I know that when I put the audience first, I succeeded.
This past week, a community committee on which I serve asked me to share ideas about presentation skills. Specifically, strategies to help speakers connect with an audience.
We’ve all been in meetings, workshops, and/or conferences that had potential but ended up falling short due to a poor presentation. The speaker may have been well-meaning, likeable, and armed with research but did not connect with the audience. It happens. You walk out of the room saying, “That was the longest 20-minutes of my life!”
Whether you are a seasoned presenter or getting ready for your first public appearance, I offer the following suggestions. Some, depending on the context for the talk, may not be appropriate. All are worth consideration. You probably can add additional strategies.
Start by remembering the Six Ps:
A few specifics:
- Every presentation is about the audience—not the presenter. (Check out this podcast.)
- Your message has to resonate with the audience. See the above point.
- Know your purpose for the presentation. See the above two points.
- Tell an appropriate and relevant story to engage the audience.
- For F2F presentations, move as appropriate. Avoid standing in one spot. If you can, get out from behind the podium. (When I delivered a college commencement address, I not only left the podium, but I also left the stage and walked to floor so I could be with the graduates. They were the audience. There was a brief few seconds when the microphone failed—but it came back!)
- Your presentation needs a Beginning—Middle—End.
- Modulate your voice throughout the presentation. Create excitement with your voice, your message, and your medium.
- Encourage audience participation as appropriate.
- Avoid S.A.O.D.: Severe Acronym Overload Disorder. (Thanks to Don McMillian for this acronym about acronyms!).
- Develop a handout for your audience. Maybe even give them “homework”—A Call-to-Action—to apply what you have presented.
- If using PowerPoint or Keynote:
- The slides augment your presentation. They should not be your presentation. Consider them background to support the strong, riveting, and resonating message you are delivering.
- Consider the 10-20-30 “principle” as a guide: 10 Slides for a 20-Minute presentation using nothing smaller than 30 Point Size Font. If nothing else, it will remind you of the importance of brevity on the screen.
- Use images, photos, video and/or music when appropriate. Mix it up!
- Assume your audience can read. Don’t read the screen. (For visually impaired audience members, perhaps a program recording would be in order.)
- Do not talk to the screen. Make eye contact with the audience. See point above. (When using a virtual platform look directly into the camera as much as possible and appropriate.)
- Avoid (too much) slide animation. Don’t get the audience dizzy.
- Pay attention to color schemes and templates. Keep it simple and practical.
- Rehearse your timing prior to the presentation.
- Unless you’re pitching technology, remember that technology is the method not the outcome.
While I have always done my best to adhere to these (and more), there were times, unfortunately, when I failed my audience. When I forgot my mission or got too involved in the technology, medium, or ego, the end result was lacking.
When I put the audience first, I succeeded. Whether I was presenting to 10 people (workshop setting), 1,000 people (conference auditorium) or 8,000 people (college commencement) these pointers provided a touchstone for me. Hopefully they will be useful to others.
Video recommendation for the Week:
Comic Don McMillian recorded this piece about PowerPoint presentations thirteen years ago. It still holds true—unfortunately.
Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.
My latest book can be found in
eBook ($2.99) and paperback ($9.99) format. Click here.
Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.
And you can still order:
- Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019, print and e-book). Available on Amazon. More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at the above link.
- Stories about Teaching: No Need to be an Island (2017, print and e-book). Available on Amazon. One college’s new faculty onboarding program uses the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos (see the link above) would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.
My podcasts (all 50 episodes) can be found here.
You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
©2021. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®