Presentations can change the World, or if not that, they could at least inform and entertain the audience. But in no case, they should threaten people to bore them to death. So why are we still so often in a danger when we sit in the audience?
Based on Jobs’ presentations, thousands waited outside the store for days just to get the latest iPod, iPhone or any other iThing. Churchill promised the entire nation only blood and tears, which was not a very strong selling point, and England still followed. Sir Ken Robinson turned upside down the way we perceive the education system worldwide by telling a few family anecdotes.
So what can you learn from these public speaking giants to nail your next presentation?
1. Plan your storyline and key messages
There is no successful presentation without a strong storyline. People are captured by your story, not by the fancy slides it’s on. So draft your presentation flow first. Nancy Duarte, a presentation designer, advises presenters to spend twice as much time on drafting the storyline than creating the actual slides!
When crafting a storyline, think of 3 key messages that you want the audience to walk out of the room with. To make these key points stick, you need to make them short, memorable and attention-grabbing like a tweet and you need to repeat them over and over again.
2. Practice Relentlessly
The easier and smoother the presentation looks like, the more practising it required. Steve Jobs or Winston Churchill rehearsed for hours, even days to deliver that simple 10min long speech.
Indeed, practice makes perfect and presenting is no exception to this rule. There are still so many people who largely underestimate this point and try to pull off the presentation without practising. Wrong! You need to rehearse the presentation to the extent that you won’t need the notes. Instead of following the cards with notes, try to connect mentally the note with the image on the slide.
During your rehearsals, use a video camera to record yourself to see where you stutter, where you seem nervous and how you work with your body language. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend to give you a feedback. Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, follows a spartan’s preparation for his public speeches. He splits his presentation into several segments and he goes through each and every one of them up to ten times!
3. Get your audience’s attention
Whether it’s a course presentation or a product launch speech, you always need to address the one key question every recipient has in mind: “Why should I care?”
The audience should care because you’re giving them a solution to their problem!
To present the solution, you first need to have a problem. So start your presentation by describing the situation that frustrates the audience.
Once you get your audience “frustrated”, now it’s the right time to present the hero(your research key findings, your product, etc ) that will save the audience! Explain clearly how your product solves the issues of participants.
During the iPhone launch, Steve Jobs firstly presented the smartphones currently available on the market with all their setbacks just to present the saviour – iPhone a few moments later.
Remember you’re selling a solution to the problems that you painted, not the product as such.
4. Simplify your slides and language
Everyone hates slides full of text or bullet points. They eventually hinder not help the learning process. Make your slides as simple as possible and try to present only one topic per slide. Show the slide for 10-15 seconds before you start talking about it. “Let the image sink in first then you can hang your message on the visual hook,” says, Burmark.
Apply the same principle of simplicity to your language. Speak in simple words and try to avoid using technical terms. To enforce your presentation, use analogies and metaphors that evoke strong and tangible images.
To describe the minute size of iPod Shuffle, Steve Jobs used a simple analogy: “The iPod Shuffle is smaller and lighter than a pack of gum.”
5. Make sense of data
Data can be overwhelming. Therefore you need to dance with it as Lars Sudmann pinpointed at his speaking skills session at EMEC 14 in Istanbul. He showed a stunning example of data presentation where Hans Rosling squeezed 200 years of data from 200 countries in 4 minutes.
To make data easy to understand to your audience, you need to make it specific, relevant and contextual for your audience. Make strong tangible analogies so the audience can visualise and comprehend the data you present them.
When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod, he did not emphasise its 5GB storage and 185g weight, instead, he repeatedly said that it could hold 1000 songs and physically manifested that he could fit it into his pocket. The audience could easily comprehend its tiny size and remember one specific number.
6. Use the rule of three
The rule of three is an incredibly strong concept in communication theory. The list of three feels inherently natural to people and therefore works the best when stating and remembering the points.
People can usually remember only three main points from presentations. To take advantage of this psychological phenomenon, write down all the points that you want to make in your presentation and cluster them into three key messages that you’ll deliver.
Use these three key points as a roadmap at the beginning of your presentation to create the anticipation and also outline the flow of the speech so the audience can follow.
7. Include emotional details
People will eventually forget your slides, your presentation even yourself but they will not forget how you made them feel. Charge the presentation with emotional moments and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Use examples and funny anecdotes from your personal life. You will look very human to your audience and they will feel much more connected to you.
Sir Ken Robinson is an absolute master at pulling the audience in with anecdotes from his personal life and audience love him for that. He succeeded to shift our rigid education paradigm with his humour and personal stories.
8. Liven up your presentation
People learn in different ways, some are responsive to visual information, some to auditory stimulus and others to kinaesthetic experiences. Use multiple media formats in the presentation to dramatically increase how well the audience remembers your presentation!
Studies show that the presentation ideally should not exceed 20 minutes but even that can be too long. Ask attendees a question every 3-4 minutes to constantly remind them that you count on their participation. If you have a large audience in front of you, use live polls to get the opinion from every one of them and make them feel a part of your story.
9. Share the stage and glory
Even the most charismatic speakers might get mundane if they don’t involve the audience in their speeches. So share the stage with your audience. Bring people up on the stage, play with them a role-play or simply praise the question or comment that came from the audience. If you use audience interaction tools, start the face-to-face conversation with the person who submitted an interesting question.