Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The 6 P's of presentation - my guide to the best presentations

We've all heard that P**s Poor Preparation Promotes Poor Presentation and I suspect that many of the people reading this blog will have been on various courses to enable them to present effectively to colleagues and clients.

As a side note and before I begin can I say - as a presenter do not walk between the screen and the light source on your projector - this drives me bonkers, no one looks good in glaring white light and remember you never see Huw Edwards when he's doing a standing piece to camera walk in front of the camera going back to his desk - if it's good enough for professional media it should be good enough for the (gifted) amateur.

Over the years I too have been on innumerable sales training courses going over these kinds of areas and done my share of awful (can still remember the exact audience and location and still wish that the ground could have swallowed me whole) and also some better presentations. There really is no substitute for practice but one of the important things that many presenters forget is that a little like standup you need to know your audience and pitch the talk towards not only what they need to hear but also remember what they do not want to hear.

Firstly don't cover off ground that the audience already knows. I saw a presentation to a group of nurses once where the drug company representative started the session (on some new drug) by telling his audience what cancer was. Now forgive me but I'm assuming that a nursing degree probably covers this off in more detail. Either way the first three or four slides of the session lost the presenter his audience and he struggled to drag it back.

A similar mistake is to 'insult' the audience by pointing to a slide, saying I'm not going to cover this topic because either they already know it or can read it on the slide themselves then spending twenty minutes going over that exact issue - bit of a time waste, bores your delegates and again sucks the life from the room.

Lastly in the vein of knowing your audience I recently saw someone present a product that his company had integrated into their cover that we used to be able to sell ourselves as a standalone plan - it was ultimately pulled because it didn't prove too popular for us. Perfectly sound product but this presenter hadn't been able to research the fact that the product point he spent most time showing us was one that really was not relevant to us - not his fault but in not knowing his audience I felt he kind of lost us.

I think that given a presentation (in the context of the sales process) is often stage two of obtaining a sale, following up that initial contact/meeting of minds it is really worthwhile doing some research beyond simply writing a set of powerpoint slides or worse, recycling an old presentation.

As a general rule I use three guiding principles when prepping for a presentation, regardless of the audience. Firstly I do a mini 'fact find' usually over the phone or e-mail with the client/contact as follows :

1) Who is the presentation aimed at, what do they want to achieve - is it a pure sales meeting or educational, can I include sales content
2) How many and who will be there - include if possible job titles or a list of delegates (e-mail lists are good for post presentation follow up but don't push your luck or indeed hold your breath)
3) What would they like you to cover off (seems obvious but now but I've turned up to more than one session where the speaker clearly had a different brief to the attendees)
4) Basic logistics - where, when, how long do I have, is there equipment and what does it look like

Second phase, following the basic fact find do some research on the audience. I never telephone a company without having their website open in front of me.  Same with presenting, understand what products they sell and into which market. It might not affect your content but then again it could be crucial. Always do a little research - that could have prevented my last example above from choosing the wrong area of his product to concentrate on. As a footnote to this 'research' section, I always create a new presentation for each client. I understand in these days of strict compliance this isn't always possible but even if it's just a front piece with the clients name on it can make a difference. We all like to feel that people make an effort and just finding the full company name and sticking it on a blank slide can really personalise things. I like to take a jpeg of their logo and add it as well - be careful though, some larger companies are funny about use of their proprietary images - read the situation again !

Having some basic research of your target audience can also help during the question phase at the end of the meeting. How embarrassing is it going to be if the office joker sticks up his hand and asks if your product competes with their platinum widget, if you don't know what their widget does. Often a simple question which is actually off topic can shanghai the whole session - been there done that. Obviously you can't be an expert but have a little knowledge and take contentious issues off-line and you won't go far wrong.

Lastly the third key area. Time. Note how long you've been given and divide the time into thirds. If you have 30 minutes time your presentation for two thirds or 20 minutes. If you have an hour then aim for 40 minutes and so on. This is a key point for a number of reasons :
  • If you (like me) enjoy the sound of your own voice then you a likely to over-embellish and will usually go long. So allowing for this means you'll still have time for questions 
  • If you are anything like competent at presenting you will ask delegates to hold questions til the end - leaving this last third chunk of time means you can actually answer them
  • People running meetings always stress timing is crucial when they ask you to present - it's common courtesy to stick to their timing if you can but delegates will thank you for keeping things brief especially if they are having more than one presentation or several in a row. My experience is that in a sales context the briefest session will likely be the most memorable - I don't care about going on after lunch or last thing in the day - keep your 30 minute slot down to four slides and 18 minutes and they'll remember you and not the rambler who made them 10 minutes late for lunch.
Still thinking about time, I mention timing the session into thirds. As a general rule I only (practice) run through a full presentation twice. Once on the day I create it and then again the day before I give the talk but I time both versions. Generally my second attempt will be a bit longer as I talk around the subject a bit more but the overall time I allow will be an average of the two 'rehearsals'. I say more in the second one so it's longer but remember that it is a simple fact that most people talk faster when presenting so the actual timing I find tends to be the middle ground between my two run throughs. Either way I suggest you don't over-rehearse. However important the session is, my preference is for a more natural, conversational style of presentation - ever heard a stand up comic read a joke ? Nope you haven't and there's a reason why, scripted jokes only work if Ricky Jervais is your writer and Robin Williams is delivering them. I'd therefore recommend keep it as natural as possible. There's nothing wrong with actually reading off slides or cards. I do a talk/demo on marital arts to school kids and use small cards as it is largely a demonstration piece but I make a joke out of the fact that I need glasses to read the type. I don't, I know the content by heart but it enables me to humanise the talk, have a pause every now and then and check out the audience reaction whilst I'm 'checking' my crib notes.

The rest of presenting is down to pure personal subjective style. Some people say open with a joke, I prefer not to. I am not a comedian but do have a line in dry humour. Again think about your audience and aim the humour towards what they would be likely to find amusing - I like to mock TV shows like the Apprentice in a business context as you'll often be on firm ground but if TOWIE is your favourite show it's unlikely to resonate with a group of 50 year old insurance underwriters !

Last thought, I teach four karate classes a week to students from pure beginners up to senior black belt and have learnt one thing when 'presenting' a tough physical and mental discipline to people of all ages and backgrounds. You have to be in control, 100% of the time. Take hold of the room by the scruff of the neck and make sure that they are always watching and listening. For karate I use humour, physical demonstration and some good old fashion beastings but my aim is always to have their attention. I think presenting is the same - stay in charge at all times.

Good luck and good presenting.


No comments:

Post a Comment