When presentations are about meaning making

I enjoy presenting. I have no compunctions about standing in front of a group of people. I am more than ok with people focusing their attention on me. I am positively exuberant about talking on things I know about.

See, I end up thinking about all those presentations where people just aren’t presenting well. And it makes me mad. It’s a judgement I make. I make lots of judgements all the time, and this is one I freely admit too. Similarly to being in a learning session. If you’re helping me to learn something I will scrutinise you to within an inch of your life. (in my head – I’m not that rude k?)

But there’s lots of things I learned about what makes a good presentation.

A lot of a good presentation is to do with the content. There’s no denying that. People enjoy a presentation when the content informs them of something they can do something with. That’s the hardest part of a presentation – creating meaning and telling a story.

And clearly, a presentation needs to be practised. People cannot wing it and deliver a good presentation. They can wing it and make it seem like it was practised, but it’s never as good as a practised presentation. It’s why on presentation training you’re constantly practising, because that’s the best thing to do.

Then there’s all the things you never learn about on a presentation skills course.

I learned about emotional intelligence. This was massive for me. I learned how to recognise my emotions better, and how to listen to what they were telling. I rely on this every time I present. It’s a core part of how well I know how I’m doing. When the anxiety I feel turns to adrenaline and I can use that purposefully is when I know and recognise I’m in full flow.

Importantly, though, I learned how to read the audience and what they’re likely to be experiencing. I’ve often been told I build rapport with a group well. I believe this is because I am highly conscious and mindful of the emotional presence everyone has in the room with me. Or said another way, I become purposefully empathetic. When I do this, I take stock of as much information as I can to help guide my delivery.

I learned about power, and who has it. You’re often told that you’re the one who has the power. I believe that’s true. What I found, though, was sharing my power with the group is what counts. When I share my power with the group, that’s what moves it from being a presentation to being about sharing my purpose and sharing my meaning. That engagement and participation is crucial. If I don’t make that happen, I do not consider it a job well done.

One of the main things we all know about is story-telling. Every powerful presentation is about story-telling. I had to work on this a lot. I could present well enough – and what I wasn’t doing a lot of the time was crafting a story. I wasn’t helping people make those theories, those models, the data, or the information tell a story. It took me a long time to learn how to craft a story and make that the thrust of the presentation.

I try not to use props or visual media where possible. The presentation is about you and what you are bringing to the party. Ok, it may be about a product if you’re in sales, but the product doesn’t change anything. It’s the person selling it that makes the product valuable. That’s the greatest trick of a salesman – making you think you need a product you’ve already got.

The language I use is critical and crucial. I take my time over this. Every word is purposeful and invokes a reaction in different ways. Sometimes I use provocative words, sometimes I use emotional words, sometimes I use offensive words. But I do it with a high level of self-scrutiny. I don’t want to offend or make anyone uncomfortable, and the language I use is core to making this a reality.

And the last thing I really focus on is me and my presence. Where am I in the room? How am I positioned with the audience? Who am I focusing on? What do people see me doing? Am I displaying congruent behaviours to my presentation? Am I being still when it matters? Am I moving around when it’s needed? Am I waving my arms wildly? Am I using welcoming gestures?

I don’t think I’ve mastered delivering good presentations. I love doing them and will continue to seek feedback about them. The above list helps me to keep on track with maintaining a ridiculously high standard.

Advertisements

Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

Say something...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s