My time slot was set for 20 minutes and I had been practicing vigilantly for the weeks leading up to that day. I remember precisely what I was wearing and exactly where I was sitting. I looked out the window just as we kicked-off our strategic session and recall thinking what a gloomy, cold day it was (perhaps it was a sign).
As we worked through the topics of discussion and other presentations, I sat in silence, with lots of internal self-talk, trying to calm my heart rate and my sweaty palms.
Finally, it was my turn. I stood up, cleared my throat, and went to attack my topic with vengeance; determined to nail my first presentation to an audience full of business and clinical leaders.
Just as my momentum and my energy started to pick up, and the shakes in my voice winding down, I was challenged by someone in the audience, and my entire presentation had been hacked in a nano-second. I didn’t even get the opportunity to finish and as I went to hunker back down in my seat, I thought my entire professional career was over.
Fast forward three years and I’m happy to report that my career did NOT end and I’ve since continued to progress UPward. But most importantly, I’ve been studying, observing and practicing hundreds of different presentation techniques and have honed on the key elements of giving successful, STELLAR, and action-oriented presentations.
1. Define your WHY
Whether you have been asked to give the presentation or you have specifically requested to present, it’s critical to know the intent behind your message. Whether your informing your audience or persuading them, you need NOT to lose sight of the purpose of your presentation.
2. Connect your WHY to your audience
The ONLY way you can get your audience to engage is to make them understand how YOUR message and information will impact them. Otherwise, you’ll have some daydreamers in the crowd.
3. Know your audience – literally.
Will someone in your audience challenge your message? Alternatively, do you have a cheerleader in the room that you may have to potentially leverage to back you up? Sometimes, it won’t matter how hard you knock it out of the ball park with your presentation, there will be haters hatin’ on you. Know ahead of time what challenges you may face specific to the personalities in your audience. This will allow you to come with ammo (or a bulletproof vest) to prepare.
4. Stories. Stories. Stories.
Traditionally, in my experience anyway, this is a large component that’s left out of presentations, which is a huge lost opportunity. As humans, we respond BEST to stories – it’s how we are built. If you want to keep the engagement level steady over the course of the presentation, add some flavor. But remember, be sure it connects to your WHY.
5. Prepare like it’s going out of style.
I’m not talking about reading and re-reading your lines or creating notecards for key words. I’m demanding you to get up in your living room in front of your family, and REHEARSE. Have others observe your body language, your tone, and everything in between.
6. Bye-bye PowerPoint.
If you plan on using PPT as the main vehicle for your presentation, hit the snooze button now – this is a presentation suicide! Change the norm and get rid of slides. If you must, use them periodically, keep them simple, and trade out your traditional bullet points and sentences for pictures and simplified phrases. You want your audience to pay attention to YOU and YOUR message, not your slides.
7. Sitting is the new smoking.
Don’t smoke during your presentation (I suppose both figuratively and literally). Get UP and utilize the space around you.
8. Close with a call to action and/or key takeaways.
This will be the most important element of your presentation because your summarizing what it is that you want from your audience and what you want them to walk away remembering. Essentially, when building the structure of your presentation, you want to start here and work your way backwards in order to ensure your looping everything back to the purpose behind your message.
9. Ask for feedback.
As speakers, we can only continue to improve if we understand how we are being perceived by our audience. Circle back with folks in your presentation afterwards and ask for feedback. Atlernatively, draft up a quick survey monkey and distribute.
That’s it (in a nutshell), but wanted to remind you all that just with any success that comes in life, the foundational piece is BELIEF. Weave in these critical elements and believe that you are more than capable of getting in front of your audience and delivering your message with intensity and passion. Once you give yourself the permission to go forth and conquer, there’s not a whole lot that can get in your way
With lots of stellar-ness,