A bead of sweat trickles down your brow.
Your throat is dryer than the Sahara desert.
Your breath comes in short, fast gasps if at all.
Your brain feels foggy, like space and time are moving around you in slow motion. Your palms are clammy.
The faces gazing at you may as well be the piercing stare of a lion about to devour you.
This is the extreme end of presenting.
The squeaky bum moment when things unravel around you.
I’m going to discuss today what I’ve seen in the last 4 years of presenting because if you can avoid this extreme you are in a good place.
Arguably the only thing worse than a nervous presenter is a boring one.
At least with nerves people might take pity on you.
If you are boring then the game is up.
Someone once said to me that you should dress everyday like you are going to Prince’s funeral.
This is great sartorial advice, but I think it is also great advice for presenting.
Firstly you have to get your head around the point of presenting.
It is a different media from a written document.
As I said last week, it is possible to bore people with literally anything. In the wrong hands the most fascinating subject can become dull as fuck.
There are only two things to get right:
1. Who you are
Amazingly, most people spend 90% of their time before a presentation thinking about content.
This is a special form of madness.
You can have content as snazzy and vajazzled as anything from TOWIE, but if you are a shambles literally no one will care.
Presenting is not a time for meekness. Presenting is about your own special brand of fierce.
Prince was fierce, think of Prince.
Most nervous presenters act like prey.
They make themselves as small as possible on stage. Crossing their legs, hunching over, standing rooted to the spot as though their lives depended on it.
Audiences can smell such fear.
You need to get over yourself and act like a predator. Make yourself big, walk around, use your arms freely, lift your shoulders. Hell look like you really mean it and stand.
Give the impression of confidence.
It is a simple truth that audiences of any type feel more comfortable when they are not in charge.
Wear something distinctive – you want to be remembered.
Don’t wear ridiculous heels you can’t walk in.
You should spend at least 50% of your time preparing not your content but yourself.
I used to work with this creative director who once refused to practice before a pitch because ‘he didn’t want to be over-rehearsed’.
This is a lie told by great presenters to stop others doing it well and it is utter bollocks.
You can never be over rehearsed for presenting. The better you know your material the more confident you can be to mess with it and adapt to your audience because you know it inside out.
That creative director who thought he was too big for this? Totally fluffed it. Dickhead.
I once watched a Peter Kay documentary about his stand-up, he talked about rehearsing so much you could do it backwards.
I totally understand this. Often in business we use presentation slides as crutches to hide behind. We are performing so the thing should be a performance not a banal commentary.
2 What you say.
Before you get to the practicing bit, you need some good content.
Don’t start with Power Point.
Even if this ends up being the medium, sketch out the thought on a page first.
What is the one thing you want the audience to remember?
You need an organising thought that people can follow you don’t need lots of information.
Think of your thought and then think about how you would sit down with one person and really help them feel what you are trying to say. What would you show them? Where would you take them?
In the times when you do use slides:
Use picture more than you use words.
Don’t use graphs.
Data is a phenomenal tool, but most people can’t read charts, what they can understand is their own humanity.
Once in a presentation we used a stop watch. The point we were making was about frequency of purchase. I could have shown a graph, I didn’t.
Instead I timed a minute on the stopwatch and just waited. When it was over the number 1 appeared on the screen behind.
This was the total number of minutes consumers spend buying xxx brand in a whole year.
Data is not game changing. Most people have access to their own data, what they don’t understand is the real life impact of what these numbers really mean to them.
Use words sparingly.
Less than 20 per page. Always. Be brutal with your content.
Ultimately I’m afraid, this is all about you.
I work in human behaviour and in my experience most people could do with less presentations and more conversations.
Even if your audience is large don’t present content, present yourself.
Present like you need to make an impact at Prince’s funeral.