10 Presentation Crimes That Your Audience Will Not Forgive – and What YOU can do to stay F-R-R-E-E-E by Matthew Hill

Be Arresting. Don’t Get Arrested!

Having just sat through 20+ presentations and talked to fellow audience members at a Congress in Dublin the other week, I thought I would turn the sometimes tortuous challenge of staying calm sitting in the audience into a What Not To Do List and provide better ways of catering for your audience’s basic Human Rights.

Presentation Skills Course Matthew Hill

Sorry, Urh, hang on a minute…

BTW – More than 65% of the presenters were good and about 10% were excellent – However (always a warning word) however, some seemed to be living in the ‘90’s before TED and all those great YouTube videos that clearly spell out how to get audience engagement and knowledge transfer RIGHT.

10 Crimes – The Charge Sheet

1, The Presenter Panicked and Ran – Whether thrown off balance by technical issues, a late start of not having rehearsed against the clock, many presenters, including Key Note Speakers managed to get into a sweaty nervous panic during their talks. When you speed up at the end of your slot, your audience know something is amiss. When you admit that time has got away from you and then do not adjust, the audience become anxious on your behalf and when you say, “I will stop now!” 4 times without finishing, the audience will condemn you to presenter hell in your presence. The cost to you of presenter panic is having an audience close their minds with a slamming sound as the barriers drop preventing any transfer value. What a pity. What a waste. What a misspending of all that preparation time.

ANSWER

If you rehearse against the clock you can measure your content against the allocated time and therefore regain control. Additionally you may have a section that you can jettison if you experience a time scare. Not right at the end but 50 or 60% of the way through. Also keep your piece simple enough for the time allocated. A 90 minute monologue simply doesn’t work in 2017 and 20 minutes is not enough time to outline splitting the atom or finding a cure for world hunger.

When you feel scarcity – SLOW DOWN – This will give you time to think, look cool in front of your audience and present the appearance of being in control. We will repeat this later – Your Audience wants you to SUCCEED.

2, Voice Crime. There is nothing worse for the speaker or the audience than someone sat at the back shouting, “We can’t here you”, ”Please speak up” or, “We can’t hear you at the back.” Beside thinking that they should have got here earlier and found a better seat, this will distract you from your delivery, dilute your message and divide the audience into those who join in the bullying and those that start to pity you. Both groups are not doing you any favours. Add to the crime sheet the monotone presenter, the mutterer or the huddled script reader and you have a case ready for prosecution.

ANSWER

Singing lessons – Yes, I am serious. If you wish to project your voice, if you wish to raise your volume, if you wish never to loose your voice again during a presentation, join a choir or take individual singing lessons. It will do wonders for your voice quality, your confidence and your connection with the audience.

3, Technical Failure To Appear – In Dublin we were treated to the latest and the best equipment but – the presenters with older computers did not have an HDMI slot, the corporate trainers had not all worked with touch screens before and the new Prezi users did not all have enough practice with the application (presumably because they had spent all of their allocated tech time figuring out how to MAKE their first Prezi presentation and had not left enough to practice their show in realistic conditions.) The results were PREDICTABLE. Embarrassing faffing, asking the tech crew for help, delaying the start of the show and demonstrating the presenter’s flaws to the audience before they had managed to accumulate enough credit to afford to appear vulnerable.

ANSWER

Keep your technical level of presentation one level below your technical level of competence. Have a Plan B and back up your data. And don’t expect your venue to have usable WiFi, don’t expect to run YouTube clips live – record them and load them as MP4’s. That way they will run on just about anything. It is the most inexperienced presenters that tend to be the most technically ambitious. Those that have given a few webinars know to expect the unexpected and are able to manage the disruption in technical service with a cool head, an even voice and a smooth transition to the next section of the show.

presentation skills coach matthew hill

Too many words… take him away.

  1. Murder by Slides. The Geneva Convention states that PowerPoint slides must not have more than 20 words on them. Despite this, we saw endlessly wordy, small font decks with no visuals, no colour and no useful transfer potential to them. The audience could either ignore the slides or ignore the presenter and start reading the slides for themselves. A lose-lose.

ANSWER

Separate out the desire to present and the need to transfer data and make some tough decisions before you get to the venue – What will you project with your voice and what data will you MAKE AVAILABLE AFTERWARDS in the form of a hand-out / appendix or further reference materials? Understand that slides can be pretty placeholders, a mechanism to reinforce your message with visual people and a good place for graphics, a pie charge or a simple model. However…nobody wants to multi-task during the show so STOP torturing them and plan your information flow more considerately.

 

  1. Methodology Overdose – Closely related to the point above, in a non- academic context there is ZERO need to reveal the statistical significance of your raw research. The audience have one question for you; WIIFT? What is in it for THEM? How can they apply your experience for their benefit? END of.

