Every year it was the same.
Like a kindergarten.
Experienced adults behaving like 4 year olds.
Celia kicked off her shoes and dropped her bag in the hallway. She headed directly for the mini bar and zeroed-in on a wine glass.
She poured herself a large serving of red and made her way to the balcony. The sun was setting in the distance.
The first mouthful of liquid warmed her throat on the way down.
There was something peaceful about being downtown and watching the peak-hour traffic as frustrated commuters hustled to get back to the suburbs.
The stress of the day dissipated as she considered the poor office workers, sitting in traffic, stationary all the way up South Figeuroa.
This year she found herself in LA.
Last year, Hawaii.
The year before that, Chicago.
Every year it was like babysitting.
Celia was the event organizer at multinational, Investec International, Inc. Every year they held a management retreat in an expensive hotel somewhere around the country.
The retreat was a chance for management to relax after a grueling year, network with colleagues from other branches, and deliver individual presentations outlining plans for their respective areas of responsibility.
The planning of the whole event fell to Celia. From securing accommodation and arranging retreat “activities”, to making sure all the managers were lined up to do their presentations on day 3 of 5.
Today was day 3. Celia’s worst day of the 5, every single year.
No matter how much advice and coaching Celia gave them it always a mess.
Some people forgot their slides, some people lost their cue cards, some people hid under their beds and required hours of coaxing to come down.
The presenters who did remember their slides and weren’t hiding under furniture were horrible.
The presentations were boring and choppy, and left their audiences none the wiser.
Always bedlam and always full of drama.
As Celia refilled her glass, she thought about how to improve those terrible presentations that assaulted her eyes and ears all day.
All presenters had been too formal and too worried about making a mistake.
If she had had time, there are 4 simple tweaks she would have asked of them to make their presentations awesome.
1. Speak from memory
Throw the script and cue cards away and speak from memory.
When you speak from memory, you sound genuine.
When you speak from memory, your body language is natural.
When you speak from memory, your credibility goes through the roof.
Don’t believe you can do it? Here’s the step by step process:
2. Open with understanding
When I’m sitting in the audience, I don’t want to be lectured to about what’s changing in the department. I don’t want to hear about the improvements our team “must” make.
That stuff puts me to sleep.
I want be in presentations where I know the presenter understands me.
I’m guessing you feel the same.
If all audiences feel like this, why do presenters insist on lecturing, reading bullet points, and inducing comas?
It’s because they just want to get it done and get off stage.
Trouble is, presenters who just want to “get it done” are rarely listened to.
If you want your audience to listen to you, you need to empathize with them. You need to show you understand them.
If you can put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and frame your delivery accordingly, you’re more likely to get listeners who will buy in to your ideas.
3. Bullet points, schmulet points
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
Bullet points suck.
They’re great for documents. Great for making a lot of information more readable.
The key word in the last sentence is “readable”.
Your slides shouldn’t be readable.
You should be listenable.
If you’ve got a simple list, like “Red, Black, Blue” then bullet points are acceptable.
If each point requires elaboration and explanation, ditch the bullet points. Give what was each bullet point it’s own slide. Show a visual representation.
Practice explaining rather than reading.
Should you choose to fill your slides with bullet points, while you read them your audience are counting down the seconds until you get this the hell over with.
4. Close on a positive note
“Thank you very much for your time ladies and gentlemen.”
The end of your presentation is a time to reinforce everything you covered in your presentation in a positive way.
Instead of the usual boring garbage, try closing on a positive note:
“Now I’d like to handover to you and ask you to join me for the most ambitious change initiative this company has ever undertaken. Let’s do it together!”
What do think? Let’s chat in the comments below…
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