‘Passion beats Powerpoint’ and other tips for making better presentations
The secret to better presentations is to think like a marketer, says Rob Morrison.
You’ve heard it before. People are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. Yep, most people would rather die than stand up in front of a crowd. But it’s also true that presenting is a required skill in modern business regardless of your role or pay-grade.
So how do you make sure your presentation delivers? Is different? Memorable?
As marketers it’s really not a huge leap.
Let’s go back to marketing fundamentals – start with your audience. Remember the four ‘P’s from your first marketing text book? Product, price, place and promotion – the strategy for each always start with your target audience.
So let me add another one. Presentation.
Here’s my nearly 30 years of good, bad and ugly presenting, distilled down to eight simple marketing tips.
Every child wins a prize
Quietly make a note of who’s in the room. Are they senior or junior? Old or young? Male or female?
Who’s the decision maker? Who do you really want to impress?
Then make sure there’s a part of your presentation that directly answers their major concern. If there’s more than one decision maker pitch something individually to each. It will feed their ego and demonstrate you understand their priorities. Marketing 101 right?
But you’d be amazed how often presentations fail this simple rule.
People buy people
It’s amazing how often I still remind marketers that ‘business people are people too.’ Your workmates. Your senior management. Your clients. They all have hopes and dreams for themselves and their families. But all those dreams are dependent on their career – it’s why we’re all naturally risk averse.
If you’re pushing an agenda in your presentation, always understand they’re buying you as much as they’re buying your content. Be confident. Be understanding. Be authentic.
Passion beats powerpoint
One of my mentors tells an amazing story of a presentation he was giving when slides were still slides (for the Millennials, they were cardboard frames with a 35mm transparency enclosed).
As he was standing in front of 300 people he saw the projectionist at the back of the room drop the slide tray and simply shove the slides back in random order (again, millennials, imagine your powerpoint deck was randomly re-ordered). When he clicked from slide-to-slide he had no idea what was coming next.
The outcome? None of his audience noticed. Not one. He knew his material so well and was so passionate about his subject.
Do what you do
One of the best set-up men I’ve ever worked with used to claim this was his unusual pre-pitch routine. The night before he would drink a bottle of red then take a hot bath. He had the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans on the stereo cranked up to 11. Inevitably he would fall asleep. When he woke the water was cold and he was ready to kill something with his bare hands.
True or not, it doesn’t really matter, he did what worked for him. So find what works for you. A walk round the block. Sitting quietly in a corner. Anything that settles the nerves and feeds your confidence.
When they’re buying, stop selling
You’ll know when you’ve got your audience convinced of your major points. You’ll feel it. There’s a physical response. You’re automatically just a little more relaxed. A little more confident. The room exhales. This is actually a dangerous moment. The temptation is to keep talking. Keep selling. Keep pushing.
Trouble is, when you’re at the top of the mountain, the only way is down. Many times I’ve seen a decision-maker go from ’convinced’ to ‘concerned’ because the presenter didn’t quit while they were ahead.
Don’t tell me, show me
Ever hear this at the start of a presentation? ‘Thanks for the opportunity. We’ve put a lot of work into your proposal. We’re really passionate about this project.’ I’ve even used it myself. This bit is easy. Don’t tell me you’re passionate, show me.
Show me the amount of work you’ve put in. Show me how excited the entire team is. Show me you’re ready to start tomorrow. It’s significantly more convincing.
Learn to love silence
This is probably the single toughest presentation skill to master. When we get nervous our tendency is to fill silence with the sound of our voice. And presenting generates nerves. But if you can add silent pauses it provides a perfect vehicle for emphasis.
Your audience is not expecting it. It can snap them out of complacency.
Suddenly they’re paying attention again. There’s one creative director I know who uses this brilliantly. He’s naturally softly spoken. So his audience are already leaning in – simply so they can hear what he’s saying.
As marketers, we love research. We love to test and learn. We love insights from previous campaigns which help us make better decisions in the future. The same is true of presenting.
The more you do it, the more shortcuts you’ll find that work for you. The more you’ll feel comfortable being yourself. The more you’ll love silence.
But, if you do nothing else, always start with your audience. It works. Trust me, I’m a marketer.
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