Feel those tense muscles relax; you are finally through with your presentation. Brush the dust off your shoulders. “I did well.” A few minutes later that self-assurance might falter to “I hope I did well,” or perhaps you are the sort who heaves a sigh of relief as soon as you are through with presenting. Your colleagues might give you a rallying smile or thumbs up, your boss might pat you on the back, but you just cannot shake the image of that one person who yawned while you were switching slides, you cannot forgive him for starting the massive chain reaction that always ensues when one rebellious yawner starts the contagion. Then again, you may argue the sanity in fixating on one bored listener, and feel perfectly content with your skills, but the possibility of more bored listeners and suppressed yawners out there in the audience is unsettling.
Here are five things nobody tells you before you start giving presentations. These may be things you’ve never realized, or they may be things you are aware of, but perhaps overlook.
1- They are looking at the clock
As entertaining as you might think your presentation is, there will always be someone who glances at the clock. The normal attention span of the smartest and most focused people does not exceed 20 minutes and considering the majority of your audience does not have fall under the criteria of “smartest and most focused people” it is safe to say after the first 10 minutes someone in your audience is thinking about a sandwich. As a presenter, it is your job to ensure that your presentation is engaging enough to override your listener’s intrinsic need to deviate their attention to things that are in the back of their mind.
Guy Kawasaki provided a very insightful remedy for this problem. The 10 20 30 rule, where he suggests that a presentation with no more than 10 slides, under 20 minutes and under 30 point font will make this best presentation where your listeners are least likely to lose interest.
2- You’ve got to use your body language, hah!
Have you watched The Little Mermaid? Assuming you haven’t, the storyline involves an evil half-octopus witch, Ursula, who trades the mermaid heroine’s voice for legs so that she can go woo her prince charming ashore. When the mermaid asks how she was going to get her man without her voice, Ursula gives us the most important piece of advice: “You’ve got to use your body language!”
Now this is a major lesson Disney teaches that many of us overlook. A person’s body language conveys a lot of energy. Primitive animals depend on body language for communication and humans are no different. Our evolution has innately enabled us to pick up on small gestures that can give off positive or negative vibes. There are a lot of materials available online about how Open Palm Gestures, Closed Palm Gestures, and a person’s stance can affect their audience.
Start by analyzing your own gestures. Practice in the mirror, observe yourself, ask other people how they felt when you said a point in a certain way.
These might seem like small changes, but the only thing separating two states in the United States is a white line across the road. Perhaps your body language is the gateway to a better presentation.
3- They don’t read the text
Those hours you spent grueling over the right bullet point, typing out the explanation? Surveys show that most people do not read the contents of a slide if they are in long bullet points or paragraphs. Your ability as a presenter should be such that you should be able to use minimal written words to channel people towards a certain train of thought.
The time you spend on typing those bullet points should be spent trying to make a killer explanation orally of what you want to convey. The art of presenting lies in storytelling. Notice how people would much rather watch the movie adaptation of a book rather than the actual book? That is because it is easier and much more memorable to have a story told to you with the characters pre-imagined, and the ideas already conceptualized, than to read and do those things for yourself.
For a presentation that stimulates your audience towards the topic at hand with precision requires few words and more associations. Explain your different concepts through incidences and relatable situations. This will make your presentation memorable, as well as make difficult ideas easier to comprehend.
4- Color your plate
A healthy diet requires you to “color your plate”—the more colors you have, the better your diet is. The same goes for presentations: the more visually stimulating a presentation is, the more likely it is to grasp your viewer’s attention. The right combination of font and contrast can take a presentation from dull and boring to interesting and exciting.
Bright and theme-appropriate colors can make your presentation more memorable. A score of premade templates are available on Prezi that can be personalized or used as they are till you get the hang of how to maneuver colors to your advantage.
5- YOU are the Animation
Although people generally know how to use the Animate feature on their presentation software, a heading flying in from a different direction does not a good presentation make.
Animation of a presentation has now upgraded to incorporating cartoons and movies in presentations that are related to your topic of discussion. This unorthodox presentation that is a little more casual, in fact, keeps attention focused. Through using video clips and animated texts, you are able to divert your viewer’s attention away from yourself while still keeping them on track with the main topic of the presentation. The animation does not just include your slideshow; it has a lot to do with you as well. This is where the subject of Body Language arises again. Just as small body gestures can change the way people view your presentation, alteration in tones of voice and pitch also come under animation.
Changing the tone of voice in which you deliver your presentation can change your presentation and its viewing.
Sounds pretty easy, I’ll bet. But in effect it is harder to pull off when you have limited tools and a little practice in using the old software in unorthodox ways. Perhaps it is time to take a look at new presentation software as well. Take Prezi for instance, all the criteria above (apart from the body language of course) can be manipulated with ease using this user-friendly presentation software.
Go on, give it a shot. Practice and make perfect your presentations by harnessing your own personal skills and your presentation-making skills.