Exceed your audience’s expectations with this effective presentation guide
A little while ago I was briefed to identify the components of an effective presentation guide. My client was a world leading communications outfit who prided himself on the quality of the presentations delivered to his clients. However, he wasn’t quite sure if he was managing expectations properly. My brief was to was to interview a selection of his senior clients and ask them what they expected to get out of the presentations they attended. From this we could identify the makeup of the effective presentation, the holy grail for all presenters.
As you would expect, we got a wide range of responses which we boiled down to ten key findings. Here they are. As always, they are pretty much common sense and easy to put into practice. We found that most presenters covered off seven to eight points but no one did all ten. All you have to do is make sure that you follow this 10 step super effective presentation guide, do all 10 and you’ll be way ahead of the game.
I’m going to describe each point from the perspective of the clients plus the actions you need to take to meet them.
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1. “Make me feel special”
“I want to feel that this presentation has been created exclusively for me which means that it’s completely relevant, timely and addresses the issues & challenges that I am currently facing”
You must edit your presentation down to only the stuff that you believe will excite and motivate your audience and be ruthless about this. Ask yourself, “is this information going to be genuinely valuable or is it a case of so what”? Make sure that you splatter your presentation with the right names, logos, dates and so on to create the impression of immediacy and personalisation and avoid killer phrases like, “we’re roadshowing this presentation to everyone at the moment.”
2. “Tell me about benefits, not just facts”
“As a senior business person I am drowning in information. I get it from meetings, from emails, from my clients and from my suppliers. The last thing I need is to waste time attending a presentation where yet more information is going to be thrown at me.”
I’m a great fan of the Three Facts Rule that tells us that an intelligent, alert audience is unlikely to remember more that three hard facts in a typical 20 minute presentation. So, if you have loads of hard core information to transmit then don’t bother to try to present it. Just stick it all down in a document, email it to interested parties and it just might get noticed. To attempt to present it will only confuse and bore = very bad news.
The presentation medium is best for creating broad brush strokes to tickle the emotions so the trick is to use information in a supportive role to PROVE the benefits of whatever it is you are presenting. Of course the more benefits you present the more interesting your presentation becomes. Benefit driven communication is very powerful and I’d go so far as to say that if what you have to say contains no benefit then you shouldn’t say it.
3. “Be positive”
“Life’s hard enough without me having to sit through a tale of doom & gloom. I want this presentation to provide solutions, not just spell out problems, and, dare I say it, I want to enjoy myself too.”
Recognise that the presentation medium is essentially an upbeat medium so always try to make your presentation as positive as possible. Whilst you don’t want to get into areas of standup comedy, (and by the way, don’t attempt humour unless you’re a naturally funny person), make sure that what you have to say is interesting and entertaining. To bore your audience is extremely rude.
4. “Show me ideas with all elements justified”
“Whilst this presentation contains several good ideas, ideas are cheap. I need to be convinced that these ideas are practical.”
The solution here is simple. Just provide robust proof that the ideas you are talking about are deliverable. In my experience the easiest and most powerful way of doing this is through relevant case studies. Say something like, “let me give you an example of how this will work in practice by showing you a similar problem and how it was resolved by XYZ Co.”
5. “Tackle any cost & value issues”
“All this is fine & dandy but presumably this is going to cost me something so I need to know how much dosh is involved.”
Don’t be coy about talking about money. The trick is not just to talk price because that can come across as a large, scary amount. Instead present any financial costs in terms of value and benefit to your audience. Contrast “this will cost £100,000″ to “an investment of £100,000 will create savings of £35,000 per annum and improve our response times from 72 hours to just 18.”
6. “Don’t expect me to do too much work on your behalf”
“I’m a very busy person so if you expect me to action the recommendations contained in your presentation then you need to make it as easy for me as possible.”
KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid, (because it’s just plain dumb to make your presentation complicated) or Keep It Short & Sweet. You going to be far more successful if you present just one or two ideas and show that putting them into practice will be both beneficial and relatively easy to do. A well put together leave-behind document can help here. It’s a shocking cliche but within the presentation medium less is definitely more.
7. “Be consistent”
“I thought we were here to talk about ABC so why are we talking about DEF? I’m confused now.”
Be very clear on what your objectives are and create a linear agenda to support them. Then all you have to do is to make sure that everyone understands your objectives completely and then stick to your agenda. It’s that simple. Please resist the opportunity to go off-piste because you’re likely to end up waffling and losing your audience’s attention. Once lost it’s very hard to win back.
8. “Check timings and manage the meeting for me”
“I am giving up 30 minutes of my valuable time to attend this presentation so I don’t want to waste it and I certainly don’t want it to overrun”.
You, the presenter, are in a position of gentle leadership. It’s your job to lead the discussion down the route you want to take so you need to be mindful of time scales and the protocol of the meeting. I suggest that you let people know:
- How long the presentation’s going to take, (generally the shorter the better) and always within your allotted time span
- How you’re going to manage questions. I suggest you always encourage questions throughout if you want a dynamic, involving session
- If you’re going to provide leave-behind documents which means there’s no need for anyone to take notes
Of course sometimes people are so gripped by what you have to say that everything overruns. That’s great but it’s their decision to make, never yours.
9. “Proof read”
“We captains pride ourselves on our attention to detail and our ability to spot & challenge anything that looks flakey.”
Proof read doesn’t just mean check for typing, althow people do gets very iritated by speling & grammer errs. (If you don’t get these fundamentals right how can you expect people to take your presentation seriously?)
It also means that you need to be able to prove everything you’re presenting. Make sure you provide source references to support any hard information. Try to anticipate the most likely questions to arise so you can answer them authoritatively and if you are stumped for an answer then don’t panic or bluff. Instead, gently flatter the questioner, promise to get back with the correct answer and then do so.
10. “Ask my for my reactions & then follow up”
“OK, I’ve enjoyed the presentation, some of the ideas seem to have potential value so what now? Too often nothing much seems to happen so I’m left feeling frustrated and less inclined to see this presenter again.”
I’ve left this to the end because the research we did showed that this was the most common and the most serious problem of the ten.
It’s important to understand that a presentation is no more the hors d’oeuvre before the main course. The main course is the action that occurs as a consequence of the follow-up activity that occurs after the presentation. Without ‘next steps’ and a coherent action plan, all you’ve done is to deliver some business cabaret, fun maybe but a total waste of everyone’s time.
Without knowing where you stand it’s hard to know what you have to do next so you must ask your audience for their feedback. Ask properly and you’ll get it, you’ll know where you stand and you’ll be in a position to get some positive action going. Don’t ask and you’ll go away thinking that you’ve achieved your objectives when in all probability all you’ve done is delivered a presentation. No big deal then.
Conclusion: now get it done
These are the findings and, I repeat, all you have to do is to deliver on all ten and you won’t be merely managing the expectations of your audience. You will have exceeded and delighted them and that has to be a seriously super-effective way of presenting.