Having presented at--and attended--hundreds of conferences and events since establishing Byrnes Consulting in 2008, I have learned to spot which presenters are strong and which are not.
If a speaker does not connect with an audience, he or she basically wastes everyone's time. To avoid that, here are ten tips to improve your presentations:
1. Remember that ‘facts tell, stories sell.’
It is one thing to share sage research, analytics and statistics, but very few attendees remember those details. What they will remember is an analogy or related story that proves the point.
Great speakers have a way to break down complicated information and simplifying the message in a way audiences can absorb the key points.
2. Avoid death by PowerPoint.
So many presenters now rely on presentation slides to get their message across. While that can be a good thing, it can also terribly backfire. If a slide has more than a sentence or a short bulleted list on it, break it up into multiple slides. Look for ways to replace words with images. If the message can be told with an effective picture, instead of text, go for it.
Too often we see audiences not paying attention to the speaker, as the attendees are reading the slides. Or even worse, the speaker is not paying attention to the audience, as he or she is using the personation text as a crutch.
3. Know the content.
If speakers are not experts on the content of the presentations, they often lose confidence and that can translate into an underwhelming delivery. To fix this, build your own presentations. That way the thought process and flow of the presentation will become second nature.
If forced to use presentations others have created, get so familiar with the content that you can make it your own. Never stand up and read a script or your audience will tune you out.
It really helps to walk through a presentation in advance. Find time to give the presentation out loud. The second time the presentation is delivered, it will be better.
Avoid practicing too much, as the audience does not want a robotic presentation delivery either.
5. Eliminate fillers.
A bad case of the “uhmms” can railroad any presenter. That is because the audience will get distracted and disengage. Silence used in pauses between sentences helps humans digest the message.
To fix issues, first evaluate how bad you are when it comes to using fillers while presenting. Ask others to count the fillers when you present. Audio or video recording the delivery of the presentation is probably the best thing to do. Gaining self-awareness is important to correct the problem.
Next, practice getting better at this, not just when presenting, but in all communications. It is so hard to correct your professional communications if your personal communications do not improve too. Plus, your friends and family will appreciate the improvements you make.
6. Be engaging.
It is important to not be a robot. Allow your personality to shine. Humor can help if it is on target, but something as simple as smiling can help make a connection with an audience.
7. Go faster.
Most presentations go too slow. Presenters underestimate the ability of an audience to comprehend information. That is not always true, but a majority of the time it is. In the U.S., our attention spans are shortening, so get to the point quickly. Also, eliminate the fluff and instead add a lot of meat to a presentation.
8. Change the pace and tone.
There are times when slowing things down or even purposely using dead air can allow the audience to catch up. Try something like saying, ‘Write this down.” Then pause to create anticipation for a main takeaway you are trying to give.
Even consider repeating something, if you want information to really sink in.
By increasing the volume in your voice, you can drawback in any audience members that might have lost their focus. Just be careful not to overuse this trick.
9. Encourage tweeting.
When the audience takes notes, it helps them stay present. Using Twitter to share their notes live can be even better. Those that do so will stay involved with the presentation and are likely to create a bigger audience for the presenter.
10. Research your audience.
Know what is of interest to the people you are speaking to. To do this best, connect with some of them in advance. Even consider using a survey to get data. Do not assume you know the audience. That mistake can be even a great speaker’s downfall.
After a presentation is over, it is a great time to figure out what did and did not work. Also, ask for new ideas. The more you try to improve, the better you will get.
Of course, when you become a better presenter, look for more ways to get your message out there. Do more speaking engagements in front of audiences, in videos and on webinars. Record as much as you can and create a speaker reel of clips of past speaking engagements so event managers can vet you for their future events. Also, build up relationships with the press to get lots of media exposure.
Before you know it, you will be sought-after presenter.
Mike Byrnes is a national speaker and owner of Byrnes Consulting, LLC. His firm provides consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. Need help with business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness? Read more at ByrnesConsulting.com and follow @ByrnesConsultin.