork over thousands of dollars, but certain pieces go a long way. I would avoid linen or lightweight cottons. They tend to wrinkle more.
Polyester or synthetic blends are great options to avoid wrinkles. One last resort would be to invest in a good travel steamer and steam your clothes when you get to your destination. It may take 15-20 minutes, but you will feel like a million bucks knowing you look ironed and polished.
Q. When a speaker knows they will be video recorded, do you have any suggestion regarding colors or patterns to stay away from?
MZ: I would avoid white shirts – they can be stark and glow on camera. I would also avoid small patterns or designs, they tend to vibrate and move on-screen, which can be very distracting. Also, keep accessories and make-up subtle. You want the viewer to focus on your face and what you are saying instead of your loud tie, pocket square, lip color or eye shadow. You want people to remember what you said and not to be known for your neon necklace.
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Mary Zarob is the owner of Q. Contrary in Phoenix (3188 E. Indian School Road), which offers bespoke tailoring, image consulting, personal shopping, and alterations to help men and women look and feel their very best. Before opening her own business, Mary was a designer for Macy’s and Calvin Klein Jeans. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
I often use the above historic photo in my public speaking workshops. The photo was taken just before the start of the very first presidential debate to be carried on live television. You, of course, recognize the contestants — Richard Nixon vs. John F. Kennedy.
When I show the photo to my workshop attendees, I ask folks to shout out, in one word, what the body language of each candidate says to them. Invariably, they shout words like “nervous, uncomfortable, awkward” for Nixon and “leader, calm, cool” for Kennedy. Then I repeat the exercise, but this time I ask the attendees to focus on just the clothing the two are wearing. The result is identical. Yep, clothes make a statement and the attire chosen by Nixon and Kennedy were saying this: awkward vs. cool.
It is fascinating to me that before either man stood up to speak — before they even uttered a single word — their body language and their clothing were sending clear messages to the audience.
And the Winner is …
Equally fascinating is this fact: those who listened to the debate on radio thought Nixon was the clear winner of the debate but those who watched the debate on TV thought Kennedy was the clear winner. The difference — verbal communication vs. visual communication.
The majority of our communication is done visually — body position, eye contact, facial expressions, and, yes, clothing. What’s more, visual communication is seen by audiences as more credible than verbal communication.
What this means for business presenters like you is this: It’s a very competitive world out there and you need every edge you can get. Visual communication just might make the difference between getting to the next level in a business relationship or going home.
Coming Up …
We’ve talked a lot in this blog about body language, but what about what about what to wear? What clothes are best for making presentations? Well, we’ve got you covered there as well. Check back here on Friday for “Speak and Bespoke: How to Dress for Speaking Success,” a Q&A interview with Phoenix fashion expert Mary Zarob. It’s a fun and informative read. See you then!
You’ve seen it a million times – someone reads a written introduction about a public speaker or business presenter who is about to take the stage. The introduction is written in the third person but it was obviously written by the speaker. This is how public speaking works, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. I recently listened to an old podcast interview with public speaking expert Fred Miller who offered a formula for a good introduction. Miller believes your introduction should not be your bio. Instead, he said, every speaker introduction should answer these three questions:
> Why this subject? Explain why it’s relevant to your audience.
> Why this speaker? Outline your credentials.
> Why now? Explain why it’s timely.
I believe this formula will allow you as a speaker to have an introduction that has value and perfectly positions the presentation you’re about to give. Conversely, if you can’t answer these three questions, and do so clearly and concisely, you’re not ready to give your presentation.
A great presentation starts with a great introduction.
You’ve finished your presentation and you feel pretty good about how it went. The audience seemed engaged.
“Nothing to work on here,” you tell yourself … on to the next presentation!
Then from out of the blue, someone comments, “great job but the way you kept swaying back and forth nearly made me nauseous.”
What? You sway? You didn’t know that!
It’s often not until something is brought to your attention, that you can then make a change. This is one reason why coaching is valuable. You get an objective view of what you’re doing and the help to make corrections. One of our coaching techniques includes having you video yourself giving a presentation. This recording is not a judgment and it shouldn’t be scary. It’s simply feedback — feedback that will help you grow as a speaker. There is just no denying your idiosyncrasies when they are captured on video. As with any kind of unconscious habit, once you become aware of what you are doing, you can adjust and become better.
Today, it’s easier to record yourself than ever. A powerful video recorder sits in the palm of your hand thanks to advanced cell phone technology. I bought a very simple iPhone stand from Amazon for less than $20. It even comes with a remote so I can start the recording from the stage and let it run. The sound isn’t great but you can hear it. Remember, this is to get feedback; this method is not for recording and publishing your presentation. For that, you will need to upgrade your equipment.
Whether you record yourself using your phone or the event organizers record you and give you a copy, the real secret here is actually watching the footage! Often, I’ll hear that someone has made a recording but never bothered to watch it. Carve out time to watch the recording shortly after you’ve given the presentation so it’s all still fresh in your mind. Watch it, without judgment, all the way through at normal speed. This is your first pass. This will give you an unbiased view of how you sound and look. This used to be all I did until I heard Toastmaster’s World Champion Speaker Mark Brown. As part of his speaking discipline, he watches a video not once, but four times and in four different ways.
This is Mark’s recommendation and one I’ve adopted and encourage my clients to use as well. The process looks like this:
> Step 1: Play the video with your eyes closed and just listen to your remarks.
> Step 2: Watch with the sound off and focus on your gestures.
> Step 3: Watch in slow motion and focus on your facial expressions only.
> Step 4: Watch at normal speed with the volume up.
If you do this, you will uncover any distracting facial tics, gestures, or unnecessary filler words. Even a great presenter (Mark clearly is one!) will get even better by scrutinizing a video of his or her speeches.
Don’t use video as a tool to beat yourself up, use it as a tool to grow! Maybe you’ll find out that you sway from side to side and it’s distracting. That is an easy fix. However, unless you know you’re doing it, you’ll never fix it, and you won’t become the effective speaker you are meant to be.
I recently teamed up with New York City-based social media expert Dhariana Lozano to offer tips on engaging virtual audiences and hosting effective virtual meetings via speakerphone or webinar.
Dhariana and I presented our tips via Facebook Live. In case you missed it, you can hear the replay by clicking on the button below.
And hey, we’d welcome your suggestions for keeping audiences engaged and running effective virtual meetings. Do you have rules that you use to make virtual meetings run as smooth as possible? Do you favor certain technology products that make meetings more effective? Please leave your ideas in the comments section below.