Not everyone presents like Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs ImpersonatorWe’d all like to see ourselves as superstar presenters, but unfortunately, most of us fall short. Luckily, a little preparation can go a long way, and the following steps will help you on your path to stardom.

1. Make a Plan
Know your audience: What’s important to them? Who else is speaking? Is English their native language? If not, you may need to remove colloquialisms and local humor. Many conferences are international with translators present. Make sure you know this ahead of time.

Know your venue: Who else is presenting? What will they be talking about? The last thing you want is for someone else to hit all the highlights of your talk track in an earlier presentation. The event planning team should be able to help with this. I have heard the reference to Facebook having 850 million users in almost all presentations dealing with social media recently. Best to get an outline of who else is speaking and find out what the other presenters will be saying before you finalize your piece.

Know the AV details: Are your PowerPoint slides designed using the correct aspect ratio for the display in the room? If you have video clips, is the AV system equipped to support this? Will there be an Internet connection for demo/linking purposes? I was recently at an event where a presenter assumed the room would have Wi-Fi. His whole presentation was based on doing a live demo of his software. There was no Wi-Fi and he ended up missing out on a key opportunity with the audience because he had no back-up plan.

2. Get Visual
If information is presented using text only, people remember about 10% after the presentation. Graphics, pictures and animation all add to retention. It’s been said a thousand times, but too much text on a slide is distracting. At a recent seminar, the presenter used several slides that were full of graphs, charts, and footnotes that were impossible to read. Most of his information was lost on the audience because they couldn’t follow the talk track with these very confusing visuals. The best advice I’ve seen recently is to design your slides like a highway billboard. The idea is that drivers going by at 55 miles an hour can read them. Less really is more…

3. Practice
Even if you present on a regular basis it’s always best to practice before the event. Our first instinct is to speed through our material when we have a short block of time. Pausing between points and slides is a good thing. It gives the audience time to digest the information before you move to the next topic. Record yourself if you can. How is your body language? Are you saying “Um…” or other filler words between points? Are you using the podium as a crutch? I recently heard a presenter use the word “again” 22 times in his presentation. It became distracting after a while and took away from his overall message.

We can’t all be Steve, but with the proper plan, supporting visuals and practice, we can at least make an impact and leave a memorable and lasting impression on our audience. Good luck and break a leg!

We’re no wise guys, but we’ve helped break a few legs in our time. For some real help with your next presentation, don’t hesitate to ask.

Posted by Kim Owen