8 Ways to Rock Your Presentation

By following these simple techniques you'll avoid hearing snores, or worse, faux fire alarms.
09/16/2014 09:00 am ET

What's their secret? Why is it that some presenters are so engaging and other presenters have us snoozing and fanaticizing about pulling the fire alarm? Is it all about the experience of the speaker, or how sexy the topic is? If you're invited to speak as a subject matter expert, whether you're teaching a CPE class or at a networking event, you have to put on a good show. By following these simple techniques you'll avoid hearing snores, or worse, faux fire alarms.

1. Have energy in what you're talking about -- The most memorable presentations are the ones where presenters are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic. What if you're giving a presentation about how the latest changes to the Dodd-Frank Act affect credit unions and customers? Own it. People have come to hear your perspective on the subject. Make your presentation memorable by infusing energy and enthusiasm into the subject.

2. Tell a great story -- People love stories. People remember stories. If you can present a story wrapped around what you're presenting, you'll successfully cement the idea. Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, talk about why some ideas take off while others fail to gain any traction. Part of their strategy for improving the stickiness of an idea is to tell a story. Stories work because they create a gap in our thinking. We want to know how that missing gap of information is filled! When listening to a story we also like to imagine how we would have reacted in that situation.

3. Speak naturally -- Talk as you would in a conversation. Communicate your core message in a clear, concise and meaningful way and in a natural tone.

4. Use visuals and multimedia elements -- Whether you're giving a live talk or a webinar-type presentation, use videos, number plays and pictures. PowerPoint is great but it's a presentation tool -- don't rely on it too much (even if it's littered with visuals). Microsoft estimates, there are more than 30 million PowerPoint presentations made each day. So what? People see thousands of slides a year. The parts they remember most? The '"Welcome" slide and the "Summary" slide.

Break the pattern of most presentations with impactful visuals! By using visuals, people will wrap your ideas and words around pictures. It's called the Picture Superiority Effect (check out the video). It tells us that by using pictures with words, after three days of hearing something people go from remembering 10 percent of the content to 65 percent. Another example: TED conference started by streaming presentations from the brightest minds in the world. Check out this TED talk given by Researcher Brené Brown. She talks about the topic of vulnerability and how her own research led to discovery. TED talks are addictive because the speakers are engaging and inspiring. Watch and learn!

5. Use personal, real-world examples. People do want to hear about you, so use real-life examples. However, remember that people mostly want to hear about themselves; they want to visualize how they might react to a situation. Let them!

6. Use repetition -- We've all heard the mantra, "Tell 'em what you're going to say, say it, and then tell 'em what you said." Regardless that this idea is from elementary school, we remember it, don't we? If you need more evidence, listen to Churchill: "If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time -- a tremendous whack." Repeat your core message, but vary it to give your message more life.

7. Involve the attendees -- The more interaction you can have with your attendees, the higher the learning curve. Ask questions and get input for the audience whenever possible.

8. Have a list of questions already prepared -- Have questions prepared ahead of time, "Recently, I've been asked this..." Attendees are generally quiet during Q&A at first, but they'll catch on if you get them started.

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