Practical tips for presenting
November 18, 2020

3 more practical tips for presenting in your business

By Paul Laughlin

Following on from the presentation advice shared by Kevin Watson & Tony Boobier, here are my practical tips for presenting.

I’ve previously shared the lessons that I’ve learnt on presenting from two great books. “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte and “The busy person’s guide to great presenting” by Lee Warren. In this post, I reflect on other tips I’ve learnt from experience.

In this post, I also want to acknowledge how we all fail to live up to the ideal and that’s ok. Both the books above offer tons of excellent advice and examples, but very few if any of us practice all of them. So, what simple tips can you actually manage to put into practice?

Remember your most important message

That might sound like advice from Captain Obvious, but I know from experience how it can help. It has saved me before in two situations. First, I was speaking to a new audience and wanted to improve their experience with more visual slides. So, I used lots of photos and other visuals. Far less text and no bullet points.

It made for a much more enjoyable experience for the audience (they told me afterwards). But, a few times as I got into my flow, I forgot what I planned to say. I find when I’m engaging with the audience I’m not able to focus on looking down at notes. Plus, without bullet points on the screen, there’s less prompt. What helped me was remembering my key message & structure. Then I could ad-lib effectively.

I’m sure like me you’ve also had the embarrassment of your Wi-Fi failing you at the worst possible moment. For me, that was right at the start of a training course. I got it fixed & with a backchannel (via a phone) managed to keep delegates updated on my progress during more lengthy introductions. But it meant I then had less time for all my slides. Remembering my key message & structure enabled me to swiftly flick forward to those that were essential and summarise on the fly.

Talking (well reading) of Mnemonics

If like me you can struggle with memorisation, I recommend reading about the experience of one journalist. Joshua Foer was reporting on the strange spectacle of a Memory Competition of the competitive circuit. He got so interested he looked into the history’s, got to know all the key players and eventually competed himself. You can read his engaging story & learn a bit more about developing your own Memory Palace in this book. But it is more of a novel than a textbook (which works):

Moonwalking with Einstein

One of the memory techniques discussed in the book is to associate the item to be remembered with a person and action. The more distinctive the personOne of the memory techniques discussed in the book is to associate the item to be remembered with a person and action.

Practice and record for backup

I recall having the importance of practice drummed into me many times during my life. I’ll admit I’ve rarely done it as often as I should. But with presentations, I have definitely seen the benefit. It is a very different experience creating slides to presenting them. You need to experience what is like to talk to them.

This year’s pandemic lockdowns & need to work from home has brought to life for me another benefit. That is recording your final practice. Once you are ready for your ‘dress rehearsal’, I’ve found it helps to dress as you will for the event & record it on Zoom (or Webex etc).

Not only does this approach help you remember what you’re going to say (as the experience & location are most similar to the actual presentation) but it provides a backup. I mentioned earlier that sadly things do go wrong. Even apparently reliable networks/routers fail. Often at the worst possible time. But you can look really professional by having sent in advance a back-up recording that can be played instead.

Add some topical examples

People like to feel like presentations are up-to-date and relevant. Changing only a few slides, images and references can make all the difference. I’ve seen before how including a recent headline or news story as a case study example goes down well with audiences.

In these days of remote presentation, it is even easier to ensure your audience can see timely examples. So, I recommend a fortnight before your presentation keeping an eye on the news and your favourite blogs/podcasts for examples to share.

This does not mean changing the structure of your talk just peppering it with obviously timely examples. One great proponent of this is Data Visualisation expert Andy Kirk. I have heard Andy present a number of times and even very similar presentations are always updated with recent examples. He includes images from TV briefings, blog and news sites. It really helps give the audience the feel of a speaker on top of their brief.

What other tips practical tips for presenting do you have?

Having read the advice from Kevin & Tony, plus my three tips above, can you fill in the gaps?

I’m having a busy week, so if I have time this week I will share more. But meanwhile, I am also keen to hear what tips you have found help you. What do you do to either improve your presentations or performance when presenting?

All practical tips for presenting are welcome – either in comments below or on any of our social media channels (listed on right hand side).