Make Your Presentation Count

Ever get that sinking feeling when listening to a presenter give a presentation which word for word is reproduced on their PowerPoint screen presentation?

Aside from the problem of viewing wordy screens at the back of an auditorium, nothing is designed to turn an audience off more than repeating what they have already seen with their own eyes and digested, particularly as a human's mental ability to scan and digest information on a screen is considerably quicker than the time it takes for someone to read out the information. Don't fall into this same trap. Make your presentation count.

So how do you make your presentations engaging and, at the same time, informative, without being over wordy and repetitive?

Like writing a novel, we are all taught a presentation should have an introduction, main contents and a conclusion but do you really need to highlight in writing on a slide a summary of the contents of your talk? This may be useful to you as a presenter, when creating your presentation and but not to your audience. So ditch the mundane contents slide in favour something more eye-catching and engaging. Make your presentation count by making sure it stands out from the crowd.

One of the best introductions to a presentation I have ever come across was given at a presentations training session. The trainee in question turned her back on the audience and started her presentation, as if she was umpiring a tennis match at Wimbledon. Within the first 10 seconds everyone was glued to their seats wondering what was coming next. Great way of engaging an audience right from the word go. Why on earth was she at a training session? Well might you ask - we all did! Well, she was there because she was very self-conscious of her South African accent and wanted to overcome this.

Another presenter I know, who regularly makes presentations at international maritime conferences, uses a collection of hats from different countries throughout his presentation, tying in the hats he wears during the different segments of his presentation with what he is trying to convey both onscreen and verbally. For example, if he is mentioning something relating to maritime matters in the USA, he will depict a baseball cap on screen and wear one; during another segment he might end up showing on screen and actually wearing a hat with cork screws. You get the picture!

I once gave a joint presentation, with a former boss, at an international conference which we based on a question and answer session on the events leading up to a maritime accident and the measures put in place to mitigate the future risk, with me dressed up like Anne Robinson from the Weakest Link.

Don't be afraid to think out of the box and engage your audience, whatever the occasion and make your company name and presentation the one they continue to talk about in the days or even years to follow.

Another tip - We are all guilty of using achronyms - far more than ever these days. Don't assume your audience knows what an achronym stands for. Make sure you use it's meaning in full at least once during your talk. I once sat through a whole MSC lecture at a top university in the UK trying to work out whether the lecturer when using the term INS in relation to the cockpit of commercial and military aircraft was talking about Integrated Navigation Systems or Inertial Navigation Systems, which use the same abbreviation.

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