Category Archives: Presentations

360 – Tips for Successful Presentations 2

Free Resources: PDF Transcript | Quiz


Hello and welcome back to Business Skills 360. I’m Tim Simmons, and I’m glad you could join me today for the second part in our series on effective presentations. Last week, we talked about keeping it short, simple, engaging, and real. Much of that happens in the preparation. Today, we’re going to talk about what happens when you stand up in front of that audience and have to start speaking. Take a deep breath…

Your first goal should be to make a connection with each and every listener. That connection is the pathway along which your message travels. If you have a good connection, there’s a good chance your message will sink in.

To make this connection, you have to do two things: you need to control the audience’s attention and you need to engage their minds. Remember that: control and engage. And to do these two things, you have three tools: your voice, your props such as PowerPoint – and your body or movement.

Let’s start with your voice. It needs to be confident and clear. Show everyone that you know your stuff. Speak slowly and steadily. And remember that silence can be your friend. You need to pause sometimes to give people a chance to think. If you fill every space with your voice, you might start to get on people’s nerves, and the words won’t carry any power. Try very hard not to use “ums” and “ahs” when you’re thinking. Think silently, choose your words carefully, and deliver them confidently. Otherwise, people will tune you out.

When you speak, you should invite people into your presentation by asking for input. That means using questions. Ask easy ones so that people don’t have to think too much. Some of your questions can be open, to the entire audience. Some of them can be directed at specific people. Don’t move on until you get an answer. As soon as people start contributing by answering questions, their engagement goes up. They feel like they are participants, not just listeners.

The next tools are your props and visual aids. That could mean PowerPoint slides. But it could also mean a whiteboard, a flipchart, a wall chart, or anything else that people look at that is not you but is part of your presentation. The most important thing is that you use these aids. Don’t just let people look at the slides. The slides should help you illustrate your points. Don’t put up a graph and not explain it. It should be worked into your presentation.

These aids are useful, not just for giving information, but for keeping attention moving. Humans – and not just children – have short attention spans. They can’t concentrate on one thing for long. So you have to work with that, and take their attention somewhere else before it wanders somewhere else. Move people’s attention back and forth between you, your aids, other listeners, a handheld prop, back to you… and so on.

Now, your body, and what you do with it, is also important. I’m talking about body language and movement. Let’s start up top with the face. Firstly, make eye contact. Don’t just quickly scan the faces in the room. Look directly at an individual when you’re making an important point. That person will respond with his or her attention, and the connection will last. That person’s engagement in your presentation will shoot up. Try to do this with every individual in the room at some point. Okay… your face also includes your mouth. And what are you going to do with that? You’re going to smile. Sure, you’ve heard it before, but it’s easy to forget once you get nervous. The smile is universal. It has unique power to create a connection with someone. Just think about your interactions with others today. Which people smiled? What was the interaction like? I think you’ll see what I mean.

Using your body also means using movement. Do not stand in one place and drone on about your topic. Move around the room. Use the left side, the right side, and even the back of the room. This will help you control people’s attention. You must be dynamic. Remember that humans become quickly bored with something that doesn’t change. You can sit down, stand up, lean over a desk, or lean against a wall. Just don’t do one thing all the time. You are controlling their attention by moving it around. People will follow you with their eyes as you walk to the back of the room, then you can throw their attention back to your PowerPoint at the front of the room.

Right. We’ve looked at how you can use your voice, your props, and your body to control people’s attention and engage their minds. It takes practice, but if you’ve got a presentation that is short, simple, engaging, and real, then it’s a lot easier to do this.

That’s all for today. If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript. Thanks for listening, and see you again soon.

