Over the years, I’ve helped a lot of people in business to deliver killer presentations by taking some of the things that I know about the world of acting and performance and shifting them to the business world.
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about being a tree, putting on thick make up and making an idiot of yourself – there are some serious transferable skills available and I will share them with you right now – so that you can learn to deliver kick ass business presentations.
Most people fear public speaking. It’s a number one fear. But actually, it’s a fear of disapproval, of being excluded from our group by doing something which they don’t approve of. At work, most of us can hide, but up there in front of other people, there’s no place to hide at all, it’s just you and them.
But if you follow my tried and tested tips, you’ll give the best presentations of your life:
TIP 1: Plan the Presentation – The biggest error is that people write a speech and then hope to turn it into a presentation. When I coach people to give business presentations, they are asked to create presentation plan rather than a speech. It must have a beginning which hooks attention, it must have a middle, which is the meat of the presentation and it needs to have a point at which you deliver the message strongly – a climax and then a simple ending that lets them know you’re done, but go out like a lion and not like a lamb.
TIP 2: Use Stories – Last night, I was at the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Billy Connelly told a marvellous story to illustrate the character of the Glasgow people. Glasgow was the first city to give Nelson Mandela his freedom while was a political prisoner. But Glasgow also decided to rename a small road called St George’s Place to Nelson Mandela place. Now, that was a really nice thing to do, but not in itself noteworthy. Until you find out that the South African Consulate was based in that street, meaning by changing the name – they would have to write or receive in their mail the name of their most famous political prisoner EVERY DAY. Now that story demonstrates the character of the people of Glasgow, and by telling it, you make a point, a point remembered. You can do it too. Tell a story, something personal, something profound or inspiring – something that demonstrates what you talking about.
TIP 3: Practise Practise Practise – Go over the words of your presentation a few hundred times, not how you’re going to say it, but just the words themselves. This means you will be free to express yourself in the moment, because you have practised the words but not how to say them. More than anything, this will destroy the Destroyer of all Good Presentations. It’s name is UH. If you know the words backwards, you will be able to deliver it without punctuating it with UHs and UMs. These break the flow of the presentation and make you seem unsure. We do them out of nervousness. Practise the words until you are word perfect.
TIP 4: Use a Visual Aid But… – Not just Powerpoint or KeyNote, these can be used, but presentations based around them tend to be boring and predictable. If you had some magic skills and you wanted to warn them of the dangers of losing staff to other clients, you might make something disappear. A big example, but find a visual way to make your point. Demonstrate your point through a visual aid – but not just a pie chart on a powerpoint slide. If you are going to do this, make sure the technology is reliable and set up to help you.
TIP 5: Reinforce with Gestures - ‘We all want to see improvement’ – spread your arms out a little for all, raise them up a little for improvement. Use gestures to reinforce your point. Make sure they do reinforce you. Video record yourself, try not to cringe, just watch back your body, are you reinforcing or just flapping around? This will help you see habitual tension, stray gestures, awkward movements and poor posture.
TIP 6: Speak with Authority: Breathe, speak like you know what you are saying. Make eye contact with people and smile.
TIP 7: Break the Ice with Humour: Use a little humour – nothing rude or offensive, not a joke as such, perhaps a funny little observation to relax your audience. They will warm to you, you’ll feel approval and accepted.
TIP 8: Break up the Meat of your Presentation: Choose different sections, present them differently. Each section should keep the attention of those watching in a new way.
TIP 9: Be Different, Be Unique: I once made a presentation with famous people from the world of theatre giving testimonials for me. Stanislavski telling the university panel how much experience I had in teaching acting. I got the job! As Seth Godin says, in a world of black and white cows, the purple one stands out. Be purple my friends!
TIP 10: Practise in front of others - They might offer you feedback, they might not, but show your spouse, parents, friends, ask for feedback, take it all graciously and see if you can improve your presentation.