to Z of Effective Presentations
Now on the
letter "F" this issue looks at Following your slides and First
F is for Following your Slides
Do you follow your slides or do your slides follow you? Now, be
This is a critical question which sorts the professionals from
the amateurs, the men for the boys, the ladies from the
lassies. If you rely on your slides to keep you on track during
a presentation and remind you what to say, in my view, you are
not presenting optimally. In fact you are turning the whole
presentation process on its head.
Displaying a slide and then telling people what the slide says is
not presenting, it is describing. If the slide is mainly
textual then your audience can read it for themselves and you as
a presenter become redundant to the process. If the slide is
mainly imagery, it depends what the imagery is as to whether or
not your audience "get it". That said the most effective image
is one which creates a good strong mental image without reams of
explanation. So if your images are good you may still be
redundant as a presenter.
The right way to give a presentation is for the presenter to
speak and any visual aids which are being used to follow the
speaker, to help illustrate a point that he/she is making.
I see so many people who use their slides as their cue cards,
they inevitably let their audiences get ahead of them, which
leads to boredom and disinterest on the part of the audience, or
makes the speaker redundant.
When the presentation is too long or the nerves are too jangled
to remember everything, rather than relying on your slides, use
cue cards to help you remember everything and let the slides
back up and reinforce your ideas. Don't just describe your
F is for First Impressions
First impressions last, people will form an immediate impression
of you, as a speaker, the moment you walk on to the stage and
whether that impression is good or bad you may be stuck with it.
The impression you give is determined by a great number of
different things, including but not limited to what you look
like, how you dress, your body language, your tone of voice and
what you say in your opening remarks.
You want to look the part, think about how your audience are
likely to be dressed, is it business suits and ties, blazers,
smart casual or jeans and t-shirts? You should dress as in the
style of a leader of your audience. Wear clothes that you feel
good in as this will help you to feel more confident. A pin
striped suit and gold cufflinks may be fine for a city audience
but may create the wrong impression for a group of software
What ever clothes you decide to wear there is no excuse for poor
grooming; it really shows that you just don't care enough about
No matter how nervous you may be feeling internally you want to
look confident on the outside. So remember what your mother
always told you as a child; stand up straight, shoulders back,
stomach in and smile.
"Smile and the world smiles back." There's
nothing like a smile to create a good first impression. A warm
and confident smile will put both you and your audience at ease.
If you look like you are enjoying giving the presentation your
audience are more likely to enjoy receiving it. So smiling is a
winner when it comes to great first impressions. But don't go
overboard with this - people who take this too far can seem
insincere and smarmy.
Before you start talking just take time to look round your
audience and establish eye contact with them, hopefully some of
them will give a nice facial echo and smile back which will
boost your confidence.
Once the majority of people are looking back at you then start
Your opening remarks:
It is vital that right from the start you give people a good
reason for listening to you. Stating your name and the title of
your talk rarely does this. You need to grab the audience's
attention. Give them a reason why they should listen, tell them
why it is important to them.
Establish your credibility up front.
If your audience doesn't respect you as an authority on your
subject, they won't listen properly. Imagine, an unknown person
talking about the engineering principles behind the development
of a F1 racing car for an hour or so. Why would you listen?
Then, at the end, he reveals he is Adrian Newey who designed the
championship winning Red Bull F1 car, it puts his talk in a
whole new perspective, but by then it's too late to listen
harder. Establish your credibility at the start (or even before
you take the stage).
The last thing you need to achieve in your opening remarks is a
sense of trust and connection to your audience. Tell them
something they know to be true, something which shows you are on
their wavelength and understand the situation they are in.
Finally, never start with an apology; it creates a poor first
impression. If something has gone wrong and there is nothing you
can do about it in the time available, carry on as if it was
intentional. For example, if the projector will not work and you
can't display your slides, just pretend that you were not
intending using slides and give your presentation without them.
This is yet another reason for not relying on your slides to
remind you what to say (see article above).
The first impression you give is down to you, so
do everything you can to ensure that your first impressions are
positive, in how you appear, what you do and what you say,
and you will end up giving a lasting positive impression.
This is the second time through the alphabet for me, you can see
the previous entries on the
A to Z of Presenting blog
More new tips under the letter "G" in the next newsletter.