The art and science of 21st century presenting (also called “Presentation 2.0” by Phil Waknell and “The Presentation Revolution” by Ethos3 and others) involves understanding that presentations are a three-legged stool comprised of 1) content, 2) delivery, and 3) visual design (the slideshow or any other visual aid). The links of the week this week reinforce each of the three legs of the presentation stool:
In “The Night 8 People Stole 50 Hearts,” the Duarte Design team reminds us of the importance of story. What I love most is the idea of revision going hand in hand with being able to tell an effective story.
I teach a course called Professional Communication and Presentation to both on campus and online business students. When I ask them to practice their speech with me, students will often protest that practicing will “ruin the surprise.” The fact is, a great speech is great no matter how many times you hear it. Practice and preparation don’t detract from the quality of a speech; in fact, the only thing the two Ps do is enhance the quality of the speech’s content AND add to the audience’s overall experience in a positive way.
Practice and preparation are the first and second qualities of an effective story as outlined in the Duarte article. Author Paula Tesch says, “In the final weeks of preparation, each speaker performed their story a lot. Revision rounds with their peers, once-overs with their content mentors, dry runs with the designers creating their visuals, and a dress rehearsal with the entire production team. Each time a speaker told his or her story, it got better. Dramatically better. Both the delivery and the story itself improved with each performance. We practiced what we preach, and it only made us want to preach louder” (Source). In my experience, if a student practices his or her speech in front of me, the speech only gets better, stronger, and more powerful.
Content-wise, we may often feel like we want to keep things in for the element of surprise. However, making sure your speech resonates with your audience is more important than the element of surprise. Additionally, as Tesch reminds us, each time we share our ideas, our message, our content, with others, we improve.
“The Importance of Eye Contact in Presentations” contains a video by Ethos3 CEO Scott Schwertly. I love the use of video when talking about a delivery concept because it is difficult to write about delivery without demonstrating what you mean. The video does the trick!
Schwertly explains that eye contact from a presenter determines whether or not the audience feels valued and respected. If the presenter is reading from notes or from slides, Schwertly says, the speaker’s delivery tells the audience, “I don’t care about you.” Audience-centered delivery does what’s best for the audience, no matter how nervous the presenter may feel. And audiences need to feel connected with the presenter in order for the message, the content, to resonate.
Of all of the elements of delivery – hand gestures, voice, movement – eye contact should be the presenter’s primary focus while he or she is speaking to a group of people. Eye contact is the most important way for an audience to connect with a presenter, and it should be the primary delivery tool to be cultivated and developed. After all, if a presenter maintains strong and steady eye contact, the audience can forgive other minor mistakes such as verbal fillers or a nervous gesture.
Effective visual design is the trickiest leg of the presentation stool for us to embrace. Tradition tells us we should fill up our slides with bullets. Have you ever stopped to wonder why you do this? When you’re in the audience and a presenter displays yet another death-by-bulletpoint slide, how do you feel? Bored? Disinterested? So why do we use this ineffective medium and perpetuate the slideument as the only way to design visual aids?
Designing effective slides to meet the needs of your audience will ensure that you connect and resonate with the people you’re speaking with. Learn more about how to create a “good” slide here.
Once we actually learn how to create strong visuals, it’s time to share those with the world. We can spread the presentation revolution to others because once they see the RIGHT way of designing slides, they’ll never go back to death-by-PowerPoint ever again! In “Presentation Tip: Sharing Your Presentation Online,” Dave Paradi suggests Brainshark and Slideshare. Brainshark, Paradi says, “allows you to add an audio track to your slides and create a video. But you don’t have to add audio at all. You can skip that step and use this service to simply allow people to view your slides” (Source). He also suggests we upload our visual presentations to Slideshare, one of my favorite websites ever. Check out “You Suck At PowerPoint!” on Slideshare here.
What great public speaking and presentation articles did you read this week?