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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Practically Perfect Presentations

The new school and university terms are approaching, so it is a good opportunity to reflect a while on the elements of excellent presentations.

With this in mind, I asked a few people with greater knowledge of the subject than me to share their words of wisdom.  These are people whose work on this subject I respect and / or who I have seen live and thought "I wish I could do that!"

I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for contributing their thoughts.  I hope you find their ideas as valuable as I do.

Professor Margaret Talbot, President of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE), the worldwide umbrella body for sport, suggests:

"Always respect your audience, and make sure you are well prepared for both the topic and the audience.  So many people think they can 'wing it', and it is always obvious when they do!"

Andy Reed OBE, former Member of Parliament, now the Director of SajeImpact Ltd, works with a number of sports and charitable organisations, and is the chair of the Sport and Recreation Alliance.  Andy wrote:
"Know who your audience are and what their knowledge and expectations will be.

"For me it's about sharing a passion for a topic and therefore being enthusiastic and authentic.  It's about being aware of strengths and weaknesses and being prepared for different situations. I am poor at formal presentations without detailed notes, but prefer minimal notes/ PowerPoint when its more informal and a subject area I know well.

"Be prepared to alter direction.

"I always personally prefer Q&A as a large proportion of the talk - getting to understand what people want to know - it's about dialogue. Not just imparting everything you know!

"So know your audience, be yourself and authentic, prepare to the right level for the event, be authentic and engage."

Hiran Ilangantileke is an accomplished Musician and Public Speaker. He has trained, facilitated and presented to a wide range of audiences from Media companies to High Risk Organisations. As a professional commercial Musician he has engaged crowds of many thousands.

"My top tip for being a great presenter?…..Prepare for Presenting as you would for any major performance of skill.

"Consider the effort spent by an Athlete or Musician preparing for their, often, very public performance. An Athlete will know their event, a Musician their song and accordingly, a Presenter needs to know their material. This is Fundamental preparation, but is it enough to be a great communicator?

"To make presentations sparkle I often adapt a simple mental rehearsal technique from the world of sports. The best time to do this exercise is the night before your presentation, after you have revised your material.
  • The most important step is to set a good psychological and physical state. For most people this means to relax, but choose the state you want to carry into the presentation and transmit to the audience. Ask yourself, what state or personal qualities will elicit the response that you want from the audience? e.g. if you want your crowd to be motivated/inspired/relaxed etc. what state should you be in?  Your breathing rate is the foundation to your psychological and physical state, change your breathing – change your state.
  • Once you have set your desired state, close your eyes and mentally rehearse the presentation (performance) whilst all the time maintaining your state, as indicated by your breathing rate. Start the mental movie well before you’re in front of the audience. Rehearse everything from approaching the stage to leaving it. At all times whilst you are visualising, notice how your state supports your voice quality, recall of information, flexibility and overall, elicits the responses you want from the audience. It's okay if you don’t know what the room or audience looks like yet, just use your imagination. That said, it can be very powerful to run this technique whilst in the actual room you’ll be in the next day.
"Enjoy your great performance!"

Dr David Morley, from Leeds Metropolitan University, is an outstanding workshop leader. He stressed the importance of building rapport with the audience from the very beginning of a presentation:
"Engage everyone with eye to eye contact in the first minute of the presentation."

Finally, Daniel Coyle is the author of the excellent The Talent Code, and one of the masters of communicating the art and science of outstanding performance.  Daniel offered advice for putting mistakes into proper perspective:

"Always remember that mistakes aren't verdicts - they're information to help you make the next reach."