This week I have been working on several messages, training events and group efforts. I have also received good feedback from events that went well, and others not so well. I thought I would take a second to point out some things that I think make a good message (in no specific order other than my own thoughts).
1. Speak to your audience. Every person has his or her limitations for care or
understanding. For example, if the audience is a group of operators who are going to be using a new piece of equipment then they most likely do care about the “WIIFM,” or what’s in it for me, and what is expected going forward. Trying to explain quantum physics or the theory of application of the unit probably is not going to be received the way it is intended to be. That is not to say it is not important, just most likely not at this time. It would be a good idea to offer that technical course separately for volunteers where the message is desired.
2. Know your message without reading the PowerPoint. Most presentations are about selling an idea, updating someone or group and conveying a message about what is to come. As the presenter the audience identifies with you as the subject matter expert (SME) of the topic being presented. As the SME, you should know the topic you are presenting well enough that it is not necessary to read the .ppt word for word. Treat the .ppt as the directional beacon (or virtual note card). Typically, looking at the slide once in awhile to keep you on target is completely fine. However, no one wants to be read to. If you feel that reading the power point is necessary, please email the deck out to the audience in advance, and delete the meeting. The same message will be sent.
3. Have prepared answers to potential questions. Rehearse questions that your audience may ask. Most of the time it evolves around 5W’s + H, or who-what-when-where-why and how. Be prepared to give answers and also have a parking lot list to add items for follow up to. As the presenter it would be in your best interest to know the content clear enough that you can answer questions based on what you delivered and be able to offer fact based reasoning if needed. Now is not the time to make stuff up, babble, or come across clueless. Be confident and defer to the parking lot with a comment like, “Good question – I am not sure that I can answer that right now, but I am adding to the list and will let this group know when I confirm the answer.” Of course, then DO follow up in short order.
4. Have computer, props or other materials ready. Ensure that all of the material that you need to present is working, ready, and the right version of whatever it is you are presenting. Also, if you need to show anything for demonstration have it placed where easily accessible when you are to the point of presentation. Digging around for materials, using faulty props, or using an incorrect version of the powerpoint (if noticeable) will detract from your credibility and support for the concept being presented.
5. Keep it relevantly simple. While I was working on my bachelors, one of the professors used a 6 x 6 rule for slide content. The rule is “No more than 6 lines of text per slide and no more than 6 words in each line of text.” (1) Too many words on a slide create unneeded clutter. In addition while assembling the slide be sure that the message is clear, not confusing, and flows. Also, remember #2’s section on only going into the applicable details.
6. Be able to redirect. If you have the ability to have a facilitator for your presentation, that would be ideal. The facilitator is a person who helps keep the meeting on track. If you do not have the ability to have this person, then you need to be comfortable bring attention back to the program vs. individual discussions, or side topics that really need to be discussed outside the presentation. It is best to shut down any neigh-sayers before they start. In some cases – I tend to bring up the controversial subject matter prior to the audience bringing it up. When I do – I also explain the logic, solution, as well as express to the audience that I am aware of the controversy around this matter; I let them know that I am available later to discuss one-on-one. The person in the audience that may have spiked the presentation – loses the upper hand when you bring the subject matter up first.
7. Engage as applicable. When giving a presentation I like to make analogies that apply to the audience and specific people or situations where everyone can relate. At times I also ask group questions for feedback purposes. This gets the audience engaged and active plus shows the retention rate. The more engaged the audience the more likely they are to be confident or comfortable with the subject matter.
8. Timing is key. This is really a two fold point for me. One, be sure that you are prepared to start the meeting on time. It is a good rule of thumb to book the room (if applicable) or get to the area of presentation 15-30 mins. prior to the event to give a quick once over of the set up. Ensure that everything is working and ready to go on time. Trying to start the set up when the group is settling only takes valuable time from the group and discredits your ability to organize / present. Secondly, it is important to only have the presentation when needed. Material presented months prior to the actual event should be informational, and a rough overview. Technical details without any later reinforcements will be lost by time of application. I have been to a number of training events several months prior to project launch with little to no follow up and struggled to be ready at activity start date. It is best to get more detailed closer to the actual event. Now, if you are holding a phase 1 of 3 phases meeting, or details to complete the task at hand then it is acceptable. Just be cognoscente of the delay from inform to apply.
9. Proof and practice the material. I am not asking for perfect punctuation or grammar. In fact, much of American everyday conversation is filled with incorrect words. (2) I am saying that check for basic spelling errors. Are the images view-able from all sides of the room? Are there duplicate words? Does the sentence flow smoothly while reading aloud? In addition to proofing, you should also practice the presentation. This will help you gauge how long it takes to give the entire message and
10. Seek feedback before and after. It would not be a bad idea to have a co-worker/peer/manager take a quick view of the powerpoint prior to larger audiences viewing. You can also email the group a survey to complete. (There are many good free companies such as Survey Monkey (3)). Doing this is very important so that you develop skills to better communicate.
- PowerPoint: Filter Slides for Different Audiences (tech-recipes.com)
- The 5 P’s of Presenting (lmukimberly.wordpress.com)
- 10 Tips to Avoid Death by PowerPoint (loopup.com)