Part 1: How to prepare your content
Presenting and public speaking are skills that can truly transform your career or business. They may not come naturally to you but, no matter what level you are at, it’s not that hard to become better at them.
All that is required to upgrade your presentation and public speaking skills is to:
- learn a few tips and tricks, as you will find in this series of articles;
- accept the initial discomfort of working outside your comfort zone;
- understand you may not be perfect at first (in the same way as with everything else you once started learning in life);
- use every opportunity to practice.
Just imagine what might be possible if you became more confident in presenting; if you were able to engage and influence an audience with your words, gestures and passion. As you improve your public speaking skills, you may even find yourself enjoying presenting.
In this series of articles, I will share my tips for creating and performing a top-notch presentation, whether that’s at work, in your business, social club or any other setting. They work for me and my clients, and I am sure they will work for you too!
Here is what I am going to cover in the four parts of this series:
Part 1: How to create your content
Part 2: How to keep the attention of your audience
Part 3: How to prepare yourself for your presentation
Part 4: How to manage your fear of presenting
So let’s start with Part 1: How to create your content.
1. Know your desired outcome
Start with the “why”. Why are you giving the presentation? The clearer you are about the outcome you want to create, the easier it will become to prepare an effective presentation.
An outcome of a presentation could be, for example, to:
- gain approval for a project
- make a sale
- communicate a new corporate policy
- collect ideas
- motivate the audience
Whatever your desired outcome, make sure that your presentation is focused on it and, where appropriate, communicates a specific message, call to action or request. At the end of your presentation, there should be no doubt about your message and what you want your audience to do.
2. Know your audience
It’s not rocket science to know that you need to adjust your communication style to your audience. If you speak to a group of software programmers, for example, you will probably use very different language than if you were to speak to a group of nurses.
Yet there is more to knowing your audience than adapting your language to theirs. I recommend that you put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their priorities and values. People are mostly interested in subjects that are relevant to them. The key to getting their attention is to position your agenda in their value system. You will create a much better engagement.
You may, for example, think that your presentation about the upcoming changes in data protection law is highly interesting; but your audience will probably nod off if they do not understand how those changes will impact on their life or business. Your job is therefore to help them see how understanding the upcoming changes in data protection law will help them hit their goals in business. Keeping them out of prison and preserving the value of their customer databases could be possible angles to get their attention.
The clearer you communicate how your content is relevant to your audience, based on their values and priorities, the easier it will become to engage them.
3. Collecting ideas
Once you know what you want to achieve with your presentation, and what your audience might be interested in, you are all set to create the content.
I usually start collecting ideas using mind maps (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map). It’s a creative way of gathering thoughts for a talk. It involves randomly writing down in a diagram whatever comes to your mind in relation to the topic of your presentation. You do this without any particular order to avoid restricting the flow of your imagination. Once I have collected enough ideas, I group and structure them in a logical sequence.
4. Creating a structure
I have heard people saying that an audience cannot remember more than three key messages. I am not sure how scientifically proven this statement is, but it makes sense to me.
I therefore like to stick to the following formula: I decide on one top-level message and break it down into three subpoints. To make those points really stick, it’s worth repeating them several times:
- At the beginning of your presentation, you tell the audience that you will cover points A, B and C.
- Then you tell them about points A, B and C in detail.
- At the end, you summarise points A, B and C.
If you stick to the simplicity of this structure, it will be easy for your audience to follow you and they will be more likely to remember your key points.
5. Pre-empt objections
Once you have completed the first draft of your presentation, put yourself in the shoes of your audience once more and think about all the objections or questions they may have. Then either improve your presentation to cover those points, or have answers ready for the questions that will come.
There is one more crucial element to creating your content, which is to include special elements that hold the attention of your audience and prevent them from nodding off while you are speaking. I will cover this in Part 2 next week.
In the meantime, if you would like to talk to me about ways to prepare an upcoming presentation or about improving your public speaking and influencing skills generally, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executive Career & Life Coaching for Masterful Living®