I recently received an email that made me laugh out loud and go ‘YES!’ And it wasn’t a joke from a friend. It was from Meetings & Events Australia (MEA), announcing that the organisation was banning the traditional use of PowerPoint-style presentations including such proven yawn-inducers as bullet points, clip art and reading from the screen (that old chestnut) at its major conference in Sydney. Hats off to MEA!
So whether you are presenting with or without PowerPoint, here are three tips to make your next presentation shine. They can be summarised in just one word: connections. People need to connect to you, the person – not the presenter (not yet, anyway). They need to feel you connect with them and they need to connect to your messages.
Getting your audience to connect with you first as a person, is the presentation equivalent of shaking hands when you meet someone. Just as you would never launch into business stuff before shaking hands, you would never launch into your presentation without getting the audience to connect with you first. So begin with something personal, humble, or even funny, that segues into your presentation. Keep it short, and never launch into your CV – that is boring.
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How can you connect with your audience? One CEO coming into the company’s strategy session handled this one by saying: “Even this morning when I was driving here I thought, ‘Not another strategy session; feels like we just had one a few weeks ago!’” He was echoing what a lot of people in the room where thinking and feeling – so even before he started his formal presentation people had connected to him, as a person, and felt they understood him.
The next tip for all presenters is to get people to connect with your messages.
Just yesterday at my daughter’s school I was listening to a parenting expert who said you should have three non-negotiables as a parent, because your kids can only remember three and any more will be hell for you as a parent! The same rule applies to your presentation: have only three key messages. Three is all your audience can remember; any more and it’s hell – maybe not for you, but definitely for them. No one is going to walk away from any presentation remembering what your eight key messages were.
For each key message, think of an anecdote – a story that would make it memorable. People remember the story and through that, they remember the point you were making.
So there you have it: to be a successful presenter, with or without PowerPoint, you need to get people to connect to you firstly as a person; you need to connect to the audience, and you need the audience to connect to your messages, by having a maximum of three and using stories, anecdotes and humor to make your messages memorable.