It seems everyone loves lists, and so in that spirit here is my top five list of things you can do to improve your presentations instantly:
1. Move Around
This one I have mentioned before, but it is so important when you are presenting to an international audience. Staying behind the lectern tells your audience to are nervous and that you are not used to doing presentations. Essentially, you tell your audience that you are an amateur. To make yourself look more confident, come out from behind the lectern, walk around on stage. Now you do need to be careful. Walking up and down aimlessly can cause you to distract your audience, the way to do this is to move to the left of the stage and speak to the audience members on that side, then move to the right (or centre) and speak to the audience there. This shows confidence and also helps you to connect better with your audience because they feel that you are speaking directly to them, and not to the back wall of the room.
2. Ask Rhetorical Questions
A rhetorical question is a question you so not expect to be answered. For example:
” When we developed our new cell phone we came across the problem of consumer expectation. How did we overcome this problem?”
What you are doing here is asking your audience a question, and then answering the question yourself. In English a rhetorical question is not answered, and you need not worry about your audience shouting out an answer as the trick is to answer your question immediately after you ask it. If you pause too long, there may be some members of your audience who will answer the question. So be careful, ask the question and provide the answer immediately.
Asking rhetorical questions involve your audience, it makes your audience feel that they are part of your presentation, and this can only help you deliver an interesting and memorable presentation.
3. Use Relevant Images
I often talk about using images instead of bullet points on this blog, but there is an important warning here. If you use images that are not relevant to the word or words you are using then the impact of your image is lost. Make sure that the image you use is relevant to your subject or point.
4. Speak In A Conversational Style
Too often we make our presentations too formal, this perhaps is a consequence of the differences between English and Korean. English is a neutral language because it does not have a formal and informal style. If you meet meet President Barack Obama you can say “Hello Mr Obama”. If you meet a little child called Sarah, you can say “Hello Sarah”, there is little difference. However in Korean there are three distinct styles of language depending on who you are speaking to.
To be more engaging with your audience and for your audience to feel part of your presentation, you need to speak to them as if you were speaking with a friend. Always look at your audience as your friends, they want you to succeed, not fail. They are your friends. A simple way to do this is to use pronouns such as “I”, “you” and “we”. Using these words softens your speaking style and makes for a more conversational presentation.
5. Keep Your Presentation Short
Here is an endemic problem. When we are asked to do a presentation, one of the questions we ask is “how long do I have?” We then prepare a presentation that lasts as long as the time we are given. If we are given sixty minutes, for some strange reason we thing we should speak for sixty minutes. This is not true. What that sixty minutes means is that we can speak for up to sixty minutes. Therefore if you can communicate your message in thirty minutes, then fantastic! Either your audience can have an extra thirty minutes break (and they will love you for that) or you will have much more time to answer questions.
Either way, your presentation should only last as long as it takes for you to communicate your message, and not a minute more.
6. Keep Your Presentation Fresh
Quite often companies have a standard presentation that was created two or three years ago that they use time and time again to introduce their company. Usually this presentation was made by an employee that no longer works for the company and used an old version of PowerPoint. Not only does this presentation look dated, it also looks bad.
If you are asked to do a presentation, and are given a copy of the presentation to deliver, go through the presentation, update old images, upgrade it to the latest version of PowerPoint, or Keynote and check to see if it is as relevant today as it was two or three years ago. There is nothing worse for an audience to have to sit through a presentation that is clearly out of date.
Being aware of your audience’s needs is the single most important factor when it comes to presenting. Too many times a presenter is doing to impress their boss, and they do not care at all for their audience. Your audience can tell this very quickly, and are never impressed. So forget your boss, you are not presenting to them, and really think about what your audience want.