What To Do and What NOT To Do

Today’s guest post is by Robby Slaughter, a popular Indianapolis speakerPresenting at a brown bag lunch? Showing off a new technology or a time-honored technique? Or just teaching your colleagues about a topic of interest? Here are some quick dos and don’ts to keep in mind when stepping in front of the room.

Do Stand Up When You Speak

If you’re not standing when you’re presenting, you’re just in a meeting. Standing up gives you presence and authority. It also allows you to see everyone in the audience and helps you to retain control of the program.

Don’t Lecture the Whole Time

Yes, you are presenting on a topic where you have some expertise. But just because you profess to know something doesn’t mean you should drone on like a college professor.

Instead, break up your presentation with elements that don’t involve you talking. You can add some video, an individual exercise, a group activity, ask participants to read sections aloud, and even play music. And if you will be speaking for more than 90minutes, make sure you give folks a break every hour.

Do Use Slides or Notes

If you have even a few slides or some note cards, the entire character of your presentation changes instantly. First, people watching know you made some effort to prepare because they can see the reference material. Second, the content on your slides or your notes is always available for you for you to check if you need it. Finally, slides allow for visual learners to have something to review in addition to your voice.

Don’t Read from the Slides Word-for-Word

PowerPoint is a wonderful invention, but once you put a phrase on a screen you almost never want to say that phrase word-for-word aloud. There are few things as painful as hearing a presenter’s voice reading what you just read in your head.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ask audience members to read from the slides, though. This can be great if you want to ensure a longer quotation is heard as well as seen.

Do Have Pen and Paper Available for All Attendees

People often come to a seminar or a lunch-and-learn with nothing in their hands. If you leave out pens and paper, you communicate that you are prepared and that you want them to take notes. Plus it shows that you believe your content is interesting and complex enough that note-taking is absolutely necessary!

Don’t Handout the Slides in Advance

Many presenters think that their audience will appreciate a paper copy of their slide deck. It’s true that attendees will often make notes if they have this available. But it also distracts from the experience of being in the program, since people can look ahead and miss the live presentation.

Instead, consider sending the slides by email after the program has ended. Attendees will then have the chance to click through them on their computer or their phone, and can even reply if they have questions.

Do Have Handouts, But Don’t Give Them Out All At Once

Same idea. Handouts break up the program and give people something to do, but if you hand them out at the start then people will get distracted reading.

Don’t Panic About your Verbal Tics

You’re going to use filler words such as “like” and “um.” That’s okay. These are part of everyone’s speech pattern and aren’t as noticeable to others as they are to you.

Do Practice What You Are Going to Say

Try to schedule at least one complete run through with an empty room. Practice standing and speaking and going through each part of the program as if there was a live audience.

You’re not looking for perfection. Instead, you’re aiming to communicate to the attendees that you took this seriously and prepared.

Don’t Start Late, and Don’t Go Over Time

Respect the participants by arriving early, starting on time, and ending when you said you would. And, remind them that you are paying attention to the time out of respect.

Do Provide an Agenda and Follow It

When you tell people what you’re going to tell them, you create an “up-front contract.” You establish the parameters and this makes everyone feel more comfortable.

Once you’ve told them what you’re going to tell them, that’s of course when you tell them. And the last part is to tell them what you just told them—the summary! This too, should be announced in your agenda.

(Also: If you have problems with people slowing you down or asking too many questions, an agenda is also a great excuse to keep things moving.)

Don’t Worry About Not Covering Everything

It’s not possible to talk about EVERYTHING that matters in only a single seminar. You will have to edit out tons of content for time, and then tons more to ensure your audience can follow along.

This isn’t really a problem, though. Your job is not to make the audience into experts. It’s to inspire and educate them about the tip of the iceberg. If they want to learn more, they can do so AFTER the seminar is over.

Do Ensure You Have Three Takeaways and a Core Message

Although you will want to cover more, make certain that your entire presentation has at most three takeaways that you want the audience to remember. These should be simple enough that everyone can repeat them. You can even ask the participants to say them along with you! Repeat, restate and return to these three points often.

Finally, your entire presentation should have a core message. That’s an overriding sense of the topic that you want to impart on the audience. It might be an opinion or a perspective, but think of it is a vision you hope that others have after attending your program.

Best of luck in your upcoming presentation!