Whether you’re up in front of a client, a networking group, or a conference audience, the success of your presentation depends on who you are as you present. It’s what’s in you that matters as much as what you do and say.
Your energy. Your enthusiasm. And I’m just going to come out and say it: your love.
I’ve upped my game in the past year when it comes to presentations. The outcomes have been striking. More visibility. More conversations with prospective customers. More word-of-mouth. More clients.
For this improvement, I have many presentation masters to thank, but two stand out: Nancy Duarte and Gail Larsen. Having these two as mentors through their books, videos, and coaching has made a huge difference.
So I want to share with you what I’ve learned that has made such a big difference in the responses I’ve been getting. They can do the same for you and your business!
1. Focus less on the head and more on the heart.
The heart rules. If you can touch people on an emotional level, you’ll be most of the way there. Those of us who’ve worked in a corporate setting in particular wrestle with this one. We’ve had it drummed in that it’s the information that matters most. I was a scientist, so I had a double dose of that medicine! Speak to the heart and you can’t go wrong.
2. Keep your visuals oh so simple.
I spent years as a consultant developing slides for my clients. One thing I always tried to teach them was the merit in keeping slide content as limited as possible. Those big tables with multiple rows and columns? Terrible for your audience! They’ll immediately tune out and you’ve lost momentum. You’ll have to work to regain their attention. It’s a lost opportunity!
Though I was always an advocate for simple slides, the benefits of what I used to do don’t compare to the audience response to the pared down approach I use now. Keep your slides limited to one image, or up to 5 words. That’s it. So so powerful. Your most important point will be made. You’ll make a much bigger impact.
3. Be aware you’re weaving a story.
People will always remember how you made them feel. When you tell a story, you bring them into an experience, one they will not readily forget. Whether the aim of your talk is to share data or a heartfelt experience, you’re weaving a story whether you realize it or not. The way our brains work, we fill in the gaps and apply our own knowledge and experiences.
When you realize how that works, it’s an opportunity for you to offer a different perspective, to expand their worlds a little bit (or a lot!). Share your own stories. They are a gift to others. Study movies for examples of stories. Listen to great speeches to learn their rhythms.
4. Cherish the vehicle for your presentation – you!
When you present, you have the opportunity to bring your whole being to it. Being attentive to that being will make you even more effective. Most people feel fear before they present. “Fear is excitement without the breath,” psychotherapist Fritz Perls reminded us. So remember to breathe.
Care for your precious, worthy self before a talk. Rest. Plan ahead so you arrive with a cushion of time rather than being rushed and stressed.
Decide how you want to show up in your presentation. Who do you want to be? Prepare your energy by meditating, affirmations, or a practice that resonates with you. I have a pre-presentation process that I do each time so that I’m present and at my best. You can create one too: include words, visualizations, and movement that prepare you.
5. Make your goal not information, but transformation.
Speaking to an audience, regardless of its size, is an opportunity for you to facilitate their transformation. Whether it’s a product or an idea that is the apparent subject of your presentation, you can bring the subject into a larger context, for yourself and your audience. What role can you play in raising people’s awareness? In shifting their view to healing and growing? You don’t need to change the whole world. Just change your own world for the better. Stay passionate about what calls you