Forget waterboarding. The quickest, most reliable way to bring an enemy to his knees is by subjecting him to a conference worth of boring, waffly, visually excruciating presentations.
I recently attended two whole days of presentations by eight unusually awful speakers and two unusually brilliant ones, and the former had me grinding my teeth into stumps. Life’s too short to take time off work to be bored stiff.
So, why would you torture the people you do like; i.e. your prospects and suspects? Here are some tips, none of which are rocket science but all of which will make you a better speaker/presenter:
- Customise the whole presentation – not the first slide only – for each event.
- Just because you like a picture doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for making your point. And don’t rely on an idiom to make an image relevant; i.e. a photograph of shoes for ‘One size fits all.’
- Get someone to proof-read your slides. If you’re not a hot editor, you can find someone who is. Typos and missing capitalisation make you look silly.
- If you’re going to refer to numbers and statistics while speaking, put them on a slide. Otherwise they fade into thin air.
- Find out what tech to expect: lapel mike, stationery mike, podium, clicker – or none of the above. Don’t be surprised by what’s there on the day.
- Avoid self-promotion once the MC introduces you. The audience doesn’t care about your personal philanthropy, unless it relates directly to your message.
- If you need cue cards to support your memory, you probably don’t know your material well enough. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
- Get to the point. And if you have a lot to say, say it concisely. Your audience tunes out every 10 minutes or so. Also, when you say ‘Um’, it can be jarring for listeners, who take this as a (mistaken) cue to doze.
- Give the audience a hand-out. Or tell them that you’ll provide the presentation in PDF format afterwards, so that they don’t have to make pages of notes.
- If you tend to talk off-the-cuff, which I applaud, think before you speak. Don’t say, for example, that ‘Judaism and Islam are basically the same thing…’ (This is a real-world example, by the way.)
- A basic one: Don’t stand between the projector and the screen. If the light is on your body, rather than behind you, you’re blocking your own slides.
- Never, ever go over your time limit. Rather finish more quickly, and leave extra time for Q and A.
If you need layout help for PowerPoint, such help is available. If you need content help, it’s out there. Above all, don’t be boring. Your audience deserves more.
Tiffany Markman (www.tiffanymarkman.co.za) is an opinionated copywriter, editor, columnist and writing trainer who has worked for over 200 clients in SA and worldwide. Follow her on Twitter @tiffanymarkman on Twitter and sign up for her newsletter.