360 – Tips for Successful Presentations 1

Free Resources: PDF Transcript | Quiz


Hello, I’m Tim Simmons and you’re listening to Business Skills 360. We’re going to kick off the New Year with an insanely great show on presentations. But first, I want to wish you all an awesome 2011. Hopefully the coming year is unbelievably wonderful for you. I know it will be for me. Now, let’s get to all that awesomeness…

Okay. Forget everything I just said. I’m not Steve Jobs, and I don’t have a shiny “new” gizmo to show you. If I keep using words like “awesome,” you’re going to get sick of me really fast. You might have heard that Steve Jobs gives great presentations. Well, he can wow a crowd of people who already love Apple, but should we really try to copy him? His style and his adjectives don’t really work when English is not your first language. And they fall flat when you are an HR manager presenting a new compensation plan, or an engineer reporting change orders on a big project.

So exactly how can you make an impact? How can you tighten up your presentation so that it connects to your audience?

I’m sure all of you have heard of the mnemonic device KISS – short for “Keep it Short and Simple”. This is excellent advice for all types of business communication, and I completely agree with it. But KISS misses a couple of key points that you also need to consider so I’ve added these and now like to use KISSER- which stands for “Keep it Short, Simple, Engaging and Real.”

Let’s look at the first term: “short.” Many bad presentations have too much repetition or unnecessary information. People want what is important and relevant, and that’s what you should give them. Try this: after you prepare your presentation, go through and cut out 30%. You should be able to do that without damaging your central message. What remains will have much more impact because it’s not surrounded by fluff. This applies to PowerPoint slides, charts, and diagrams as well. As a general rule, try to limit slides to one per minute. And if your boss gives you ten minutes to speak, make sure you can do it in just five.

Next is “simple.” Simple means organized and clear. Start with the purpose of your presentation, which you should be able to summarize in one sentence. Something like: “make people understand that expenses are too high.” From that purpose, organize your ideas into three or four points. If you want, you can frame these points as questions, like this: “What expenses can we reduce? What expenses can we eliminate? And what are the long-term savings?” And tell your audience what the outline is at the start. If your questions are good ones, they’ll want to figure out the answers.

“Simple” also applies to your language and visuals. Don’t try to impress people with technical lingo. It won’t work. And keep PowerPoint slides simple. No confusing charts or graphs. Only the essential information, in simple form. The text on your slides should not be too hard to see, no smaller than a 30-point font. This will force you to keep the text simple. I promise you, people will appreciate that.

Okay, now we come to “engaging.” You need to catch and hold people’s attention. You want them to be interested. And how do we do that? In terms of what you say, there are a lot of great techniques that we’ll cover in our upcoming podcast series on impact presentations. They include repetition, rhetorical questions, metaphors, and visualizing facts and figures. One thing that is not engaging is information overload. Don’t overwhelm your audience. Use pictures and other visual aids to illustrate your points. If you’re doing a PowerPoint, don’t put two “informational” slides right after each other. Mix it up. Give some information, then use a picture to help people understand what you’re saying, then give more information. Being engaging also means being interactive. Ask questions. Look at people. Ask for input. Get people to do something besides just listen to you talk.

Lastly, you need to keep it “real.” If you start talking about things that nobody can understand, nobody can relate to, or nobody cares about, then you will lose your audience. Guaranteed. Try using an anecdote or story – a story that everyone can connect with, something that everyone experiences. Tell them why your topic matters. Tell them how it affects them, their jobs, and their lives. Connect yourself with the people and connect the people with the topic. Another part of keeping it real is working within your abilities. If you’re not comfortable telling a joke in English, don’t tell a joke. If you have to keep the words simple, keep them simple. Presentations are hard enough as it is. Don’t try to push yourself too far outside your normal communication style.

Right. Keep it short, simple, engaging, and real. If those words can describe your presentation, you’ll do great. You don’t need to use the word awesome. You can be awesome without it

That’s all for today. If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript. Next week, we’ll look at the actual delivery of the presentation. We’ll talk about what you should be doing when you’re in front of all those people. So long. See you again soon.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think PowerPoint is used effectively?
2. How long can you keep an audience focused during a presentation?
3. Think about the good presentations you’ve seen. What qualities did the speaker have?