Presenting? Follow these rules
Presenting is a great way to market yourself and get your message heard. But if you don’t follow some simple rules of presenting, you could waste the opportunity.
To ensure you make the most of your next presentation, follow these 5 rules:
- Respect your audience.
- Make a message map.
- Use visual aids well.
Respecting your audience when presenting
Have you ever attended a presentation where the presenter wasted the audience’s time? Respecting your audience is the golden rule of presenting.
Your audience members are just as busy as you are. If you don’t respect them, they won’t respect you, and you will lose the opportunity to get your story heard.
This means you need to know your audience. To whom are you presenting? Why would they come to your presentation? What are their demographics?
You can respect your audience by giving them the information they care about, engaging them rather than distracting them, and being present. For more on how to respect your audience, see this blog.
Make a Message Map
Even if you create your presentation at the last minute—which I strongly advise against—take the time to make a short Message Map. It will guide your presentation, keeping you on track and keep you from wandering off message and distracting your audience.
A Message Map focuses your presentation on your audience, so you tell them what they want to hear in words that will resonate with them. It also helps you speak their language—airlines offer low fares, but consumers search the internet for “cheap flights.” Make sure you’re using your audience’s language in your Message Map and presentation.
Use visual aids well
Since PowerPoint took over the world as the de facto visual aid for presenters, thousands of presenters have felt compelled to put almost every word they plan to say on their slides.
Instead of inspiring presenters to create proper visual aids, PowerPoint has become a crutch. If the words are on the slides, we don’t have to practice, we can just read the slides to our audience.
Avoid using your visual aids as a crutch if you want to respect your audience. Your visual aids are there to emphasize a point or help people visualize your point. Your audience should focus on you and not on trying to read your slides.
For more on using visual aids well, see this blog.
There’s a reason Malcolm Gladwell wrote the book Outliers: practice really does make perfect. Yet too many presenters skip this rule.
While your audience does not expect you to practice for 10,000 hours (unless you’re a famous musician), they do expect you to know your presentation and respect their time.
As soon as you agree to give a presentation, block time on your calendar to do the following:
- Make a Message Map.
- Create your presentation.
- Refine your visual aids.
If you can practice on someone who is similar to or will be in your audience, even better. Their feedback can help ensure your presentation will resonate with your target audience.
Prepare for presenting
Preparing for your presentation is different from practicing. Preparing means you dress appropriately and arrive early at the event (or prepare the space you’re presenting from if you’re giving a virtual presentation).
Arriving or setting up early gives you time to ensure you have everything you need and that the AV equipment is working.
Here are some things to ask yourself during preparation:
- If you’re using your own computer, is it fully charged, and are all the notifications turned off?
- Have you silenced or turned off your mobile phone?
- Do you have a glass of water nearby?
The last thing I always do before I begin my presentation is repeat the home base of my Message Map to myself. That ensures I’m focused on getting my story heard.
For assistance with presenting, messaging, and other communications needs, email me at email@example.com.
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