I have seen hundreds of presentations delivered in hundreds of locations over the years and there is one thing I have noticed above all else, that is no matter what the subject matter is, no matter what visual aids are used, the most successful and most powerful presentations are the ones delivered using a natural, conversational style.
The biggest obstacle to a conversational style is our mind. When we think presentation, we think formal, we think serious, we think business. Yet while to some degree these things may be true, we do not have to speak in a formal and boring way. However, when we write out our words and practice and practice and practice those same words over and over again we lose that conversational style.
When we talk with our colleagues we do not have to write what we want to say down on a piece of paper and read it to them. We never write out what we are going to say to our friends when we meet them for a few drinks or a coffee. And because we do not write out exactly what we want to say, we sound natural and human. We think mid sentence, we start a sentence then stop half way through speaking it. All these natural speaking habits create the conversational style.
When it comes to presenting, we do need to prepare. We do need to practice and we do need to have a good idea of what we are going to say. However, to create that conversational style we have to interact with our audience. Using rhetorical questions can help, moving around on the stage and looking at our audience also helps. there are so many ways to help you to create that natural, conversational style.
If you are one of the many presenters out there that have to write out your words, try a different approach. Get yourself a voice recorder, and during your preparation have a conversation with yourself. Imagine you are talking to someone about what you are going to say in your presentation. Think: “I am having a conversation”. Then, when you are happy with your words, transcribe the words onto paper.
The problem we have when we are writing out our words is that we naturally write formally. It is very difficult in English to write informally, therefore the words we write come out formally. To avoid this, it is far better to speak out your words and then transcribe those words. They will sound much more natural.
When you are out there doing your presentation, imagine that you are having a conversation with your audience, they are your friends, they are there to help you and they want to have fun.
Finally, below is a presentation from TED by Creativity Professor Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken Robinson is a great example of a presenter who when speaking has that fantastic conversational style. Notice how he asks a lot of rhetorical questions (“… am I right?”) and how he looks at the audience and laughs with them.