The mindful way to crafting and delivering a brilliant presentation

Have you been on the recieving end of a brilliant presentation recently?

Perphaps you’ve given one yourself.

Either way, you’ll know that giving a brilliant presentation at work isn’t easy.

It doesn’t involve reading slides, speaking in a monotone voice or dumping data on fellow professionals; that’s very easy to do!

The reality is, no one really wants or expects you to give a brilliant presentation. They simply want you to share your knowledge, information and insights in a way that connects with them.

In an age where we are all overwhelmed with information, the only way we can truly connect with each other both in and out of the workplace is mindfully.

Back in 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek suggested there were around 350 PowerPoint presentations made every second across the planet.

That was 2012 (a lifetime ago already) and that was just PowerPoint!

Can you imagine what that number looks like today?

You don’t have to use visuals to give a brilliant presention.

If you’ve decided that visuals will add considerable value to your audience, there are a host of other types of software available to you today.

Here are just a few alternatives to PowerPoint:

Piktochart

Prezi

Google Slides

Adobe Spark

Apple Keynote

Beautiful.ai

What about all of those presentations that aren’t supported by any slides?

There are countless presentations made all over the world every day. I can’t imagine that anyone could put a number on how many.

The question is, putting aside the thought of a brilliant presentation, how many are truly effective?

No matter who you are, what you do or where you are, it’s getting harder by the day to avoid either being called on to make a presentation or to having to sit through one.

If you are called on to give a presentation I would encourage you to seize the opportunity. See it as a means of making a difference to your audience. Standing in front of a group of fellow human beings to share your own voice on a topic close to your heart is a real privilege. After all, how many other opportunities are you given in an average week to have the undivided attention of an audience to be heard?

Here are few key thoughts to help you mindfully make your presentation count.

Surprise your audience

The world appears pretty much divided on suprises; some of us love them and some of us hate them. When it comes to presenting, mosts audience welcome a surprise.

The hallmark of a brilliant presentation begins when you were expecting to be bored to tears, to quickly find youself feeling really pleased to be in the room instead. For that to happen, it has to start immediately, don’t wait to share your suprise.

As the late, great, Dr Stephen Covey once said, ‘Being with the end in mind.

You have no more than the first 60 seconds to launch that surprise; so say or do something you are certain they won’t expect.

I don’t mean juggling or sword swallowing, unless it’s relevant to your message of course.

– If you are using slides, ditch the bullet points and think like a designer.

– Tell them something big, powerful and relevant that they don’t know.

– Reveal a truth, fact or statement that will get them thinking.

– Make them smile

– Ask a thought provoking question

– Tell a short, relevant and compelling story

– Ask them to close their eyes and give them something to imagine

– Share a powerful quote

– Use humour

– Use props

Don’t make assumptions

Don’t open your presentation under the assumption that your audience already knows why they are there.

I can’t tell you how many presentations I’ve sat through where I thought I knew why I was there and what I could expect only to find out 20 minutes later I’d had it all wrong.

A brilliant presentation begins long before your audience enter the room, in person or online.

No one should turn up for your presentation without you giving them advance clarity of:

– What you’re going to speak about

– Why you’re going to speak about it and have called them together to listen

– Why they should care

– What is so important that you couldn’t just send them an email

– What the future could look like for them after your presentation

Don’t assume that it’s all going well; check in with them throughout the presentation.

– Someone yawns

– Someone looks at their mobile phone

– Someone whispers to the person sitting next to them

Don’t assume that they are bored or that you’ve lost them. Human beings yawn, are addicted to their phones and love to whisper, its quite normal.

If however, everyone is yawning you need to either open a window or raise your game.

Give them permission to stay

We live in an information age.

Every day, each of us are bombarded with data, ideas and suggestions of different and better ways to think and live.

People are busier now than at any other time in history; time is precious and life is short, so let’s respect each others time.

Once you’ve opened your presentation and grabbed their attention, make a bold statement offering the opportunity to leave anytime they choose if they decide that what you have to share is of little perceived value to them.

You may wish to add the caveat that they may miss out if they leave prematurely!

Give them permission to stay and also to leave with the promise that you won’t hold it against them.

That may sound outrageous but then why wouldn’t you?

If you’re at home watching TV and weren’t getting anything from it, you’d switch channels or leave the room to make a cup of tea. You can’t suddenly switch channels during a boring or irrelevant presentation so why wouldn’t you just leave the room. Of course, you wouldn’t want to hurt the speaker’s feelings or appear disruptive or rude so convention says you stay put, grin and bear it. After all you’re not at home in your PJ’s and this is business.

Give them permission to stay or leave.

That means you have to get to the point quickly.

Get to the point!

Your audience really don’t care how many offices you have, how many widgets you make and what all the letters after your name stand for.

Get straight to the point instead.

If you have something to say that doesn’t support your message or help your audience in anyway then don’t say it.

Put yourself in their shoes:

– Ask yourself what they need to know and why they need to know it

– Ask yourself whether the point or fact is completely relevant to them

– Ask yourself what you would say and do differently if you only had half the time to present.

– Ask yourself how this totally supports your message

– Ask yourself why they should care

– Ask yourself how you will respond if someone asks, ‘so what, why are you telling me that?’

– Ask yourself how your presentation will make their lives better, easier, happier or positively different in some way

– Ask yourself how you want them to feel

– Ask yourself if you could listen to yourself for that length of time

Many professionals present their ideas as though they are comedians; I don’t mean they think they are funny. A comedian makes her living and achieves success by saving the punchline for the end.

Professionals need to deliver the punchline up front and get to the point. Your audience won’t thank you for making them wait.

Keep it short

If you are given 30 minutes to speak try to finish in 20; your listeners will love you.

Brevity and focus is paramount when it comes to presenting. Once you’ve prepared your message be mercenary with it. Cut it down to only what needs to be said. You will have experienced for yourself that most presentations can actually be given in half the time allocated if prepared mindfully.

– If you are using slides, use as few as possible.

-Make sure they are ‘clutter free’, simple and compelling enough to support the point you are trying to make.

The key to success is to make your presentation short, relevant, compelling and memorable.

A presentation without stories is a lecture

Regardless of how complex the message or data is that you have to share, if you don’t communicate it using stories then you are lecturing.

Unless you are at college or university most people don’t like to be lectured. In fact, I’m not convinced that students at college or university like it either.

It doesn’t matter whether you are the CEO or the call centre agent we are all hardwired to connect and respond to stories. Help your audience to relate to you and your message by sharing your personal experiences and use pictures to help bring those experiences to life.

Help them to feel as well as think

Most presentations need to be supported with some form or data or facts to achieve credence; that’s often a pre-requisite.

On it’s own it’s not enough.

Every presentation needs to make an emotional connection too. If you focus purely on achieving intellectual understanding alone, you will be doing your audience a disservice. They may be professionals but they are also emotional beings.

Your audience is always listening with two minds; their conscious mind and subconscious mind.

The conscious mind is the here and now thinking mind and the subconscious is the emotional mind. You can give a perfect presentation where your audience nod and smile in agreement with their thinking mind but unless they feel something they are unlikely to act on your message.

Decide in advance how you want them to feel and prepare and deliver your presentation with that in mind.

Most presentation blogs focus on creating the all- important first impression which is sound advice but let’s not forget the equally important need to create the lasting impression we wish to leave our audience with.

How do you want them to feel as they walk out of that door?

If the idea of crafting and delivering a brilliant presentation appeals to you and you need some help:

– Get yourself some mindful presentation skills training.

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some good one to one public speaking coaching.

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and public speaking coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Image: Courtesy of istockphoto.com

Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.