Nothing like the present


Sorry, that’s a very bad pun and a poor start. Which is important when you make presentations: get the start right and the rest should follow. (And get the end right. Then the middle bit looks after itself.) But it’s the new year, be kind…

Oh, this is about presentation skills, by the way… thought I’d tell you.

Funny, when we deliver presentation skills training (be it introduction, advanced or for public speaking) probably one of the best hints we can give people is get the start right and the rest will follow. The other 2 hints being using the power of 3, being the… no, you’ll just have to read on.

When we start any presentation type of training/coaching the thing people want to know most is “how do we stop being nervous”? The answer is simple: you don’t. Have butterflies but have them flying in formation (trainer cliché number one, I think, hope you are playing buzzword bingo whilst reading this). Nerves are key to a good presentation.

Prepare and prepare slowing yourself down and smiling. People will like you, especially if you are brief and interesting.

Most performers will tell you that you need nerves and adrenaline to perform at your best (no world record was ever broken in an empty stadium, there you go, cliché number 2 in paragraph 5!!!), you just need to control them. With most people, getting the preparation right is key (but, as was once told by somebody not a million miles away, don’t over-prepare, which may just be right for me and not for others) but you also need to get into your brain that the audience out there doesn’t want you to fail. And, anyway you should know more than them and they want to hear what you have to say. So, smile, don’t jump into your words and don’t be intimidated. Prepare and prepare slowing yourself down and smiling. People will like you, especially if you are brief and interesting.

Remember this: the audience want you to have a good time, they want to hear your ideas, even if they don’t agree with them, and they want you to succeed.

And, as Eleanor Roosevelt once so rightly said: “No-one can intimidate me without my permission” so don’t be intimidated.

And don’t depend entirely on the words. Yes, use silence. It’s powerful and doesn’t just suggest you have dried up. It is also quite unnerving if you are in an audience; it shows control and confidence, even if you are quaking in your boots (I was tempted to do the incontinence knickers joke here but, and here’s another hint, though it really is a rule, don’t tell jokes, so I didn’t, well not quite).

And third hint (did you see the other one?): keep it short and sweet.

TED talks (check them out if you haven’t yet) last a maximum of 18 minutes, which they do for a reason. It is probably linked to recent research by Psychologist George Miller who found that the maximum amount of “information” people can deal with is 7, plus or minus 2 bits. Or just go for the rule of 3 and also tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and tell them what you told them. Cliché!!! In any case, keep it short, most people have an active attention span on 20 minutes.

Do not fill the time; just get your message across.

“Ask yourself, If I had only sixty seconds on the stage, what would I absolutely have to say to get my message across.”  Jeff Dewar

Best practice is somewhat summed up by those TED talks (Technology, Education, Design, btw) which, strangely, come up with eleven hints for speakers, despite what we have said above; I think some are more pertinent than others and some we have already snuck in above… the ones to think about are:

  • Start drinking water 15 minutes before you start talking… hydration is good, caffeine is bad and alcohol only should be taken afterwards (we also advise on wedding speeches!).
  • Use your tone to strengthen your words; avoid monotone, use emphasis and repetition to make your point.
  • Enjoy it, it’ll soon be over and accidents can happen; as one TED speaker laughed as her slides spiraled out of order in rehearsal: “It’s just about having fun, right?”

And that’s 3 points, though I snook in others and you’ve read that in less than 20 minutes so we may be made our point, or points.

Happy New presentation year!


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Training Design & Delivery of topics such as Customer Service, Note Taking, Business Writing, Presentation Skills, All Management/Team Leader areas, Sales, Sales Management, all tailored and run in-house for your personal requirements. Also, coaching and mentoring.

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