Not so long ago, if you wanted to get facts, insight, and solutions from a presentation, you needed to travel. That is, of course, a time-consuming and expensive way to learn, and worse, many business presentations lacked distinction, creativity, and impact. As a former executive of some of very reputable brands, I can’t tell you how often I wasted a 4-hour car journey to listen to a 40-minute presentation, only to drive 4 hours home feeling disappointed.
Today we have Skype for Business, WebEx, and a vast range of sophisticated videoconferencing platforms. We’ve ditched the overhead projectors and hotel reservations and created a world where the press of a button lets us communicate with each other in ways that are:
- Highly flexible
- Independent of time and place
- Collaborative and interactive
- Extremely cost- and time-efficient
- Assisted by artificial intelligence and virtual reality
Business communications and presentations have changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. But there is one thing that will never change: impact.
Whether you are presenting face-to-face or using the latest technology, you can be certain that your audience doesn’t want only information, data, and facts (if they did, they could simply read the material themselves).
Connecting is everything
Your audience wants to feel something, preferably something good, that goes beyond the charts, case studies, and insights. Whatever type of business or industry you work in, you already know all too well that the last thing you need is more noise. And despite the digital advances we enjoy today, more information and data dumped on us mindlessly is likely to be seen as noise.
Here are 3 tips to help you cut out the noise and create a memorable presentation that has impact and purpose.
1. Express yourself
One of the greatest ways to effectively connect with an audience is to use your voice. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t taught how to harness the power and range of our voices, even when presenting face-to-face, so it poses an even greater challenge when we use technology. But it doesn’t have to be a challenge if we take the time and effort to stretch, exercise, and value this powerful tool.
Take a few passages from one of your favourite books and find some time, space, and solitude to practice using your voice in a way that will serve both yourself and your audience. Here’s how:
- Read the passages out loud, varying your volume as you go.
- Start by reading quietly, and gradually increase your volume as much as you can.
- Read the passages with varying levels of passion until you reach your height of passion.
- Read the passages mindfully and slowly, pausing for two seconds after each sentence.
- Find key words to emphasise in each paragraph and bring them to life with your voice.
- Change the tone of your voice from time to time, and read in a deeper and then slightly higher pitch.
- Make an audio recording of your voice and listen to it carefully. Identify your personal strengths and opportunities to speak with greater impact. Ask someone you trust to help you.
- Practice reading or presenting in front of a mirror and ask yourself if your face is consistent with the words you are speaking. In other words, if you are talking about how excited or concerned you are, do you actually look excited or concerned? If you don’t, it’s unlikely that you will sound it.
Watch this brilliant TED Talk by Julian Treasure, How to speak so that people want to listen, and practice using the video exercises he teaches.
2. Think like a designer
You’ve probably heard the phrase “death by PowerPoint,” which interestingly is typically associated with face-to-face business presentations. Given the fact that the ultimate sacrifice is arguably death, I can’t imagine the term we should use for getting the slides wrong in a digital presentation.
The same principles apply when using technology to present remotely or virtually:
- Think creatively. For example, if you’re speaking about goals, don’t use an image of goal posts or a target. Dare to be different.
- Less is more. Whether you are in the room with your audience or thousands of miles away, your slides are not your presentation—you are. Don’t cram your visuals with data, charts, or bullet points; keep them clear, colourful, simple, and compelling.
- Don’t use slides as a script. Your audience has given up their precious time to hear your presentation, so don’t simply repeat what they can read on the images.
- Stick to one message per slide.
- If it’s not completely relevant and personal to your audience, don’t use it.
- Have a very mindful and clear answer to the question “so what?”. If an audience member asks you why you are showing them a particular slide, have a very good answer.
3. Tell a story
A presentation without stories is a lecture, and I don’t know many people who enjoy sitting through a lecture. Stories are how we best learn and visualise information, so a relevant, well-told story will always have a positive impact and reinforce the learning process.
- Don’t just tell the story; bring it to life. Use descriptive language and paint pictures in the minds of your audience. Step into the story yourself so your audience can see and feel what you are saying.
- Keep it short, relevant, and compelling.
- The most memorable stories are the ones that spark action, reinforce your message, or help your audience to get a glimpse of the real you.
- Use your voice to animate your story.
- If you are presenting data, facts, or insights, share the stories behind them.
As you craft, prepare, and practice your presentation, don’t think about technology. Instead, focus on how you will connect with your audience.
For more on the power of storytelling, see 6 Examples Of Genuis Brand Storytelling You Have To See.