Even Content Experts Need Presentation Training

It is always impressive to be at an industry function and learn something new from expert speakers that you can use in your business. You might well wonder just how they can master so much complex information.

But That’s the Problem

You also wonder sometimes just exactly what they’re saying.

Too many speakers botch their presentations by thinking their content expertise will translate into superior presentation skills? Or, they can’t be bothered to learn the techniques that will turn a good speech into a great one. “Is a puzzlement,” to quote from the “King and I.”

A Botched Presentation

At a recent seminar on social media the facilitator and the two expert speakers were a classic case study of how not to make a presentation.

It was quite startling to see how many things went wrong.

Learn From the Experts

For starters, the presentation was held in a very long rectangular room with guests seated theater style. Those not seated in the center of the room could barely see the PowerPoint presentation.

It’s possible another conference room wasn’t available, but the organizers needed to take that into account when determining their presentation set up. They could have simply projected the slides onto two screens, instead of only one in the center, allowing everyone in the audience to view their visuals.

THE ROOM. The room was extremely hot and the facilitator said the building had been notified and “hopefully” the room would cool down in a half hour or so.

  • Lesson: Always arrive one hour prior to a presentation to check the room setup as well as the room temperature. Never count on anyone who says “hopefully”.

THE MICROPHONE. The first speaker was waving it around which was distracting. She was impossible to hear unless you were seated up front in her half of the room.

  • Lesson: Speakers need to speak directly into the microphone. Better yet, wear a hands free lavaliere, or lapel microphone, so you can concentrate on your talk and use gestures to elaborate your points. Speak to everyone in the room, not just those in your immediate vicinity.

THE SPEECHES. Both speakers spoke too rapidly and swallowed their words. They also presented the exact same material! The facilitator had obviously not conferred with them in advance to gain concurrence on which aspects of the topic they would each cover. It was boring to hear the second speaker say over and over again, “As Mary said…”

  • Lesson: The facilitator and speakers need to decide in advance, either through a phone call or meeting, how they will divide the content to be presented.

THE TIMING. The first speaker was scheduled to speak for 30 minutes with 15 minutes for Q&A. She had not finished speaking after an hour, even though the facilitator got up from his seat and signaled that her time was up. She said, “Just another minute for this last slide” which, to compound the felony, had nine bullet points that she had to discuss! This is beyond rude.

  • Lesson: Practice your speech and time it. Be ruthless in cutting it down to fit into your allotted time. If necessary, perform major surgery on your remarks. Your audience will start fidgeting and tune you out if you run over. You also risk not being invited back to speak at a future conference. (Note: We challenge you to find a TED talk that is longer than 18 minutes!).

THE SLIDES.  When will speakers learn that you cannot copy your handouts onto your slides? That’s just lazy. Slides packed with dense type are impossible to read.

  • Lesson:  Create new slides and use bullet points – not more than six to a slide – and use bold, colorful images. If you need to apologize for slides the audience can’t read, then don’t use them.

THE Q&A. Both speakers allowed themselves to be interrupted by audience members who spoke up without permission. The speakers then went off on tangents that didn’t relate to the talks.

  • Lesson: Decide in advance how you will handle questions. Do you want to take questions during the presentation or wait until after the speech is over? Or, do you want participants to write their questions on index cards so the facilitator can vet them? It’s acceptable either way. But decide what you want to do, tell the audience, and stick to the rules you’ve set.

Prepare for a Great Presentation

Even the most polished and practiced speakers rehearse and have presentation coaches. You can bet Hilliary Clinton and even Donald Trump will get presentation coaching and practice their key messages for the Presidential debates moderated by skilled news reporters.

The next time you’re scheduled to make a speech ask yourself: “Am I completely confident that I’m prepared to give the best speech of my life?” If not, consider getting presentation training from an expert coach.

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