As someone who has listened to hundreds of talks over the last number of years I can typically tell within the first 5 minutes of a presentation whether or not it could be difficult to graphic record. It’s quite often that attendees will come up to check the visual chart that I’ve created and comment that they didn’t understand ‘anything they (the speaker) just said’. It’s even more interesting in these times of virtual conferences, keeping people’s attention is going to be more important that ever.
Here’s a few tips that I’ve come up with to help make your presentation more engaging and keep people along the journey with you till the very end.
Tip #1 – Spend less time focusing on yourself and more on your message
I have lost count how many times I’ve heard a speaker go to slide number two and say something to the effect, “now here comes the obligatory slide about me”. I’m not sure where this came from, if someone does, please enlighten me. Unless it’s company policy (and maybe we can change that?) then how about skipping the about page altogether? If you ever needed anyone to give you permission then take it from me, you don’t NEED to have an about me page. Most events have a description and often a detailed write up about you on their website. Include your twitter handle so people can go and read your tweets about what you had for supper last night and the show you are currently binge-watching. If you feel like you need an about me page to show your credibility, take those extra precious minutes and provide more insights, value or takeaways in your talk.
You have been chosen to speak at this event for a reason. There’s a good chance that reason is because you know something that the organizers feel like the attendees would love to learn about. Every minute is precious so spend less talk focusing on you accomplishments, background and all that jazz. Focus more on what the audience is going to learn from you. They will feel your knowledge through what you have to teach them, not about the letters after you name.
Tip #2 – Think about creating your presentation like baking a cake
In order to reach your goal and make sure the audience understands your key message, how do you need to explain this in a way for them in order to reach that goal. When planning out your talk, start with your ideas first, not the slide deck.
Let’s think about it as baking a cake.
Deciding what kind of cake you’re going to bake: When planning your talk, understand what your core message is going to be right from the beginning. This is the process of deciding what kind of cake you’re going to make. This includes details about it. For example, a black forest cake needs different ingredients then a plain chocolate cake.
Collecting the ingredients and combing them is important to get the chemistry right. This is a process of measuring and mixing. Deciding what ideas you are going to share in what order you will share them. What stories do I need to tell. What’s the emotional splash in there to help them connect to my wisdom. Do you need to tell your audience one idea first before mixing it with another idea? Don’t forget the thing that makes it sweet and memorable.
Baking it is your iterative process. Maybe it includes asking others for feedback and practicing. We need to be patience in this process. It can be frustrating too feeling like it takes forever. But then, surprise, it’s done!
Creating the slide deck is the icing on the cake. There can be a lot of emphasis on the slide decks and while important to keep people’s focus, see them as the icing. I’m sure you’ve seen some cake that are poorly decorated and some that are like works of art, similar to slide decks. The slide deck should be creating last, after you’ve gone through iterations and the messiness of creating.
Serving the cake is your presentation. You’ve done it. Take a delicious slice and share it with the world!
Tip #3 – Less is more – your audience will thank you.
What are the top one or two things you really want to leave people with. One time last year I had a speaker tell me after they were done their talk, that the talk they just gave was typically 2 hours long but they condensed it to 25 minutes. I wasn’t surprised as it was overwhelming to graphic record and felt like I was going a mile a minute with the overload of information.
You are doing your audience a disservice by trying to shove ‘all the things’ down the audience’s throats. Widdle your message down to its core objective and drive home that message, repeating it in different ways. This will help you stay focused on the objective of your talk but more importantly the audience’s eyes won’t glaze over. This is most important if you are considered a leader in your industry. With experience and wisdom it’s tempting to want to tell the audience as much as possible, but hold back that urge and hone in on fewer key message or ideas.
That’s all for Part 1! I hope you found this three tips helpful!
Stay tuned for the 2nd part of this blog series. If have a talk coming up (at a virtual event!) and you want some help reviewing your messaging and/or creative design. Feel free to reach out for a free consultation!