None of us likes taking criticism, but when it comes to delivering presentations, the only way we can improve is by inviting feedback from others. 

To give you an example, last week I took part in a seminar with three other speakers, and after the event we gave each other feedback on our respective talks. To summarise: 

Speaker 1 spent most of his time looking at the laptop in front of him rather than at the audience

Speaker 2 (me!) was “on red-hot coals”, moving about a lot

Speaker 3 stood with his back to the audience reading off the big screen

Speaker 4 stood side-on to the audience and rambled a lot 

The interesting thing was that not one of us was aware of what we were doing! I know I tend to move about a bit during presentations but wasn’t aware of quite how much I do it. 

So whilst all of us had our pride wounded a little by criticism (albeit constructive), we know what we have to improve next time we present. So next time you’re delivering a presentation, either ask colleagues for feedback, or if you’re really too sensitive to handle it, set up a video camera and identify your faults yourself!

Practice makes perfect

2 October, 2007

Just found this excellent piece on preparing for presentations by Rowan Manahan. I particularly liked the following point:

“The most impressive people I have worked with, the ones who make it look so effortless and so off the cuff, are always the ones who have put in the hours.”

From experience I know that to be true. I usually put in a lot of prep for presentations, often with my 5-month old daughter as audience (this isn’t as daft as it may sound – if she smiles and laughs I know my tone of voice, expressions and gestures are sufficiently lively for an audience – if she starts looking elsewhere I know I need to put more effort into it!), but on those rare occasions when I’m not so well prepared the end result is usually pretty poor, as I tend to rush it a bit.

Thorough preparation doesn’t mean learning a script off by heart – do that and your talk will come over a bit soulless – it just means knowing your topic well, knowing what slide comes next, what’s on it, and what you’re going to say about it (including any good stories or anecdotes), and what the time is.

Unprepared speakers can always be identified by the amount of time they spend looking at their own slides, and by the amount of words and bulletpoints thereon. A speaker without bulletpoints, who gives an engaging talk without constantly looking at the screen and appears to be delivering their talk off the cuff, is someone who has spent hours preparing!

No Logo!

28 September, 2007

The Rowan Report is an EXCELLENT blog offering advice on communication for non-profit organisations. The latest entry is a particularly good list of presentation tips – I particularly like no.8.

I recently wrote a piece on getting away from bulletpoints and rethinking your whole approach to slide design, and being forced to include a corporate logo/colour scheme on every slide is the exact anthithesis of such an approach.

If every one of your slides looks the same, people will quickly get bored and/or lost. If every slide is different, they’ll sit up & pay attention in order to see what’s coming next.

As a great journalist once wrote – NO LOGO!