Presenting More Visually
In this article we look at how to present in a more visually appealing way, which for many readers will imply using more pictures and fewer words on slides. Yes, that is one aspect, but also you as the presenter can be more visual. What is the benefit of presenting more visually? We human beings are all different in the way we react to presentations, but a static presenter with no slides or props, droning on in a monotone voice is surely one of the big turn offs. In cases like this, the topic has to be so important and mesmerising that you still focus on what is being said. No matter how brilliant your ideas are, if you’re not able to present them in a way that engages your audience – whether they are prospective customers, corporate decision-makers or investors – you probably won’t get the response you’re looking for. Using a fresh approach when delivering presentations is not only important, it’s vital to success.
What can make your presentation more captivating? Think for a moment of a presentation that you attended that you were really impressed by. What made it so good and why did you listen? Conversely, think of a really dull and boring presentation that you have attended. Why were you not interested in it? Assuming that the topic was of interest, otherwise you would probably not have attended in the first place, why did it not captivate you? What can you remember from it? You probably remember little or nothing of the actual content, but more of the bad delivery experience.
A presentation needs a start, middle and an end, just like a journey. For example the end goal is a weekend in Paris and the start point is London and the preparations. On the journey they will pass through the stations such as Ebbsfleet, Ashford, Calais and Lille. Plan the end and your closing speech with the key points that you want them to take away with them. Then work on the start and the introduction to the topic – how you want to get their attention and how you will be presenting the journey they take through the middle with you. Take the key points from the end and make them the signposts or markers for each of the middle sections, in this example the key topics in the middle section are the stations.
Many presentations are given to inform, persuade and inspire. Where are they now, where do they need to be and how do you inspire and persuade them to take that leap to transform their world? Let them understand that they are on the journey with you, that they need to listen and follow the signs to get to their goal.
These are here to support you, not to tell the whole story with you just turning the pages. Make them graphical and use images that are not too complex, but will enhance the words that you deliver and, of course, images provoke thought. An image in addition to words is easier to remember than just the words. Also consider a punchy mnemonic to aid memory retention. Help your audience remember in some way, such as the X and Y axes – which is which? The X-axis is across (a X, a cross) and the Y-axis ends in the sky. Have you heard of the 10-20-30 rule? A PowerPoint presentation should have no more than 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes and have no fonts smaller than 30 points. Another guideline is the 6-6-6 rule where there are no more than 6 bullet points per slide and each bullet point has no more than 6 words and there are no more than 6 ‘word’ slides in a row.
Use objects in your presentation. As an example, if you were explaining the solar system, you could use props such as a tennis ball, melon or golf ball to show relative sizes of planets. Involve the audience in holding some of the props, too, then they become part of the delivery.
How about a break for both you and the audience by introducing a video? This will also give you time to look at the audience and see their reactions.
Think of stand-up comedians. Some sit on a stool in the centre of the stage and never move from the spot. They tell their stories and jokes from a static position, but the way they say things and what they are saying are why we listen and pay attention. They are entertaining us. Other comedians move around the stage and focus their attention on and talk to the people in various parts of the audience. If you do this in your presentations, people will pay attention and will not want to be caught dozing off. Remember to make eye contact with people in your audience as failure to do so can convey a touch of dishonesty or lack of willingness to connect with them. Don’t forget to switch your attention from one person to another, do not focus on one individual too much and similarly do not omit anyone.
Movement is quite important as we retain information better if the stimulus to the brain is not just the words. People pay more attention to moving objects than static ones. Move around the stage, use your arms to point to the sky, draw circles in the air etc to emphasise your points. Remember that the larger the audience the more exaggerated your movements need to be.
Move into the audience and walk around amongst them if the setting allows, but remember to check the microphone and technology can cope with your mobile presentation.
Why are the audience there? Keep them motivated to travel with you on that journey from the start through the middle to the end. What’s in it for them? Remember your key points and use them as the signposts along the way. The audience will be motivated to tick off the stations as you pass through them and gauge how far they have travelled already and the distance they still have to go. The structure forms a way of mental clock-watching.
Some years back running a Word course covering intermediate features used in creating long documents, I felt that there was a need for the participants to have something to aim for and to be able to visualise that. At the start of the course, we would sit and have a coffee and on the coffee table were 3 or 4 books, such as a cookery book with recipes, a gardening book on creating a cottage garden, woodworking and making simple items of furniture, the planets and constellations, home furnishings, etc. They were invited to browse through and see the structure of the books with the title page, table of contents, sections, chapters and index at the back together with the look of the titles and placement of images. Then they knew where they were aiming for when they created their ‘book’ on the course.
Have you ever sat there and heard the words “Let’s get someone from the audience to come on stage and assist”? There is perhaps a little ripple of panic in case they pick you, but then you think that they would never pick you and anyway it is probably already fixed and decided who they will pick, so you relax again. From a presenter’s point of view there is a visible stiffening of the bodies and shrinking in the seats when those words are said – and then you pick someone and the rest of the audience visibly relaxes and you can almost hear that united sigh of relief. Get several people involved to demonstrate your topic, such as holding the Sun, Earth, Moon and other planets and moving around to get the scale and distances as near as possible. Engaging the audience promotes interest in what you have to say.
Think about the information that you want to give in your presentation. Use a variety of different visual images, such as photographs, tables, diagrams, charts, drawings, key words, or video sequences. Then you as the presenter explain these images rather than the audience reading the words on screen and not listening to you.
Include a roadmap – the here and now, the future vision and the steps along the way to get there – and re-introduce this slide or image at strategic points along the way.
On a slide think ‘Single image, simple text’ – don’t overcrowd and confuse. You need to create an impact and get a reaction – that reaction being that the audience wants to hear what you have to say.
Your presentation should be like a novel that you cannot put down, always wanting to read the next chapter and see what happens next. Create your presentation as a story with the characters and events – bring to life the salesperson, the customer, the location and the interaction.
If you are mentioning any locations, such as clients, offices or outlets, show a map.
Consider issuing handouts at the end so that all the facts and figures are available to your audience and they do not have to memorise or write down during the actual presentation. Make this clear at the start of your presentation that handouts will be available and it is your choice whether you issue them at the start so they can add notes as you go along or the end.
Presenting more visually takes time and effort but the results are far better – having an audience engaged and informed is worth this additional effort.
Here is a link to the Visme website with some inspiring ideas for your presentation structure.