“Short and Sweet: A Guide to Presenting!” by Sian Reilly

Are you a slide slave? …
I admit and confess to being a slide slave and this particular point I struggle with immensely. Presenting is about perfecting your thoughts; not your slides. Therefore, it does not matter how many slides you create if you have not created your presentation speech. This is because in a presentation you should aim to talk to the audience and not depend on your slides.

Distracting or Engaging?? Debate endures
Another hot topic is whether to even use a presentation at all. Some regard basic public speaking to be the most effective as there are no distracting elements such as zooming, which could detract from the important points. A dynamic speaker is one that connects to the audience, and if these effects prove to be a barrier to that connection you should seriously evaluate why you are using them. Furthermore, software like Microsoft PowerPoint can often feel impersonal or generic to an audience and result in disengagement. The principle is therefore simplicity produces clarity in communication.

Visually Veracious
However, I am pro-presentations as a visual learner. Moreover, in terms of retaining knowledge, in a lecture-styled approach only 5% of knowledge is retained. In contrast, by employing audio-visual 4 times more knowledge is retained, so to retain veracious (accurate) knowledge get visual!

Retain or wane in vain
Yes, I know the rhymes are terrible… but let us continue; perseverance in is in the STEP acronym after all…
Demonstrations, discussions, practical work and teaching others are also vital in retaining knowledge; by teaching others 90% of knowledge is retained. Nevertheless, it is often hard to implement the ‘teaching others’ style in a presentation format.
On the bright side, you can make your presentation more interactive by adding videos, invite a member of the audience to be involved (a ‘lucky’ volunteer), welcome questions throughout your presentation, include props and a summary competitive quiz.

Break it down!
Even if you cannot dance, I assure you that you can break it down. Welcoming questions throughout your presentation is vital as the audience typically disengages after ten minutes. By taking gentle breaks in your presentation to interact with your audience, thereby incorporating them into your presentation, they will be more engaged. Tools such as sli.do enable audience members to ask questions anonymously so even reticent audience members can participate in the discussion.

Silence I say, Silence in the House! *judge bangs hammer*
Ralph Waldo Emerson once declared:

“The most precious things in the speech are the pauses.”

The success of any presentation is ultimately judged not by how much knowledge you send out but by how much knowledge the audience listening receives. Pauses are therefore absolutely essential. As in music, pauses allow the audience time to reflect and process what has been said or discussed. This time allows the audience to form their own opinions and develop questions to ask the presenters.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”- Dr. Maya Angelou (1928 to 2014)

Finally to connect to an audience you have to make them feel an emotion. If you can evoke an emotion, audience members will feel more of a connection to you and thus remember your presentation more. In order to evoke emotion, you can tell personal stories to illustrate your humanity. To emotionally connect with your audience, you can also choose a colour palette that psychologically resonates to the culture and demographic of your intended audience.

I generally use Prezi as a tool as I find it much more than Microsoft PowerPoint. This is mainly due to Prezi’s ability to present a non-linear story. A non-linear story is much more understandable as it illustrates the relationships, a mind map linking your ideas to give the audience an overall picture. This also enables you to create a more customised presentation that is based on the audiences’ interests, which they will therefore more easily appreciate and thus remember. Other tools I have also used are Visme and Emaze.

Further Reading…