I just finished another article on what makes a presentation a success. Bla, bla, bla….great tips and points. It is the same old, top eight list without really getting to the point of how to make the whole thing successful. Who has time to add five things or eight points to an office presentation? Give me one good tip and I am off . The bottom line is that most people are busy, and almost everyone dreads speaking at meetings– because 9 times out of 10–they are boring. We know how it goes: blow by blow accounts of bullet points that could have been emailed out. So how do we overcome this dreaded same-old-same-old feel?
If I had to choose one key factor that makes every presentation successful, it wouldn’t be typing up bullet points in multi-colored fonts. It should be figuring out who was invited to the presentation!! You see, the only real key to success in any presentation, is understanding the audience you are presenting too! If you can please them, your audience, then you have succeeded.
Let’s start by thinking about Hollywood. Does Disney make everything “childish” when pitching a new movie? Of course not. In that audience of viewers are mom’s, dads, aunts, and grandparents. Disney knows that each one of these groups of people has their own goals when showing up to the theater. So it is important for the studio to reach out to each one of those generations and offer an experience like no other. Sure the bullet points of the presentation (movie) are all about the story of animated characters, and the kids love it, but the themes are about honor, respect, friendship, and valuing our most important relationships. These are secondary points that are reaching out to the parents and grandparents in the audience. If it was just a bunch of toys running around having fun, no adult would be able to sit through it.
You need to do the very same thing at your next meeting. Let’s say its a small group of mixed managers and sales types. Mandatory of course, just after lunch time. You have the top manager, some young up-and-coming folks, different departments, perhaps a contractor type as well. All people with different agendas, different goals, different work ethics and directions. But they all have to be at your meeting, and most probably have 50 other more important things to do, right?
So let’s get down to business. Look over the information you are required to give. Each and every bullet point should have someone in the audience its directed towards. Don’t just type it all up and hand it out–that is too easy, and very boring. Address each person (or person type) in the room and include them in your talk. Call them by name, or department. Let them know that you are thinking about them, understand them, use their information or services. Its like meeting someone and repeating their name right after the handshake–everyone likes to feel important. Author and presentation guru, Nancy Durante calls the audience “the hero.” She says that once you stop thinking of yourself as the hero, and start addressing each person as being on quest in their job, you become the Obi Wan Kenobi mentor, and it will change everything. And I know first hand that it does!
So now look over your bullet points again and rewrite them, as if addressing each persons concerns and interests. Throw in a slide or two that resonates with each department–something visual to wake them up after that heavy lunch. Now go through those points and include the people at the meeting. They left their heads at their computer screens because they were called into a meeting just as they were trying to finish their work before 5. Mention that, you have been there, put yourself into the equation as someone who understands, make it conversational, story-like–even when in front of hundreds of people. If the audience laughs (or at least smiles) and is listening to your bullet points–you have a winner!
Need some help? One of the best tools I use to help me through a presentation is to listen to other speakers. Go to TED.com and find hundreds of speakers and topics. There is a flow, a connection with the audience. My personal favorite is Benjamin Zander, the Boston Pops Conductor. He has his bullet points. He knows that he is not the hero, but the guy in the room who will bind everyone in the audience together to see, understand, and support his point of view. He talks to each person in the audience, tells his story, uses a few props (music) and has us listening and supporting him in 20 minutes. You can do that too.
So write out your points of required information and then figure out who is in the audience. Do not dread it, in fact, you should embrace it …and don’t worry, you will get better with practice and preparation. It all starts with an understanding of who is going to be listening to you. Figuring out who they are, and what they need from you is like listening to them first. We all want to be heard. And we all want to feel like they are the hero, right?