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PRESENTATIONS GUIDE: PART ONE (YOUR AUDIENCE)

18th June 2015

Here at Rima, we regularly create presentations for our clients, predominantly of the PowerPoint variety. Our experience and skill in this form of communication is strong, perhaps best shown by the fact that our chief presentation designer has built up significant airmiles attending client conferences around the world, to ensure, on the day, all presentations are as good as they can be.
 
Given the above, we’ve decided to create a short series of blog posts dedicated to ‘Improving the Effectiveness of your PowerPoint Presentations’, culminating in a presentation that will pull everything together to form a useful resource that you can regularly turn to for guidance.
 
To begin with we are going to take a step back from the actual presentation ‘doing’, and take a look at how you should approach presentations. So, without further ado, here’s our first post in the series.
 

Before you even load up PowerPoint and open up your slides…

Now, while we know that many PowerPoint presentations will simply be shared for digital consumption, PowerPoint presentations are a form of communication and so, like all forms of communication, are at their best when they are two-way.
 
The biggest mistake we see people make when approaching presentations, is failing to recognise that they are a two-way form of communication, and so they neglect to give their audience the attention they need.

Let’s be clear. A (PowerPoint) presentation is made up of three fundamental parts: you, your slides and your audience.

People tend to get so worried about themselves (how they will perform) and the audience reaction, that all of their attention goes on their slides, as a sort of coping mechanism (your slides are the element that you feel you have the most control over). Don’t get us wrong, your slides (content) are very important, but when you (the presenter) are agonising over layouts and typefaces, to the detriment of understanding your audiences needs, then you’re likely to be making things a great deal harder for yourself. Without wanting to sound ‘salesy’, that’s where external agencies can help.
 
The simple truth is that if the needs of your audience aren’t properly met, then there is a strong chance that they just wont listen to your presentation, which will probably reflect badly on you. The following are some things to consider in order to guard against this.
 

From the very onset be clear on:

 

Why should they trust what you have to say?

Inform the audience as to why they should see you as someone who is credible on the subject you are talking about. It’s about giving the audience a reason to trust in what you are saying. These days no one has the right to command anyone’s attention, no matter your position/label. Briefly demonstrate your experience and skill from the onset.
 
 

What’s in it for them?

Show that you have your audience’s interests in mind. Be crystal clear on the purpose of your presentation, and communicate what it is your audience is going to get by listening to you. You can bet your bottom dollar that when people get asked to attend (or read) a presentation they will want to know what’s in it for them, so that they can justify the giving of their time and attention.
 
 

What will the audience need to do/action after the presentation?

If an audience knows exactly where they stand from the very start, more of their attention will be spent on actually listening, not trying to work out why they are there and what they might need to do after.
 
 

Acknowledge your audience.

You’ve likely been involved in your fair share of presentations, either as the presenter or as a member of the audience; so one thing you’ll recognise is the need for an audience to be seen. This is evident when people ask sometimes difficult or silly questions, or make statements to undermine the presenter. They do so, just to be seen. The more an audience is ignored, often the more they want to be seen, and so the more difficult they can become, as a sort of pay back for being ignored.
 
Involve them throughout, ask for participation, or aim to build a connection with them by acknowledging something that is specific to them. If you can connect with them on a personal/emotional level then you are on to a winner.
 
It’s worth pointing out that when giving a presentation, it is as much about listening as it is talking. It may be strange to think of presentations in this way, given you are presenting and so doing the majority of the talking. But if you get too wrapped up in yourself and don’t listen to the audience, and acknowledge them, then you’re in danger of losing both the audience and the effectiveness of your presentation.
 
By and large audiences want presentations to go well, but as presenters you’ve got to do a bit of work to keep them on your side. often this simply involves showing them that you are listening to them. Listening is the most important element of any form of communication.
 
 

You are telling a story

We all know that storytelling is native to everyone. Each one of us loves a good story, which is why storytelling should be at the heart of all communications. Your presentation is no different. It should have a beginning, middle and an end. And like all good stories – as hopefully all the above points have made clear – it should make everyone feel like they are a part of it.
 
We’ll be focusing more on the storytelling aspect of presentations in our next post in this series, which you can read
here.
 
 

To conclude.

Communication should be a very simple process, however it seems most tend to try their best to overcomplicate it. And nowhere is this truer than with Powerpoint – again this is something we will cover in the ‘doing’ post of this series.
 
By thinking about your audience at all times throughout your presentation, and by placing their needs above those of your own, you’ll notice a big improvement in effectiveness.
 
Until next time…
 
Rima
 

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