By David Bliss
Wouldn't you love to walk away from a presentation feeling confident that you nailed it? You want your audience – whether you're speaking to your clients, colleagues or CEO – to be impressed. You want them to feel motivated, informed and maybe even a bit jealous of your mad presentation skills.
But that's not easy. Unfortunately, many obstacles can get in the way.
Audiences expect presentations to be fluid, natural and accompanied by well-designed slides. Just like we expect to find great freshly ground coffee on every street corner, we're no longer tolerant of boring speakers with their data-crammed slides.
Anyone can become an engaging and memorable speaker. Follow these four crucial techniques to take your presentations to the next level:
1. Own your space with movement
Movement is a powerful way to engage your audience, create drama and keep everyone alert. It will also enable you to own the space and give the impression that you're confident and in control.
This doesn't mean pacing around like a caged animal. Repetitive movement, whether it's walking in circles or clicking your pen, is an outward display of inner anxiety. The same goes for rooting yourself to one spot; the space you "own" diminishes and it becomes harder to move as your presentation progresses.
The late Steve Jobs was highly skilled at covering his territory; the same could be said of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
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Ownership is about making you the most important element of the presentation. With presentation screens getting larger and brighter, it's all too easy to lose your audience's attention. Those bright lights behind you can be hypnotizing and distracting. We all know how hard it is to have a conversation at a bar when there's a TV in the background.
No matter how gigantic or bright your presentation screen is, remember this mantra: "What you touch, you own." That's it.
When you touch your screen, you'll tell your audience that you own it. You are more important and also not afraid of it. This not only applies to your slides, but anything you move or use. And for the record, using a laser pointer is not touching the screen.
2. Exercise the power of silence
Take the time to pause or get a drink. You'll not only give your audience a moment for reflection, but also let them know you're at ease.
An effective pause can also put pressure on an audience. For example, you might say, "We are all responsible for this situation." Then pause. The effect is dramatic. Pausing also creates confidence among your audience. We tend to think someone who can hold a pause is in control. (Tweet this thought.) Barack Obama is a great example of this.
I hasten to add that the long silence of terror when you realize the CEO has just decided to sit in on your presentation - when your laptop has just started to freeze - is not the same.
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3. Recover with grace
Making mistakes is human. We all do it. It's also fair to say that none of us knows everything about our given specialty. Yet when we make a mistake or don't know the answer to a question in the arena of a presentation, we may instinctively wish for the ground to swallow us up.
Transformers film director Michael Bay recently experienced just that when his teleprompter failed during a promotional launch for Samsung. He panicked and swiftly left the stage. Ironically, no one actually minds if you mess up. It only becomes uncomfortable for the audience when they can see it's uncomfortable for the speaker. So how you recover is what we're interested in. If you're OK – we're OK. (Tweet this thought.)
4. Create thoughtful, consistent slides
Many good presentations can be ambushed by messy and complicated slides. Your audience sees your slides as part of your personality, so they need to be a reflection of you and the way you think and feel.
Think of your slides as part of your clothes. You wouldn't present to a group of bankers in an old t-shirt and flip-flops if you want to create a sense of stability and security.
Your slides can create all sorts of assumptions. Too much data could say you don't have a clear understanding of your message. Confused slides will lead your audience to think you're confused.
You don't have to be a professional designer to have well-designed slides. Limit font sizes and colors and use consistent transitions. For more consistency, create an invisible frame within your slides and make sure everything is contained within that border.
Following these four simple techniques will always leave a positive lasting impression on those whose opinion matters. You'll go from good to great and will probably be asked to help others with their own presentations.
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What presentation techniques have worked for you?
David Bliss is a director and co-founder of Edison Red, a training company specializing in all things Presentation, Story and Visual Design.