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Making presentations and preventing information overload

October 3, 2011

Talking about presentations is a bit like making presentations themselves! There’s so much to talk about that we sometimes forget our own rules and overload people with information. Have you ever been to a presentation where you suffer from information overload?

So what follows here are the three things that, if put into practice, will make the biggest positive difference to any presentations you make.

1. Don’t Do A Presentation

Yes, you read that right. Just look at the word, ‘presentation’. What does it do to you? What images does it conjure up? Does it fill your soul with joy? Does it fire you with anticipation?

What does it imply? It implies that I am here, you are there and I’m going to present you with something, usually information, usually lots of it. Wow! How enthusiastic am I!

The biggest change you can make is in how you see yourself and how you see the job you are doing.

We’ve had the opportunity to work with some brilliant communicators and they see it differently. They don’t see themselves as ‘presenters’, they see themselves as ‘storytellers’. They don’t think about ‘presenting’, they think about ‘having conversations’.

So the next time you are asked to do a presentation, think of it as a story and:

  • Make your story a story worth telling
  • Start with a bang and end with a bang
  • However long you’ve got, pick out only THREE key points that you want your audience to take away with them and remember

2. Be The Star Of Your Story

No really great storyteller hides in the shadows. No actor spends his time on stage with his back to the audience. No performer, actor, comedian, or singer whispers their lines to avoid being heard. Take a leaf out of their book:

  • Stand centre stage, feet planted firmly on the ground and have your screen, if you are using one, on the diagonal. This puts you in control and says to your audience, ‘Look at me’.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly and speak clearly with your breath coming from your diaphragm
  • Make great eye contact with your audience and keep your focus of attention on them and only them

3. Make Your Visuals Work For You

All of us have suffered ‘Death By Powerpoint’ at some point. There’s no need for it. It’s usually the result of laziness; a presentation packed with slides because it’s easy that way and it takes the audience’s attention off the presenter.

But now that you’re a storyteller, your focus of attention is different. Remember that YOU are the best visual aid that you will ever have:

  • Always plan your visuals LAST and ask yourself these questions is relation to each of them; ‘How is this visual helping my audience to reach my objectives? How is it adding value to my story?’ If it’s not doing either, DITCH IT!
  • When introducing a slide, follow our ‘WISH’ strategy:

W: Warn – Warn your audience what you are about to show them

I: Inform – Tell them what you want them to pay attention to

S: Show – Show them the slide/visual

H: Hush – Shut up and let them read it before starting to speak again!

Here’s an example for you:

W – ‘We’re now going to turn our attention to the projected revenue for the first half of next year’

I – ‘I’d like you to notice particularly the upturn you can expect during March’

S – Show the slide/visual

H – Be quiet until you see that your audience has finished reading and is ready to listen to you again

Follow these strategies and you will transform your audience’s experience.

Further Information

Emma Sargent and Tim Fearon are founders of The Extraordinary Coaching Company and have just released How to Talk to Anyone, published by Pearson.