(both photo credits Whitney Hoffman)
What if you brought no slides to a Presentation? What if you just talked off the cuff from your prior preparation, without any slides, any notes, anything but your smarts on the topic at hand?
That’s how I most like to present. The reason? Because I BUILD the relationship with the audience, once point at a time. I deliver the information that’s required, but I like to build the conversation around the people in the room. Or sometimes it’ll come from something that was on my mind earlier in the day.
It’s like “whipping something up” for cooking versus planning a large, multi-course meal. I appreciate that a multi-course meal is nice, but whipping something up is more participatory, and that, to me, is the key to drawing people into the conversation: a relationship with the presentation.
If you have slides, make them for visual purposes
A full picture image that explains something complex is much nicer than bullet point hell. Make a very huge dramatic splash with gorgeous photos. You can use lots of the photos on Flickr with just simple attribution. I’ve also used the site http://sxc.hu .
If you have handouts, make them for memory, not teaching
Talk from your preparation (keep notes if you must), but make it a conversation. If you print handouts ahead of time, make it something you mention, but not something you talk from. Reading your prework isn’t going to be nearly as engaging as finding a way to draw people into the subject matter.
Presentations are Conversations
Draw people into the subject matter by using the people in the audience to tell the story for you? How? What if you’ve never met your audience? Ahh, but stories are often universal. Have you ever had a flat tire on your car? It’s so inconvenient, and it reminds you just how fragile your day’s planning is.
See that? That was a story. You can tell that to most anyone, and they can relate. The STORY becomes the proxy for not knowing the people at first. Bonus points if you let them help fill your story in even more.
Conversation Means Both Ways
I occasionally fall into the trap of making people raise their hands for silly reasons. But the point of doing it to start people on the path of communicating information. Ping. Pingback. Opening. Response. Conversations make presentations shine. Try asking more meaningful questions as you build rapport with your audience.
Having names of people in the audience keeps attention flowing. If you’re at all good with names, adding people to your presentation like characters in a story is often helpful.
This Sounds So Soft
Some folks think that the purpose of presentations is to convey information. No: that’s the purpose of signs. The purpose of a presentation is to exchange information with an audience who needs the information, and to leave them feeling somewhat more informed.
Which will draw your audience in more? Facts, details, storms of bullet points? Or a story that they can remember, manipulate, and own?
Just One More Thing
Go to Apple.com and watch a keynote by Steve Jobs. Go to Presentation Zen and follow every link. You’ll find the learning rewarding no matter HOW you apply it.
Examples of My Most Recent Presentations:
Here are a few unedited feeds from presentations from PodCamp Toronto. The links are to .MOV files (big ones). You might want to Right-Click (or CTRL Click on a mac) and save these.
- Community Building Through New Media.
- Trust Economies, with Julien Smith.
- Building Community with Mark Blevis and Bob Goyetche.