“The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”
A couple of weeks back now, I was fortunate to attend the MARCOM 2009 conference, courtesy of IABC/Toronto (thank you!). While I was excited to learn new social media strategies from such speakers as Rahaf Harfoush, who was a member of Obama’s New Media Team, and Louise Clements, head of sales at Facebook in Canada, it was the presentation by Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications, and a member of the CBC’s The Dragons’ Den, who most impressed me. It wasn’t just what she said, but how she said it. The woman gives good powerpoint! Strong visuals with clear and simple messages. This got me thinking that while the content of presentations about communications have changed in the past few years with the advent of social media, the fundamentals of good presentations have not.
So after weeks of attending many, many talks here’s what I think makes for ones that stand out:
1. Speak at a pace people can understand. If you feel the need to speed up your presentation in order to fit it all in, it’s likely you’re trying to cover too much for the time allotted to you. Besides, most people can only remember a few points from your presentation. So if you focus on three points and use examples, and even better stories, to illustrate your points, you’re much more likely to deliver the message you want to deliver.
2. Step away from the podium.This works best if you have a portable microphone, but even if that’s not available, most people can learn with practice to project their voice sufficiently so that they can at least have some interaction with the audience.
3. Use minimal words and exciting visuals on your slides. In a 140 character universe, it behooves us to figure out a way to communicate our messages without writing paragraphs of text on our Powerpoint presentations.
4. Be confident or act as if you are.Even if you’re nervous as heck, it’s unlikely your audience is aware of that. One trick is to monitor your thoughts. Most often anxiety comes from thinking more about yourself than about giving your audience the information they need.
5. Make your presentation about your audience. Sure you’ve been invited to speak because you have powerful examples of Facebook or Twitter or e-mail campaigns. But it’s helpful to remember the first rule of communications: WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?) Taking some time to make recommendations as to how the people listening to you could use similar techniques with their own campaigns, is helpful to make that bridge.
6. Ask good questions. Arlene Dickinson presented four questions for the audience to consider during her talk. A key one that left me thinking was “If you asked your people what the pupose of your organization is would you get a consistent answer?” She then provided examples of Porsche = fast and Volvo = safe. It prompted me to think about my own company and those of my clients.
7. Use simple clear images. Actor Marlo Thomas illustrated this once when I heard her speak at the Unique Lives and Experiences series at Roy Thomson Hall. Involved with raising money for a children’s hospital, she told the story of how she arrived at the hospital one morning to see a celebration of what she thought was someone’s birthday with cake, balloons and children laughing. But when she asked whose birthday it was, she was told that they were actually celebrating one boy’s last day of chemotherapy. Pass me my cheque book please!
What are your tips for giving good presentations?