I have given many thousands of presentations and talks in the last 35 years, some resulting in raising billions of pounds and others where disbelievers left the room whilst others chanted with delight!
Across them all, whether to tens of people or tens of thousands, I apply these 10 golden nuggets which have served me well.
1) Choosing what to present and what not to
Good presentations take a lot of planning. I spend as much time as I can researching, writing, and preparing words and visual aids to ensure my presentation is focused and purposeful.
2) Determining what headline you might want to appear after your talk
Plan upfront what key message you’d like as a legacy to mark your speech. This will help you really focus and deliver on the promised agenda.
3) Don’t forget the forgetting curve!
However great your presentation, your audience will forget most of what you said if they can’t take action immediately. Reinforce this at the beginning of your presentation, remind them of the key takeaways throughout, and again at the end with key next practical steps.
4) Write 5 trigger words on 5 little cards
As I prepare to deliver a presentation it’s so useful to distil it all down to 5 trigger words each prominently displayed on a little card with a few bullet points that need to come across loud and clear.
You can then use the cards to really practice the flow, chart the journey of the talk, and be in tune with its rhythm and course. Know your stuff! Then you can occasionally look down at the notes or the teleprompter but often you don’t need to with this prep! You’re already an expert in your own presentation.
5) Practice in the bathroom mirror
Then, with a large glass of water take yourself to the bathroom and rehearse until you can feel your confidence growing. Use your bunsen burner type focus to breathe life into the words! Don’t over practice but knowing the material well will allow you to ad-lib and bring spontaneity to bear without losing the plot! Tight and controlled but real and vibrant.
6) The imaginary dot
On our family’s first black and white small TV, I recall there was a small white dot in the centre of the screen when the programs finished, and you turned the TV off.
Don’t worry about the size of your audience, imagine you have only one listener and talk to them – picture them as an imaginary dot on your screen.
Focus your presentation on that dot – look and talk directly to it to engage your listener.
7) Move, Smile, Animate, Breathe
Remember to add humour (in my case never ever jokes as I am dire at telling them) human touches, breathing, smiling, and showing everyone you are totally loving what you are doing because you should be! I also like to bring colour into the picture and think carefully about what I will wear to present to add a polished image. Your audience will pick up on your preparation and body language (even behind a screen), so make it count!
8) Start strong, and end wow!
Pilots always say takeoffs and landings are pretty key to get right, as is how we make people feel when joining and leaving a company.
I would add starting a presentation powerfully so folks are immediately engaged, holding their attention through the talk (that shouldn’t ever be more than 20 mins!) and then a wow ending that folks won’t forget how the whole experience made them feel!
9) Immediate feedback from another tribe!
I think it is vital to get folks to give you honest feedback immediately after the presentation and the next day. What do they remember, what could you have done better? It’s best if these recliners are not from your direct team, so ask more objective peers who will speak their mind! Use the feedback you receive in your next presentation.
10) Give yourself a big hug
Regardless of what feedback you get, give yourself a big hug after the event! It takes energy, courage, perseverance, tenacity, and smarts to get up there and deliver a cogent presentation! Well done you and the more you do, the better you will get and your enjoyment of this craft will shine through.