Standing in front of a group can feel very daunting, and it’s a vulnerable feeling for good reason. We are the only animal on earth that stands upright and reveals our soft underbelly. The experience of exposing such a tender part of ourselves is what gives us the jitters when asked to perform, and the usual advice is turn up on time, know your material and try to look confident! It’s not bad advice, but the obvious tips are easy enough to master. Let’s take a closer look at the psychology behind public speaking and learn how you can be authentic, interesting and gain trust when making a business presentation.
Good Body Language
As humans we decide whether we like a person in the first nano seconds of meeting them. We can’t help it, it’s an unconscious bias that is built into our DNA. How many times have you watched a TV talent show and made a judgement about a performer before they begin their act? It’s the same with presenting and the first thing to remember may sound weirdly simple, and it’s smiling! We all know this is a good idea, but it really works and is easy to forget when you are thinking about the words and are full of nerves.
The next thing is to use your hands. You probably do this already, it’s a natural way of talking and helps you get your point across. There are some rules though. Keep your hands above your waist level and keep your palms visible, use lots of open hand gestures. If you watch all the great leaders you’ll see this trait and stand up comedians do this too. If you see someone walk on stage with a big smile and their arms open wide with their palms facing up, it’s very difficult to dislike them. Start this way and you’re winning from the beginning.
Keep it Simple
Fight the urge to use lots of technical terms. They may be a comfort to you, but your audience may not have the same knowledge. You know very well what a double density widget does, but others may perceive you as arrogant and won’t understand what you are trying to say. Your aim is to be likeable and if possible the bearer of good news. If your presentation is delivering bad news then definitely keep it short!
Make sure you are delivering your ideas in stages that flow and can be understood by anyone – even a child. If you take the idea that a story has a beginning a middle and an end, this is a good framework for a presentation. It’s natural to be engaged by a story and you’ll hold attention for longer if you find a good narrative.
If you must have words on your slides, keep them to an absolute minimum. A big no no here is to use the slides instead of your notes. Your audience will use all their brain space to read the words on the screen and turn off their ears.
The presentation is there to compliment what you are saying and underline your message. Use the slide to emphasise your point with an image or a graph or just one word. At the very most just use a few bullet points and avoid whole sentences.
If you have a point to make put a bold statement on a separate slide and build up to it. Unveiling a major message in this way will keep your audience interested and your subject matter will be remembered.
Less is more, as the saying goes! If you have a lot of facts to convey then it’s best to keep it below the 20 minute mark. The average human can stay focused for about this long without getting restless, and that’s only if they are interested in the subject.
Keep to the point and deliver your information in a clear way without waffle or using jargon. Making jokes is fine and will make you likeable, but only if they are funny. Remember that we all have a sense of humour but if a joke falls flat you may lose your mojo and your audience will become uneasy.
Talking in a conversational style is a very good idea, you will be perceived as friendly and likeable. If your presentation is being used to persuade, you’ll be half way there. People are far more likely to buy from or invest in someone they like.
If you need to make notes to refer to, try writing them in two different colours. Change the colour when the slide changes so you can keep track of your place in the presentation. If you can’t use different colours try using bold type or italics to make the differentiation.
If you are using data then a graph is the best way to display this information to a group. Use a different type of graph for each slide unless you are comparing like for like and make them as colourful as possible. Red is a colour that means action so use it when you want to make a point or are reporting growth.
Graphs are a powerful tool and understood much quicker than showing the raw numbers. Our brains are always seeking out patterns and this makes a graph the ideal tool to communicate.
Generating a graph from scratch can be time consuming, so use a trusted piece of software like Xpert Analytics. It’s easy to use, and has so many more uses than just for presentation purposes. You can share your analytics with colleagues, identify long term trends and it will even alert you to a downturn before you notice it yourself. Take a look at their website for more information