A Back-to-School Moment: Five Presentation Strategies I Learned While Preparing a 90-minute Presenta
My day usually starts with my multiple reminders to my daughter to get ready— a nice nudge that quickly escalates to a frantic “We are late! Get ready!” But today was special. My daughter quickly jumped out of bed and got ready in her new dress without even a single prompt. What had inspired this change? Her eagerness to get to school! It was the first day of kindergarten! Excited by the opportunity to learn new things, she was soon racing off to the classroom. I also recently had a back-to-school moment of my own. I had volunteered to facilitate a 90-minute training for the first time. Sure, I had given many presentations in the past— most of them during my consulting and product management days. Usually these presentations involved lots of data. I spent most of those presentations reviewing analyses and providing recommendations for five to ten senior managers. But these presentations were never 90 minutes long, let alone with 50 individuals in the audience. In addition, my topic was new to both my audience and me, so I had to become a topic expert quickly yet present only the most valuable information for the audience. Similar to my daughter, I needed to learn. In my case, I had to learn a new style for this upcoming presentation. With the help of storytelling tools and coaching from Esther Choy, I was able to create an engaging presentation that left my audience speechless. Here are 5 tips that helped me shape my presentation. 1. Start with a story about the “why.” As the research of Simon Sinek revealed, many of us know what we do and how we do it. But few know why we do what we do. Even fewer can articulate why we do what we do. And yet, it is the why that inspires change. So, start with a bang! Start your presentation with the “why.” And what better way to connect with your audience then to start by sharing a story about why you care about the material you are going to cover in your presentation? 2. Engage through visuals. Research from Steve Franconeri showed that our brains can’t process text and speech at the same time. So, don’t fill up your slides with text. As a presenter, simplify your slides with key visuals. For example, here are the initial and revised slides I used during this presentation.
Based on Franconeri’s research, when the audience starts reading the quote, they will stop listening to what you have to say. Instead, read the quote out loud and use the slide to call out the key facts. Visuals are engaging, so use them to your benefit. A simple picture does the trick.
3. Vary tone and pitch. Help your audience feel the emotion. Changing the tone and pitch of your voice takes your audience with you through the ups and downs of your presentation. It helps prevent anyone from taking a snooze in your class! 4. Create engagement. “The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives,” says Lilly Walters , author of Secrets of Successful Speakers. To make sure the audience receives and retains the knowledge you are sending, have them contribute. For every ten to 15 minutes of talking you do as a presenter, incorporate something to engage your audience. For example, ask them a question or have them do an exercise. 5. Practice and seek feedback. Putting the deck together is just the beginning. Make sure to leave enough time to practice your presentation out loud. This greatly helped me smooth out my transitions, make note of places to pause, cut out things that didn’t need to be included, and make sure my body language was in accordance with what I was saying. If possible, get feedback from a peer or manager and tweak your presentation accordingly. As I picked up my daughter from school, she came running—all smiles, excited to tell me all the cool things she and her classmates talked about that day. When she was done, she paused and looked at me. “How was your meeting today, Mommy?” I was just as excited to tell her that the audience was attentive, engaged, and eager to apply what they learned. Need feedback on your presentation? Schedule a complimentary consultation today. For more tips and insights on storytelling, sign up for our monthly guide.