We will all have to present to an audience at some stage in our business or personal lives. It’s simply inescapable.
As it happens, Sarah and I are both presenting at conferences in June and, coincidentally, the topic of our monthly Business Improvement Club is “Presentation Skills” and it’s proving a popular subject.
Several times a week I see individuals presenting to an audience and, because we teach people to improve in this area, I naturally take an added interest in their performance.
All too often, compelling content is at best tarnished and at worst destroyed by a woeful lack of awareness of how the content is actually delivered. The result, to be frank, is a relatively poor performance. Nervous habits are common, such as like wandering about, rocking to and fro or speaking too quickly. The vast majority of presenters populate their delivery with an abundance of “non-words” like “um’s and ah’s” that dilute the message and distract or even annoy the listener. Holding notes, reading from powerpoint screens, going over the allotted time – all the things that we know about, are clearly not in the presenter’s consciousness. I think the reason is probably that they are concentrating so much on getting the words right that the intonation, pace, body language and delivery are completely overlooked. This is clearly an inappropriate focus when we also know that the words we use only form about 7% of our overall communication.
Of course, there are no significant consequences in casual or informal situations, but good presentation skills can be critical for a business sales pitch, keynote speech to staff, presentation to the board or even speaking at a wedding or other major celebration.
So, here’s my advice. If you have a key presentation coming up, ask a friendly group to be an audience for you and run it live, asking for their honest feedback, warts and all. In addition, I strongly recommend recording the practice using a camera. It’s like watching our golf swing – not too pretty and never quite how it looked in our minds eye.
Two final tips:
1. Spend more time getting the style of delivery and body language right, rather than the content.
2. Think of your audience ahead of yourself. It’s all about giving them a great experience.