Presenters: what’s your most important visual aid?

Q: Is it…that funny video? Your pointer that lights up? Maybe it’s slide #1? Or your last slide? The ‘killer infographic’? Could it be the amazing way you’ve got the room all set up? Or the whizzy interactive app?

A: None of the above. It’s YOU, [your name goes here]. Yes, great visuals can help. ‘Pitch theatre’ can make a big initial impact. Interactive apps can be great with a large audience. But if you’re unprepared, your presentation will at best suffer – and at worst, fail.

And yet, what do most people do?
Spend ages – and ages – on the slides. Transitions, builds and animations. Let’s not forget the sound effects. Then there’s the time spent finding, downloading, editing and formatting pictures into the deck. Note that this time is almost always spent sitting down, staring at the screen. You’re preparing your slides – which is not the same thing as preparing your presentation. If you’ve ever sat through a presentation full of ‘um…’, ‘er…’ and the speaker constantly turning back to read their slides (also known as ‘death by PowerPoint’), you’ll know what I mean.

Prepare your #1 visual aid

How will you rehearse?
Chances are, you’ll know the basic narrative of your presentation, especially if you wrote it. But that doesn’t mean you can skip rehearsing. At best, knowing your stuff will get you through the middle – but your beginning and end need to be really strong. Instead of taking too long fiddling with slides, devote at least as much time to rehearsing what you’ll say and how you’ll say it.

How will you use the space?
This will depend on how much of it you have; a typical meeting room may provide a small area, but you can still move around. A big stage will provide more scope for movement – and demand it. I’ll never forget the pitch when the person presenting all the ideas paced around the room, showing and rapidly discarding the contenders that hadn’t quite made the grade. His energy and enthusiasm were infectious. You can ‘anchor’ a spot in the room when you make a point – such as ‘before’ – and return to it to reinforce the point. As your audiences will most likely read left to right, be sure to follow that direction. Anchor another point to their right as you build up to the ‘after’.

How will you use non-verbal communications?
This will depend on your objectives – what do you want to achieve? What thoughts and feelings do you need to evoke? Reflective, regretful, realistic, reasonable, reassured and ready to go? (and that’s just ‘r’.) Your facial expression, posture and gesture can go a long way.

How will you know you’re ready?
Participants on Zoomly’s ‘How to deliver presentations’ workshop always get my top tip: rehearse your presentation and film yourself on your smartphone. And yes, watch it back. Repeat three times. If you’re thinking “Oh no, I hate seeing myself on video…” remember your audience. You should be the first person to see your presentation – not them. If it’s a team presentation, film one another on each presenter’s phone and hand it back to them when they’re done.

Got a question about presenting? Get in touch to find out more about my workshops on creating and delivering a great presentation.

*You may find this post useful: ‘Creating a presentation? 3 things you must do first’

Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’




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Image credits:
Businesswoman presentation @rastudio-Depositphotos
Business work time @adekvat-Depositphotos
Think big! @jesadaphorn-Depositphotos
Happy businessman @mathibfa-Depositphotos





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