Despite Mick Jagger singing the lyrics “It’s the singer, not the song” – which he probably wrote, when it comes to presentations it’s most definitely the presenter AND the presentation.
Here’s a few tips on how to present:
- If you can get a wireless mic take advantage of it, by walking back and forth across the stage. To get an idea of how to do this watch a few comedians on Comedy Central. Their stage movement holds the audience’s attention. I’ve yet to see a standup comedian stand up behind a podium!
- Don’t look back at your presentation screen, glance at the screen on your laptop. It surprises me how many presenters somehow feel the need to make sure the projector is working. Get to the event early, set up you machine, make sure everything works, including the remote clicker and then trust the projector.
- Try picking out a few people in the audience who seemed most engaged and look directly at each of them in turn as you present. This conveys a feeling of connection that simply staring out at the audience or at the back wall can’t attain. Watch a few stand up comics to see how they relate to their audience. Watch some of the highly rated Ted Talks as well.
- Speak distinctly, loudly and somewhat more slowly than you might in a room of colleagues. Remember, you know your material cold, right? But it’s new to your audience. Don’t rush your words, or your slides or you risk losing them. This is particularly important in the increasingly popular 3 minute or even 30 second pitches. If you have rehearsed enough times – and you have, right? you should be able to deliver your presentation in a relaxed, unhurried manner.
- Going first is hard as you have no feel for how the audience will react.Try to avoid this position. Going last can be best, as people tend to remember the last thing they saw. Just don’t get yourself in the position I did, presenting last on a Friday afternoon conference, where the previous presenter ran long, and half the audience had to leave in the middle of my presentation to catch their planes. Or if there are a very large numbers of presenters the audience may be worn out by the time it’s your turn.
- Be enthusiastic and engaged! This can be tough for people like research scientists presenting not to their peers, but to investors. But if you aren’t enthusiastic and engaged, why should your audience be? No need to go overboard and come off as a cheerleader. But remember, you’re in a battle for their attention – with their smartphones, their colleagues, their day dreams. Academics remember, this is not a lecture, it’s a presentation! In general the audience is there because they want to be, not because they need to be. Keep them glued to their seats.
So get your presentation down cold, rehearse it often, and try to do a dress rehearsal before an audience to hone you presentation style and get valuable feedback. The Social Innovation Forum does a great job of giving their presenters the opportunity for dress rehearsals before a critical audience that provides valuable feedback to the presenters.
And unless you are a professional or very talented amateur, I’d advise against singing any songs!