Stay on point when you present

These are my notes from a LinkedIn course by Todd Dewett. And some from my own experience.

Basics

Know your audience

You want to know what they care about, how they like to communicate, and the problems they face.

Gather main ideas

Less is more. Don't cram too much in. Always air on less.

Place in a logical order

You're looking for flow, a smooth, rational sequence of main points that tell your story from beginning to end.

Know what you want from your audience

Do you want their support of a project you're pitching? Maybe you're encouraging some form of volunteer work? No matter what the issue, ask explicitly for what you want.

Script or outline presentation

The key for scripting is proper grammar and simple wording that speaks at the level of your audience. When you're done, step away for a while and then come back and edit your work.

Create slides

Follow the outline and keep it simple.

Practice

If you can, practice where you'll actually deliver the talk, otherwise, use whatever space you've got. Imagine the audience and even consider dressing as you'll dress that day too.

Increase your emotion

Your audience wants to feel your emotions, so show them because when you do, they will respond to you and your material more strongly. Volume, pace, pauses, hands.

Prepare to present

Have a backup resource

Never assume that the audio-visual set up at the venue will work properly. Have a backup.

Research audience and event

You want to know the main issues they currently face, a project of note, or possibly a person who's been in the news, something you can reference that shows that you know them. Make sure you know who to thank for asking you to speak.

Share material needs with the event coordinator

Reach out to whoever's in charge. Tell them you're looking forward to participating. Share your mobile number and ask for theirs. Confirm the meeting location. Share a copy of the slides you'll be presenting.

Show up early to evaluate the venue

find the spot where you'll be standing, and then check the room setup. Test microphone and audio. Check your slides.

Bring water

Usually, some will be made available to you, but not always, so be prepared.

Effective handouts and slides / Visual aid tips

Use the 10-second rule

Anyone in the audience should be able to look at a slide and fully comprehend it in 10 seconds or less.

Use the fewest words possible

Word or fragments are just fine to convey your point, and they're easy to display, which leads me to an important note.

Simplify charts and graphs

Show a key number or two, but never an entire spreadsheet. And be very sure that all charts and graphs meet the 10-second rule whenever possible.

Answering questions without derailing

You answer quickly so that people don't lose track of your message. You can get derailed if you're too long-winded or if you allow yourself to go too far off-topic into territory not central to your presentation.

  • Understand the question
  • Defer unrelated questions
  • Engage and answer questions concisely
  • Keep answers on the topic

You can start preparing now for your next presentation by trying to predict the most likely questions.

Handling interruptions

  • For minor issues, smile and move on
  • For major issues, note the exact spot in the presentation

In general, when you're interrupted, if it's at all possible, just keep going. Don't pay attention to the person on their phone. Don't spend 20 minutes trying to find that missing slide. Just move on.

Don't admit mistakes that don't matter

Keep the presentation moving forward. If you know you've made a tiny mistake, just correct yourself on the fly and move on.

Own larger mistakes

For example, say, wait a minute, I misspoke, the cost is $50,000, not $30,000. Okay, now when we go to mark it, notice that I casually owned it, and moved on. And I didn't apologize, there's no need to. Don't make it a big deal. Show no embarrassment, don't try to explain.

Treat feedback gracefully.

Dealing with technical errors

Audiovisual errors sometimes happen, but you can prevent them and prepare to deal with them. When they do happen, don't apologize. Just acknowledge the issue, ask for a moment, then fix the issue or seek assistance. If this takes more than about one minute, seriously consider just moving on without whatever isn't working.

Moving forward

Go ahead and make a standard checklist that you can use for all future presentations. It will include the work required to build a great presentation, from initial notes to slides to practice sessions. The list of all the things you might need to bring to the presentation and a list of all the checks to be completed onsite before you speak. It's a simple document, but it could save you a lot of trouble.