11 Presentation Tips on 11/11/11


Nancy Duarte says that presentation is a three-legged stool comprised of 1) content/message, 2) delivery, and 3) visual presentation.  To help your next public speech improve in all three areas, these are my top 11 presentation tips:

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#1: Start With A Bang!  You have six seconds to make a first impression, so the introduction of your speech should grab your audience and shake them up.  You can begin with a story, a question, a rhetorical question, a multimedia clip, or a startling statement or statistic.  Remember that the audience will give you a brief “honeymoon period,” but if you haven’t captured their attention within the first 30 to 60 seconds, you might as well sit down.

#2: Use Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.  You must remember Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion.  These are essential for every speech because you want your content to be strong and to connect with your audience.  Learn more about the three modes of persuasion here.  Chiara Ojeda introduced me to the series, and Andrew Dlugan is incredible.

#3: Watch Really Great Presentations.  The best way to make your content stronger is to see what works with audiences.  A wonderful place to start is TED.com.  Two of my favorite TED Talks include Sir Ken Robinson’s “Schools Kill Creativity” and Benjamin Zander’s “On Music and Passion.”  Consider how the TED presenters are capturing and maintaining the attention of the audience.  These tools will help you make your own speeches more powerful.

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#4: Remove Barriers.  Here are some physical barriers between you and your audience: the stage, the podium, your notecards, your crossed arms and other closed off nonverbal communication.  You want to eliminate as many barriers as possible so that you can connect with your audience in a natural, conversational way.

#5: Apply the TED Commandments.  These 10 TED Commandments aren’t just for TED presenters; they’re best practices for all presentations.  Some of my favorite commandments include tell a story, remember that laughter is good, and don’t read your speech.  All of these commandments are essential for a successful presentation.

#6: Naturalness.  The key to effective delivery is naturalness.  Learn more about being the natural, authentic you here.  The best resource is Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter text on delivery.

#7: Eye Contact Is Essential.  The first two delivery tips include the importance of eye contact.  Removing the barrier of reading from your notes allows you to maintain eye contact with your audience.  Not reading your speech as the TED Commandment #9 suggests means you can look at your audience, and your audience can look at you.  Eye contact is the single most difficult aspect of delivery for my students because it is often terrifying!  You have to force yourself to get over it.  Your speech will only be successful if you connect with your audience with your eyes.

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#8: Bullets Kill!  Don’t use the death-by-bulletpoint approach in one more visual presentation.  Your audience will hate you for boring them to death.  Here are 5 easy ways to improve your next visual presentation.  Here are Duarte’s 5 tips for great presentations.

#9: A Document Is Not A Visual Presentation.  The word “visual” is the most important component of your visual presentation.  If your slides have more than 50 words, they are no longer visual – you’ve created a document and put that document on a slide.  It’s okay to pass out a handout.  If you have a lot of lengthy content to distribute to your audience, handouts are key.  Your slides, however, should be visual.

#10: Remember 3 Principles: the Signal to Noise Ratio, the 3-Second Rule of Glance Media, and the Picture Superiority Effect.  These principles go hand-in-hand with one another.  The signal to noise ratio tells us that the signal (the message) should be able to be communicated effectively with as little noise as possible.  Some examples of noise are too much text, insane animations, clutter, and overlapping pictures among others.  When you have a good signal to noise ratio, your audience will be able to look at your slide and process the visual message in 3 seconds.  This is where the 3-Second Rule of Glance Media comes in.  Advertisers know and apply this principle because they know that an effective message should be seen and digested in just a glance.  Simplicity is key.  The first two principles apply to the third: the Picture Superiority Effect.  This principle explains that human beings remember images more than we remember text.  Since a visual presentation should be visual, use high-quality photos as opposed to death-by-bulletpoint.  Your visual presentation should take cues from billboards, magazine advertisements, and television commercials… not paper documents.

#11: Study The Visual Presentation Masters.  You can’t transform from death-by-bulletpoint to visual presentation artist without the help of a few key individuals.  You can learn from the following visual presentation masters: Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, Guy Kawasaki, Phil Waknell, David McCandless, Slideshare’s JesseDee, and Ethos3.  There are others.  Start with these.

What are your favorite presentation tips?

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