It's conference season again (actually, when isn't it these days?) and time to start thinking about how you can set yourself apart from the dozens of talks, panels and sales pitches your audience are going to hear over the coming months. Luckily for you, we've got a few ideas to kick-start your journey to the perfect presentation!
Know your content!
Your audience are giving up their most valuable assets for you – their time and attention. In return, they have the right to expect a confident, self-assured speaker who knows the content, subject and purpose of their presentation. Rehearse to your colleagues, your family, your pets, even to yourself via video camera! Still stumbling over facts, figures and transitions? Rehearse it again! Trust us – it’s the ONLY way to absolutely own it!
Understand who you’re speaking to!
What makes up your audience? Are they native to your industry or background, or are you introducing them to your subject? Are they here out of choice or obligation? Are they young adults, students, high-level executives, customers, employees, or a totally mixed bag? Are they here to learn or be sold to, to celebrate or be entertained? Perspective is everything, so shape your goals and approach around theirs to lay the foundations of your content.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up!
Why limit yourself to the tired perceptions of the dreaded ‘PowerPoint Presentation’? Liven up your screen with graphics, animations and videos, or take it into the audience with props, interactive polls, even live entertainment! If your presentation formula is predictable – e.g. bar chart, explanation, next slide, repeat – start throwing in curveballs. Don’t let your audience be able to guess what’s coming next, or they have no reason to stay and find out!
Get them involved!
These days, your audience can freely access information about any and every subject online. But you have the advantage - you’re in the room with them! Make it clear when you begin if you welcome interruptions and challenges or if they’ll have a chance to ask questions. Get out amongst them and ask who they are, why they’re here, how can you empower them? Have them trade ideas with their neighbours, change places, stretch their legs. Give them a moment to take a photo, capture a moment, update their social media. Make them feel special for being right there with you, not watching on a screen.
Tell your audience a story…
There’s a reason stories have followed a three-act structure for thousands of years, and we’re not about to start arguing with Aristotle. Nail your ‘setup’ by telling your audience what they’re here for, what you can do for them, and what they’ll take away by listening to you. Now bring the ‘action’ – present problems and puzzles, twists and turns, defy expectations to surprise and amaze the people in front of you. Finally, it’s time to resolve your story with the climax; offer answers, solutions and reiterate your key takeaways.
Leave them with actions!
If your audience walk out of your presentation and never think or speak of it again, something has gone wrong. Ask yourself what you want your audience to take away, and give them a reason to keep you at the forefront of their mind. Leave them with questions they need to find the answers to. Give them an opportunity to follow up with you, or those you are representing. Sneak in an anecdote you know they won’t be able to resist passing on. Make sure they’re still thinking about your presentation on the journey home!