How to Stop Killing Them With Powerpoint by Creating Powerful Presentations That “Resonate”

I first learned about Nancy Duarte and her ninja-like Powerpoint slide skills though a webinar presented by Speaker Net News. Ms. Duarte’s clear, usable information in just the short webinar was invaluable. I was immediately able to put many of her suggestions to use.

What I most liked was her recommendation to have two slide shows. One that you show to the audience which incorporates the clean, big picture conceptual slides and another which contains all your details and is basically the high tech version of “3×5″ notes. I’ve used the second, more detailed slide show to put on SlideShare for the participants to view later.

“resonate: Present Visual Stories Transform Audiences” answers questions not covered by her first book “slide:ology.” You can have the most well-designed slides in the world, but if your story doesn’t resonate with the audience, you’ve failed.

In the introduction to “resonate” the author acknowledges this and calls “resonate” the “prequel” to the first. The book is wonderfully designed, with easily digestible chunks of information on the left side matched with a picture on the right side (as if it were a slide illustrating the point). It’s not only good information, but it’s interesting to read. Just like Ms. Duarte teaches you to create your slides and presentations.

The key point to “resonate” is that a presentation is something that falls between the two opposites of a report (detailed documentation) and stories (which are emotional and experiential). The successful presentation incorporates the best of both, using structure and providing information, but communicating it in an engaging way that will help the audience learn, believe and take action.

There is a clear story pattern or structure, which can be used to present even the most prosaic of information, called the “hero’s journey.” In this case the audience is the hero, not you. You are given detailed directions, ideas and “how to” on building your own presentation to take your audience (the heroes) through their own journey.

To help you along the way, there are case studies of some of the most powerful and moving speeches in history including Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” Richard Feynman’s famous gravity lecture, and Ronald Reagan address to America after the Challenger disaster. You’ll see and be taken on the hero’s journey in all of the examples.

Like me, you’ll probably want to start working on your presentations before you finish the book. Go ahead and get started, but come back to chapter 8 where you’re given help on improving. Then go out and use your new knowledge to change the world.

Rapport – The Key to Any Great Presentation

Rapport can be defined as an intangible, invisible “link” that exists between a speaker and his audience. It is that comfort zone where both parties start to enjoy each others presence and a sense of trust develops. No matter how content-rich or persuasive one’s presentation is, a presenter would never succeed in communicating effectively with his audience without this presenter-audience relationship known as rapport.

So how do you tell whether rapport is lacking between you and your audience? The following would reveal some signs that things may not be going well during your presentation.

1) Excessive small talk among your audience members

2) People dozing off intermittently

3) Facial expressions of boredom

4) Languid body language

5)People excusing themselves repeatedly to leave the room

Conversely, when good rapport is established, communication between both parties would reach an optimum level. This is the point where you would notice your audience members giving you and your presentation full attention. Considerable eye contact is made and heads nod in agreement with the issues you raise. People would be laughing at your jokes appropriately or even applaud you for a valid point made. In fact, when questions start rolling from the audience, it may not always be a bad sign because audience members are participating in a fruitful dialogue with you or with other members, which shows that interest in your presentation topic is sustained.

But how does anyone create rapport with his audience?

The secret to this million-dollar question lies in subtle techniques that almost every great speaker or presenter employ whether consciously or sub-consciously. The number one trick-of-the-trade would be the effective use of humor. Everyone loves to be entertained and a presenter with a great sense of humor would often spark off rapport with witty one-liners or amusing life experiences. However, jokes should be threaded on carefully so as to ensure that they do not breach political, gender, cultural or racial boundaries.

Furthermore, considerable eye contact would help in creating rapport even without your audience knowing that this is a deliberate effort by you to do so. Why? Because eye contact with the audience conveys sincerity. Think about it. If someone goes up to you and strikes up a conversation without looking at your eyes and keeps glancing to the sides, how would you feel?

Get my point? It is logical, isn’t it?

However, do also take note that although a steady sequence of eye contacts would reveal your confidence in your subject, staring right at someone would definitely imply rudeness or hostility. This is merely a social skill taken into the context of public speaking. As a rule-of-thumb, a three-second eye contact with an individual would be more than sufficient.

Lastly, as a presenter or public speaker, you should use your body language to “win over” your audience. This means that one should first adopt a confident, open posture when presenting, since such a physical gesture would suggest self-assurance and optimism. No one would want to listen to a speaker who appears nonchalant and seems like he does not even believe in his subject matter. Thereafter, wear a smile regardless of situations since this is the most effortless tool in creating rapport. Not only is it the easiest but it is the most effective, especially when you open your presentation with it. In fact, we use more facial muscles frowning than smiling. So by conveying positivity to your audience members with a sincere smile, you would have instantly created preliminary rapport with them, thereby ensuring that you have won at least half your presentation battle.

Thus, building rapport is critical to any presentation and it is often this indefinable element that distinguishes a great presentation from an average one. Time and again, we tend to take such subtle techniques for granted as we focus excessively on our presentation content and material. However, by bringing these skills into our conscious minds, we would be able to communicate successfully with any audience.

Business Presentation Skills: Lessons From Public Speaking Contestants

It was a public speaking contest for high school kids. It was held in a big room, in a big hotel, in a big city. The judges were professional speakers who make their living at this. The audience was full of parents, each thinking nobody could touch their child for speaking prowess. Lots of pressure on these young shoulders, but they rose to the occasion.

Presentation skills are vital to career success today, no matter what field you are in. No longer are presentations restricted to senior level people – today anybody could be asked to present at any time. But too many folks have just not developed the level of presentation skills they need to be successful.

The young people in this contest have already built competence in a skillset that will give them career advantages over their peers no matter what they do. Here’s why.

- They were highly articulate. The ability to express a thought clearly and concisely so that listeners understand it immediately will give them an advantage in a workplace world where this skill is not nearly as widespread as one might think.

- They were confident without being arrogant. When you speak confidently, people are more likely to buy into your message, but arrogance will turn your audience off. This fact seems to have escaped many adults as they make their presentations to management.

- They were enthusiastic. Whether the subject was funny or serious – and there were some of each type – they showed just the right degree of enthusiasm or intensity. Too many business presentations are boring, because the presenters deliver them in the same tone no matter the subject or whether the news is good or bad.

- Finally, they spoke clearly – they didn’t mumble! There seems to be a mumbling virus out there in the workplace today. People run their words together and drop the endings, so that what comes out is a meaningless jumble of sound. If your prospects are struggling to understand what you are saying, how likely are they to buy what you’re selling? Not very.

These kids were outstanding. They were judged on subject matter and delivery, and given points for tone of voice, volume, pitch and pace, humour and even audience response. It was hard to pick a winner.

I just hope these great kids don’t lose the skills and enthusiasm they have now, or they’ll sink to the level of way too many business presentations. And that would be a shame.