Yesterday we talked about the two types of presentations you might make in a networking context. They basically broke down to ones about your business and ones about your expertise. Each has its place. Today let’s talk about some of the techniques that will help make your talk better.

  1. Avoid PowerPoint like the plague. You will almost never improve a speech by including any sort of slide show. I’ve seen maybe four presentations in my life which benefited from the use of PowerPoint and even those would have been just fine without it. Seriously, if your slide has bullet points or more than five or six words on it, it won’t help make your talk more interesting. Instead of bullet points, you would be much better off if you…
  2. Tell stories. If you have ten minutes to talk, you can tell two or three stories. These stories should be emotionally engaging and show the points you are trying to make, instead of telling them. Think back to some of the political presentations you might have seen. The candidate could have talked about the percentage of people who lose their jobs because of some piece of legislation and no one would have listened. When they tell the story of Bob Smith, an accountant from Boise and talk about the privations he and his family are suffering, it does much more to bring the point home.
  3. Don’t start with “Good morning”. Or any other similar salutation. You have about twenty or thirty seconds to capture the audience’s attention before they go back to checking their email on their smart phone. Saying “Hello” and how happy you are to be there kills any excitement that they might have had. Start with something that is going to grab them right away.
  4. Have someone else introduce you. Make sure you know what they are going to say and make sure it includes all of the information you want included. Don’t waste your speech time on trivialities such as your name and company. That’s something that should be included in the introduction.
  5. Don’t end on a question. If you do plan on taking questions during your presentation, be sure to leave a little time for one last story. Make it something powerful and memorable. In fact, if you have a long presentation which includes a break, be sure to send them off to the refreshments with a good story, too.
  6. Practice. Very few people are comfortable or accomplished enough to speak truly off the cuff. Until you have reached that level of skill, practice. With enough practice you will feel more comfortable standing in front of a group and you will appear to be speaking naturally. You may even want to consider a group such as Toastmasters International in order to have a venue in which you can practice your presentations.
These are just a few techniques I’ve picked up from recent presentations which captured my attention. Think back to ones you really enjoyed or got a lot out of and I’m sure you’ll remember one or two things that the speaker did which helped capture the audience. Practice those skills and be ready to have those eyes focused on you, too.
Now, it’s great that you’ve got their attention. You’ve wasted your effort, though, if they don’t have any marching orders when the speech is over. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.
Photo credit: Antony Adolf