ANSWER

As above – offer an appendix, a data hand out or a lab session demonstrating your methods, approach, analysis and technical findings. AND – in your short presentation tell them the interesting bits. How it worked, what the conclusions are and how it can be applied for gain.

 

  1. The Presenter Got High – Audience Altitude – Finding their Level. There are two crimes here – going too high or staying too low. Both ways will crash your presentation vehicle. If you pitch it too low for too long you will build up an irritation in your audience that will come out in people leaving your talk with a noisy banging of doors or firing sarcastic questions at you that interrupt you and undermine your credibility.

It you pitch it too high the crowd will turn into a Zombie Apocalypse before your very eyes. Take this as natural feedback telling you that you failed to do your homework, identify your audience segment and that you omitted to refine your message enough to hit the target.

ANSWER

Do your homework, speak to some people, interview the organisers and don’t take general answers for the truth. Your job is to engage, inform and entertain. Your job is to tell a story. Your job is to move people intellectually and emotionally. Your job is to prevent suicidal thoughts rippling through the front row.

 

  1. If It Pleases Your Honour – Time Management – We have dealt with the panic of starting late, not checking the length of your presentation and of lying about when it will end. This aspect is more about the cultural differences in the perception of the flow of time and gaining explicit permission to tell your story. At the beginning of your talk you have 30 seconds to win the hearts and minds of your audience! If you fail, then the rest of your talk can only do damage – to the hopes and dreams of your audience and to your REPUTATION. When you win their support quickly, you will be given 5 minutes grace … to win their enthusiasm for the next 15 minutes! Do you see how it works?

ANSWER

Hit them hard at the beginning – fire a big gun – a moral question, a challenging fact or a brutal prediction – engage your audience and ask, “Do you want to hear more?” They will then award you explicit permission to continue. Really. This psychological contract will become stronger the more they engage with you – the great presenter.

 

  1. Straying From The Straight And Narrow – There are two ways to leave the path here – audience drift and speaker drift. The former consists of being caught out or taking a side bar because of an audience intervention – through being nice and respecting the audience or the influence of a strong personality sat in the second row, you drift off and ANNOY everyone else. Pleasing a strong personality is not a winning strategy for the whole audience. OR you get on to your pet subject, leave your own path and start busking (the phrase for making it up as you go along) much to the irritation of the linear focussed listeners in front of you. When you start entertaining yourself you automatically disrespect the sensibilities of your audience.

ANSWER

Learn to assert yourself and police your audience – Putting a hand up and saying, “Let’s get back on track” is normally enough. If you are likely to wander away from your presentation pathway, build in milestones to remind yourself of the key points that you must make. If you find yourself drifting too wide of those marks, apologise and return to the point.

 

presentation crimes matthew hill

Out of Date Material – Arrest that presenter!

  1. Criminal Exhibit A – Old Material – The older your material, the greater the chance that the audience will have encountered it before or, and worse still, they will have encountered you before, saying the same thing. There is a famous Dutch father of culture who basically has one keynote speech. What ever you engage him to speak about, out he will come with his one keynote speech – And it is difficult to get a refund sometimes.

ANSWER

Read, listen and watch. Be present to developments. Watch out for shifts in the direction of your specialist subject and keep your presentation approach fresh, present and alive. It is not a crime to renew your perspective, challenge YOUR OWN beliefs and treat your audience to something EXCITING and challenging.

 

  1. Old Lag – You Are Not Enjoying It. The voice in your head starts to unsettle you, “Are they really listening to you?”, “ Do they believe a word you are saying?”, “Do they think you look pretty / handsome?” We can develop all sorts of complexes or simply become bored with our own style or topic when we have been presenting too long and need an upgrade – even the best can suffer from imposter syndrome, delusions of paranoia or become completely immune to the charm of their own material and certainly doubt its power to impress.

And. If you are not enjoying the show as a presenter, you can GUARANTEE that the audience are suffering too. Is it time to hand yourself in to the authorities?

ANSWER

At the beginning of any performance it is a safe bet to assume that the audience want you to DO WELL. They are actively looking for signs that you are relaxed, comfortable and up for this. They want to you to win. At the beginning you can assume that most of them LOVE you. All you have to do is not let them down (too badly.)

It is time to work on your material, work out who your ideal and appreciative audience will be and to work on your delivery, presence and voice so that YOU enjoy the show and THEY benefit from listening to you? Is this the time to seek professional help – a presentation advocate to defend your actions and get you off the charge of being a criminal presenter so that you can walk into your next speech a Free Person?

presenting

I sentence you…

The Judge’s Summation

With a little planning, anticipation and rehearsal you can avoid cabbages and rotten eggs flying through the air, the tarnishing of your reputation as a speaker or hearing negative mumblings as you leave the building.

Remember presenting represents the single most powerful opportunity to engage with and impress people that you have never met before. Please respect the audience’s patience, attention span, their need for structure, their appreciation of a good story AND their desire for a confident performance from you – THE SPEAKER (defendant.)

