Sunday, 4 October 2015

I wandered, lonely as a cloud.

It is a big step in a presenter's development moving out from behind the lectern. It allows you to engage more effectively with the audience and will significantly improve both your p3 and p cubed value overall. It is not an easy step to take though but it is important that once you make the step, you then need to stop. Wandering lonely as a cloud is good for poets but not so good for speakers.

Standing behind a lectern "protects" you from the audience. Once a presenter recognises that the audience are not baying for your blood like the crowd at The Colosseum this gesture of openness brings reward. However, most nervous presenters then set off on a wander round and round the stage with no purpose other than to keep moving, away from the audience. There are better options.

Ask yourself why are you moving? The size of the stage and the auditorium will all affect this but my advice is to plan your route with a purpose. Effectively, your mobility allows you to move and physically engage with different sections of the audience. Random, cloud like, wandering gives the obvious impression that you don't know where you are going and reflects on your message indirectly. It will also tire out both the speaker and the audience. Work the stage and the audience. Move to one section and stop. Stand feet apart, face the section and then speak. After a period of time, usually a defined segment of your talk, turn to another section, speak to them and then move over to them as you talk. When you teach them, stop, stand firm and complete that section of your talk.

Your movement should fit with the talk. In stage craft this is called choreography, planned movement. Like all aspects it should add, not distract from your delivery. Move to engage the audience. Move metaphorically and physically to a new segment of the piece. Move and stop. Make sure your opening and closing segments are delivered centre stage to the whole audience. Don't just wander, like a cloud.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Prepare for failure

SO, the Chair has introduced you and you stride up to the stage, there's a flicker behind you and your title slide appears on the 20m high screen. You press the remote and everything goes black, for a second then all that appears on the screen is fuzzy lines. How you respond reflects how you have prepared. Have you prepared for failure?

The real difficulty for many presenters is that the p2 represents their script. Such a presentation is dead in the water. For some the p2 may not be completely the script but at least it marks the steps in the presentation without which the presentation cannot progress. For some presenters the media is there to support their p1 and whilst it is a disappointment for it not to be there, they will turn to the audience, smile nervously and say, "Sorry, where was I?" 

If you haven't prepared for this sort of technical failure, it is highly likely you will not cope well. A well constructed p1, repeated and effective practise and a confidence in your presentation as a whole are all you need. Except a deep breath. 

Saturday, 26 September 2015

It's for you...

There's a great post over on at giving an impassioned plea from audiences in scientific meetings about what "powerpoint" is doing to medical conferences and how changing it makes a massive difference. Yet still the call from those who oppose such changes is "data, it's all about the data." I completely disagree.

Data is the foundation of science. Data is the foundation of much of our practice whether medical or academic, legal or business. Data makes sense. Data is not the purpose of a presentation, that is a (scientific) paper. Data has a place though in all presentations, that is the p1. Making that relevant and valuable for the audience is the skill of a good presenter.

A simple analogy is the difference between standing on stage reading out a telephone directory (data) and opening your phone and using something specific in that data and making a call. It is about connections. Your purpose is to make those connections IN that data and make sense of it for the audience. It is not about denying data but similarly it is not about just throwing a pile of numbers up and hoping the audience can make sense of it. That is your purpose as the speaker. When you get on stage, use data for a purpose and connect. Make a personal phone call to each individual audience member.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Breaking Bad (habits)

Have you ever struggled to give up a bad habit? Something you knew was unhelpful, unproductive but it was just so easy to slip back into despite knowing many reasons why you shouldn't be? Your presentation style is probably the same and these are the common excuses for not changing:
  • I'm going to reduce the number of bulletpoints
  • I need some bulletpoints
  • I don't have time to plan like that
  • I'm only going to use it as a prompt rather than a script
  • It's what the audience expect
  • NEXT time, when I have more chance
  • Not this time, it's an important meeting
  • I don't have time to practise
  • You just don't understand how hard this is.

These are excuses, not reasons. I do understand that breaking a bad habit is difficult. And you understand that your current method of delivering presentations is bad. So, stub it out, stop right now, go cold turkey don't just make excuses. It won't be easy and of course it won't be perfect the first time. But was your last presentation perfect? Imagine how good it will feel to say, "Today, I didn't do a bad presentation."

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Seven Deadly Sin of Presentations

No matter how amazing your research is, how life changing your story was, how impressive your business case is, if you commit any of the following deadly sins in the construction and delivery of your presentation it will not received as such by the audience. Avoid these mistakes and people will take your message away from the auditorium and it will change their lives.

Each of these sins has been covered in previous posts so please follow the links for a fuller explanation.

1. Starting with the Powerpoint

The planning of a presentation begins with a blank sheet of paper, time, consideration of the needs of the audience and not with a laptop open.

2. No message

Your audience needs a single message to take away, not a data download. If you cannot condense your whole talk into a 3 sentence elevator pitch, then you don't know what you are talking about merely that you are talking.

3.The slideument

The slide set(p2) is to illustrate your message (p1). It is neither a script nor a handout.

4. Distracting Slides

In illustrating the message it is essential that slides, data slides and illustrations can be simply viewed rather than requiring interrogation that will distract the audience from listening to the speaker.

5. Using a Script

Speak to the audience, don't read to them. Practise until you don't need the script.

6. Not enough Practise

No sportsman, musician, actor or surgeon gives an excellent performance without practise. A presentation is a performance, practise for it.

7. No passion

Your delivery needs to convey that you care about the message whether it is your research, your life story or your business case. If you don't appear to care, your audience won't either. Engage them, challenge them, involve them and move them. They will remember that and your message.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

It's not about making pretty slides

The purpose of a great presentation is to engage the audience and give them something they didn't have at the beginning of the talk. It may be a challenge, a call to arms, a new concept or a stimulus to read further. It is not a major data transfer. The techniques suggested on this blog are about achieving this. They are not about "making pretty slides." Make a great presentation.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Simple design tip #1

Justify your title, don't center it. I know that's what the template does but that means there are probably 20 million just like it being delivered today. The centre justification draws the eyes into the middle of the slide and due to the decreasing number of words per line, down the slide so the catch is either "Today" or "Here", neither of which is actually important.

Use the text justify button and (ideally) line up the text on the left of the slide. The catch now is "Amazing" and holds the eye for longer as it is easier to read: we read from the left. It is a simple design tip that changes the feel of the presentation straight away.