3 Ways to Make Your Next Presentation Unique
Over coffee not long ago, a colleague mentioned she’d had difficulty with a recent presentation. “I confess,” she said, “I was reading my notes.” When I asked why, she said, “Well, I thought there were only going to be two other people in the meeting and more showed up. That threw me and I sort of panicked. Everyone was looking at me.”
Have you ever had that same feeling of dread? What happens when you’re in an important presentation and you’ve forgotten what to say? Of course, we’ve all had that feeling! When we’re panicked, it can feel as though what we intend to say just doesn’t come out of our mouths in the same way. The result: we resort to whatever feels most comfortable, naturally.
If this sounds familiar, here’s the news: you can make your own presentation feel more confident, unique and even enjoyable. The secret? Follow these three steps. Hint: it’s easier than you think!
1. Whatever you do, don’t read
I know, it sounds like simple advice. This is why it makes a difference.
Think about it: you’re presenting a business case to your company leadership, or to a client. You have a lot of information to relay and don’t want to leave anything out, so you read your notes. After all, you’re worried because you can’t possibly remember everything. Plus, 3 additional people you have never met are in the room. If you’re like many of us, you’re sure just reading through those notes will make you more comfortable- as it turns out though, it’s just making you feel more tense.
What’s the cure? Resist the temptation to read your talk. Sometimes, we feel that just seeing familiar words on the page (any page) will automatically ease those jitters. I’ve discovered two main issues with this approach:
· A pile of notes is not your friend and
· If you’re reading, you’re likely looking down and we can’t see your face.
When I first started training, I wrote everything – absolutely everything- out on a yellow legal pad. It took only about five minutes for me to discover that wasn’t a good solution: I wound up sifting through the pages and pages of notes vs. actually having a conversation with my audience.
What did I do? I tossed the notes and my conversation improved right away.
People can typically read your information for themselves in a handout or on your slides. What they want is to hear what you have to say, and they want to see your face – not the top of your head. Your job is to translate what’s between the lines and explain the “why” to them. If you have to refer to financial information, think about either providing a handout to your audience in advance, or extracting a small but relevant piece of information for your slides- then talk about it.
2. Let go of the podium
This one can be hard, but the solution works. When you use a podium for a talk or presentation, it’s natural to want to hold onto it with an iron grip, whether figuratively or literally. “Letting go” of the podium can be physical- when we don’t use a podium at all (my preference) and mental- when we don’t rely on it.
Early on, I was invited to introduce the main speaker at a large conference. My job was to do this onstage at a podium with a script, although that isn’t usually my first choice. Luckily, I was seated next to the speaker at lunch and we had a great chance to chat.
You can imagine what happened next: the lights dimmed, I climbed the steps to the stage, and the podium. Looking out at the audience, I saw only one bright spotlight- on me. And then I saw the little light (well, light bulb) on the podium sputter out just as I arrived. Since I’d had the opportunity to chat with the speaker, I was able to introduce him without any notes.
What was my result? I released what may have been my death grip on the podium and just talk. As it turned out, it was much more interesting than what was pre-scripted.
What’s the cure? Next time try letting go, literally. If you’re not comfortable yet going sans notes, think about using a second monitor or a white board placed directly behind your desktop if you’re doing a virtual presentation, or your laptop. Don’t write out every word on what you want to say- you’ll likely never see it and it will trip you up. Instead, use bullet points only, or try using Post-Its.
3. Have that conversation
The real key to making your own presentation unique is to start by thinking about it as a conversation. This is a whole lot easier after you’ve completed Step #1- stop reading and Step #2- letting go of the podium. Here’s what you can do now back in your office to make a difference in your next presentation:
First, make sure you know your content inside and out. Next, tear up your notes. Or at least put them aside. Now, practice explaining the impact of whatever you want to relay. You’re right: your audience does expect that you’ve done your homework and will have all of the necessary background information. But they don’t necessarily need to hear all of it. What they want to know is the “why”.
Once you have that down, the conversation is yours.
If you’d like to learn more ways to improve your presentation skills then get a copy of my new book Be Influential: Surefire Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills here: www.leadersexceed.com/be-influential
Or if you’d like to hear more about my 1:1 coaching or client workshops please do send me a DM to book in for a no obligation call.
What people are saying…
“I love good storytelling … and Shannon Alter is a very good storyteller. Shannon enhances this book with her passion, experience, empathy, and candor… and by painting a picture for the reader by drawing on her own personal stories; she invites us to ‘try on’ the concepts she is teaching, making them all the more relatable and immediately valuable. I was easily able to connect the concepts and stories with situations I have experienced in my life. I only wish Shannon had written this book 30 years ago!” -Barry Blanton, CPM®, Chief Problem Solver, Principal, Blanton Turner
“While reading Shannon’s book I felt like I was sitting across a small table from her while she was giving me one-on-one advice on how to be successful in every imaginable speaking opportunity. This book is filled with great stories and tips for both the beginner speaker and the pro.” -Richard Muhlebach, CPM®, CRE, RPA, SCSM, CRX, Vice President, Bond Retail