I was the guest speaker at a client’;s meeting.
When I was finished, I listened to two of the company’;s
internal speakers to learn more about their business.
Each speaker had approximately the same level of
presentation skills and subject knowledge and equally bad
PowerPoint. Yet, the first presenter was significantly
better received judging by the audience’;s attentiveness and
applause. So what made the difference?
The answer… The first speaker started his presentation
standing "center stage" and delivered his opening remarks
without any PowerPoint slides. He continued his presentation
from that stage position, and whenever he needed to show a
slide on the screen, which was also center stage, he moved
just slightly out of the way. Like the most important actor or
actress in a play, he took and held the most powerful position,
where all eyes could easily focus.
The second presenter started his presentation by standing
about a dozen feet to the right of the screen and continued
his presentation from that location until the very end. The
audience was forced to make a decision where to look — at
the screen or at the speaker. The majority chose to look at
the screen. It was like listening to a disembodied voice and
eventually many listeners began to lose interest and started
fumbling with cell phones, Blackberries, etc.
The point is simple — Start, finish and deliver most of your
presentation standing center stage. You are often the most
effective, and certainly the largest, visual aid. Act like you
own the room and you will command the attention (and the
retention) you desire.
Another tip Start strong! Many presenters begin their presentations with words like, "Thank you and good morning. It’;s great to be here in __________________."
While this is certainly polite and nice, it may be time for you
to consider a change.
Think about this… When you watch a movie made more than
twenty years ago, it will likely begin with a few minutes of
credits, listing the stars, director, producer and so on. When
you watch a movie made more recently, it will likely begin
with the story. The credits are shown a few minutes into the
film, after the movie maker has successfully grabbed your
attention. Attention spans have gotten much shorter and
movie makers are well aware of this.
There’;s a valuable lesson here that we can apply to our
presentations: Move the polite stuff from the very opening
of your presentation to a place AFTER you’;ve captured your
listeners’; attention. You can still keep the polite, "Thank you
and good morning. It’;s great to be here," but don’;t start with
it. Your listeners are typically distracted by other things they
must do later that day as well as cell phones, Blackberrys, etc.
Start your presentation that makes listeners think, "Wow.
This is different. I need to really listen to this person."
Imagine how much more powerful your presentation would be
if the first words out of your mouth are something like, "What
would it be like if everyone on your team communicated
clearly and confidently? What might happen to the productivity
in your department? What might happen to the bottom line?
Good morning. My name is _____ and today I’;m going to
provide you with the tools you need to…"
The bottom line: Start strong!