Two New Commandments for Sticky Presentations

Most presentations go bad because the presenter didn’t design or prepare well enough. I have gleamed three tips from my presentation coaching clients that might helpful for you in when designing or preparing for your next presentation. In fact, so important are these ideas that I’m going to elevate them to my 10 Commandments of Great Presentations hand-out at my next seminar.

The Presenter’s  Playbook for Stickiness.

1. Embrace the challenge of the presentation and opportunity to show your best.

2. Trust and believe in your message and ability to deliver it in a memorable way.

3. Get out of worrying about acceptance and results and into the process of connecting with the audience

4. Be audience-centered and focused not self-centered and arrogant.

5. Be prepared to accept surprises and be confident  that nothing will upset you on the platform.

6.  Learn to be flexible and open and ready to change at moment by reading your audience and listening for non-verbal feedback

7. Don’t just “wing it”  learn to enjoy planning, design and practice.

8.. Love your message and audience–don’t effort or try so hard be authentic and play to your natural strengths

9. Respect audience attention span and learning capacity.–Don’t over load them with facts , figures and information. Focus on one important thing and keep the message simple.

10. Remember — Perfection is a killer to spontaneity so be  present in the moment and  have fun doing it. Be your own best friend.

Follow these two new Commandments you will find that the audience will remember — and maybe even act on — your message. After all, the purpose for giving a presentation is to inform and change the world.

Commandment One: Focus on Audience needs and expectations—Duarte Rule Know Thy Audience.

Presentations are about their audiences, not their speakers. Before you write anything down, or commit anything to a Power Point slide, you must give some thought to your listeners. So ask yourself obvious — but easy to forget — questions like, what time of day am I speaking? How many people will be in the audience? Will they just have eaten, or will they be looking forward to a meal? Will they have heard a number of other speeches, or are mine the only one? The answer to each of these questions should affect the length, style and content of your presentation.

People have more energy and more ability to hear complex ideas early in the day; later in the day their energy flags and they don’t want to entertain as many new ideas. Larger audiences demand more energy from the speaker and want to laugh more than they want to cry. The worst audience (from the speaker’s point of view) is a tired, fed, slightly inebriated audience. That audience needs President Reagan’s rule for after-dinner speeches: 12 minutes, a few jokes, and sit down before the audience stands up.

But the really interesting things to know about audience members are, what do they fear? What are their dreams? Where do they want to be led? And what have they had recent cause to like or dislike? Only once you understand the emotional state of the audiences are you ready to begin to design a presentation for them. Far too many speakers make the mistake of believing that one size fits all. I have seen executives give the same speech about the financial state of the company to investors, to the general public, and to employees — with very different results.

Rule Two: Focus on the Message —Tell Them One Thing, and One Thing Only

This is a difficult rule for most presenters to follow. But it’s essential. The oral genre is highly inefficient. We audience members simply don’t remember much of what we hear. We’re easily sidetracked, confused, and tricked. We get distracted by everything from the color of the presenter’s tie to the person sitting in the next row to our own internal monologues. I’m afraid the company’s not in very good shape. That comment that Joan made last week. Maybe I should dust off my resume. Now, what was that guy up front saying?

So you’ve got to keep it simple. Many studies show that we only remember a small percentage of what we hear — somewhere between 10 – 30 percent.

But when a speaker gets in front of an audience, the urge to tell ’em everything you know is very hard to resist. Far too many speakers perform a data dump on their audiences at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, we can only hold 4 or 5 ideas in our heads at one time, so as soon as you give me a list of more than 5 items, I’m going to start forgetting as much as I hear.

Against this dismal human truth there is only one defense: focus your presentation on a single idea. Be ruthless. Write that one idea down in one declarative sentence and paste it up on your computer. Then eliminate everything, no matter how beautiful a slide it’s on, that doesn’t support that idea.

Follow these two rules and you’ll find that audience will remember — and maybe even act on — your speeches. After all, the only reason to give a speech is to change the world.


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