Speakeasy Nuggets – essential tips for powerful presenting

Aided by some excellent feedback from our audiences and the insights of our guest experts, we’ve had some real nuggets come out of the Speakeasy process so far:

Some highlights for you..

Handouts/Props

Be careful about handing things out – you might lose control and when you’ve only 5 minutes that’s a problem. One of our presenters started her talk by handing out about 5 or 6 A5 leaflets summarising what she did. She then told people what she did, and after the talk we asked the audience about the handouts. One lady said she started reading what was on it and became distracted from the speaker. Another admired the leaflet and wondered how much they might cost to print. A third man started thinking why he hadn’t been given one! ALL were distracted from the speaker’s message.

The lesson: only use a handout/prop if it enhances your message AND doesn’t cause you to lose control of the audience.

Fancy Stuff

Another presenter prepared some inspiring music/video at the start of her 5 minutes and, having closed it down, was thrown as the subsequent slides began to roll over automatically. In fairness, she kept going but the slides were distracting for all concerned. About halfway through her talk she abandoned the technology, came out from behind the lectern and delivered the remainder as a conversation with the audience. It was, of course, much better!

The lesson: keep it simple, particularly when you’ve got only 5 minutes. Fancy technology rarely adds anything to a presentation. The audience really wants to see/hear YOU!

Simplicity

The best presentations at Speakeasy have been the simplest. Think of a presentation like a sauce – it needs reducing until it reaches its optimum condition! Fewer slides, fewer words, fewer bullets, less complex graphs/tables. Don’t confuse delivering value with delivering lots of information.

The lesson: LESS IS MORE.

The Journey

Above all, presentations are about change – not dumping data on an audience. You want to take your group on a journey. This is where they are at the start. Where do you want to take them? What do you want to make them feel or think? What end do you have in mind? If you take them to your intended destination, you’ve succeeded. That’s the point of you being there. Furthermore, the audience likes it when you tell your story – as a journey. Where you started, ups and downs, when you are now, where you’re going.

The lesson: learn the art of storytelling (in terms of both anecdotes AND structure – beginning, middle, end).

Positioning/Body Language

We love to see presenters who smile and have a passion for their subject.  A bit of hand gesturing and energy keeps the talk alive and engaging. If you can video yourself delivering a talk it’s very revealing – you might be positioned badly, aiming your talk at only ONE section of the audience, or turning your back to look at the screen. You might be stepping into the beam of the projector. Maybe you’ve got your arms folded or hands in pockets or you scratch your neck or hold your head to one side.

One tip: video yourself presenting but play it back without the sound. Very revealing!

Your Voice

It’s important to articulate well, decent intonation and enough projection.  Remember Neil Firth’s (vocal coach) breathing tips. When we’re nervous on stage, we tend to breathe shallower and this affects our voice. NOT speaking can add dramatic effect! Pauses are very powerful. Listen back to a recording of your voice. Does it vary in tone, pacing and power? Are there some nice ups and downs? Or is it flat, monotone, Andy Murray? Listen to someone like Simon Schama, the historian. Listen to Rick Stein and how his passion for seafood shines through and infects his audience.

The lesson: learn to use your voice as a powerful tool for moving an audience.

I hope you’ll join us at a forthcoming session. Click here for details of dates and venues.

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