I wish you well with you next presentation…

I sentence you to 10 hours Community Presentation Practice – You are free to go…

 

About the Author – Matthew Hill is a Presentation Skills Coach (amongst other things) He works with ambitious professionals who need to impress and desire to be better. Contact Matthew on; 07540 65 9996.

 

The Problem We Create By Being There – Consultants & Clients by Glen Burridge

The first problem is YOU – A cultural thought piece by our “foreign correspondent”, Glen Burridge

Junger Geschftsmann bei einer Prsentation Why are you here?

There is a barrier that lies at the heart of any consultant trying to transform an organisation, namely that you present an intercultural challenge by your very presence. Yes, you, as a consultant are the first problem the customer has to deal with when they bring in someone to help spur improvements in their organisation.

As a consultant, have you ever had the experience of sitting in a meeting room and, after all the niceties are done with, listening to the most senior person of the room start talking and realise they know next to nothing of why you’re there? Or, they think they know who you are, but the words they’re using are at complete odds with your perception with what you think you’re doing there?

What happens next can range from genuine curiosity – with an eye to why they weren’t briefed properly by their own people – to outright dismissive, even aggressive, behaviour. Experienced consultants will tell you that they’ve felt the full sweep of this spectrum at some time or other and, with a wry smile, it may conceal much more beneath. Even if the consultant is usually the most vulnerable person in the room, the sense of the threat that you may present can be palpable.

Don’t expect sympathy for your own precarious position.

It will be ultimately up to you to either dispel the drama or learn to work within it, since it centres on you and that disturbing vibration around maybe why you were brought you in – to shake things up. And that is the paymaster’s right.

The opposite situation is also worth considering. Where you are so seamlessly integrated in a situation that no-one knows you’re a consultant or they’re forgetting it rapidly. In this scenario, it’s entirely possible you may already know more than many of the people in the room. Remember, if you’re lucky enough to cope with working ‘sideways’, you may soon become the custodian of an entirely unique perspective, which could easily walk out of the organisation the moment you leave. So, this misconception may be something you’ll want to correct very quickly – it is the basis of your livelihood and code to maintain a professional detachment – but, if you’re well established and have a strong rapport with the commissioners of the work, you will be more relaxed and it makes the ‘sell’ of your work seem like another form of ‘internal project initiation’.

In business, we are working in the midst of an organism, some of whose processes are a source of positive wonder, some of which should be exemplary and obvious but have yet to evolve to cope with the role they’ve inherited, some of which is worn out or doing a function it was never designed for. The individual organs that drive this creature might have a long and distinguished history or they may be new and experimental. Some elements will be moving towards each other, others not even aware of what the other ones do. We can never make too many assumptions about who, where and when they can see what. Perhaps one of the defining qualities of an organisation is its opaqueness or transparency. The secret to good organisational consulting is to see enough of the machine working as a whole to do something meaningful at the scale you’ve been engaged at. If you’re lucky, you can build from there, once you gain the buy-in; this might be one level above or below, but in many ways the most interesting – although by far the more difficult – is if you can reach across.

The Client Side

Now consider the perspective of that manager from the client side for a moment.

You’ve just come from three meetings this morning already. You’re thinking that perhaps you won’t eat till 2pm, if you’re lucky, and you’ve learnt about two knotty problems and an uncertain one already this morning. Now, you find yourself on your way to a meeting your PA has kindly accepted for you but wish you could have avoided, with this new person that you’ve never met in your life. They’re not even on the email system. You know they’re something to do with a particular initiative that sounded a good idea a few months back and wasn’t backed by too much of the department’s budget anyway. But, frankly, the context is a little vague, because The Good Idea is not fleshed out yet and no-one’s quite sure if The Team should be setting the agenda or leaving it to the consultant to get on with Do Their Thing; they’re the ‘expert’ aren’t they? If only I had the time I’d sit down and sort this out myself, but we’ve got 30 mins and I’ll try and figure out what the hell we do. You know, these deep-field initiatives really should shape our world, but when can we show something tangible from them? Who but a consultant will want to make these kind of waves though?

Now, multiply that by the range of personalities found in a manager and you get the spectrum of meetings that can transpire.

If the organisation had all the answers to their problem, you wouldn’t have even been invited in the building.

So, we always need to consider that whatever wonderful bag of tricks, enthusiasm, wisdom and experience we think we bring into any organisational setting, we are the source of an out/in-group problem with all the attendant cultural dimensions that entails from the moment we step away from the Reception desk wearing our visitor’s badge.

Our first organisational problem we will have to fix is the one we create by simply being there.

About the Author – Glen Burridge

Earth Scientist, Consultant, Aviator and Intercultural Enthusiast, Glen is just down the road in Perth, Australia…

glen