A Snappy Interesting Presentation That Leaves Them Wanting More – Elegant Simplicity!

At a recent conference I attended it became clear to me that some presenters hit the mark quickly and stayed on it, finishing with a crescendo, whilst others meandered around their topics in an aimless way successfully disengaging the baited audience. On reflection, it seemed to me that the key to the success of each good presentation was the presenter had explored deeply, from the receiver’s viewpoint, and boiled down the vastness in the information they were presenting to a single salient message, or at most a few powerful points. And they stuck with them, embellishing them, but within the realm of simplicity. They first created a roadmap and from there ventured into it.

It’s recognition that highly technical sets of data need to be counterbalanced with an approach to simplicity–and this adds power and punch.

It’s a message that speaks of ‘more with less’ and a process that whets the appetite and doesn’t bore people senseless, encouraging inappropriate audience response behaviours which are, in the mix of things, disrespectful.

Beginning with the End in Mind

The presenters who got it right seemed to have started with the end in mind, as Stephen Covey would put it, relating to his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. They seemed to have asked themselves the question, ‘If I was in the audience, what would I want to take away from this?’

It’s a customer-focused angle where the person receiving the information is front of mind for the presenter in his or her own planning and delivery. The presenter starts boldly, they build with needed fact and relevance, and conclude with the take home value that has the receiver quickly scribbling down notes of takeaway benefit.

They keep it simple and audience directed. They’re attentive to audience response, having planned for unexpected nuances of both support and disinterest, for we’re all surprised by what people actually find most interesting–being blind somewhat to what we actually deliver in the context of a completely different person to ourselves, personally.

Does your presentation pass the ‘simplicity test’ packing a valuable and memorable punch for the receiver?

Presentation Skills: What Does “Know Your Audience” Mean?

When you give a presentation, it is important to “know your audience” – but what does that mean?

In order to tailor your presentation to the audience and make it easier for them to follow, you have to understand as much as you can about their background, how they like to receive information and what questions they might have.

If you know the people you’re presenting to and have presented to them before, that can make it easier because you know what they’re interested in and what questions they might ask.

But if you’re presenting to a group of people that you don’t know, such as colleagues from different parts of the business or remote customers, you may not have a lot of specific information about them.

Do what you can to research and gather data about them. Talk to people who have presented to this audience before. For example, talk to your customer service staff and ask about some of the issues that come up. Talk to the sales people to get an insight into what’s important to these customers.

Talk to a few of the audience members yourself. Explain that you are preparing your presentation and ask what questions they have or what they’d like to know about your topic. People are often willing to give you their ideas, questions and opinions if they know it will help you deliver a more useful and effective presentation

If you research your audience, to the extent possible, you will be in a better position to customize your presentation so they remain interested and engaged.

Never Allow The Past To Interfere With The Present

Don’t Allow The Past To Interfere With The Present

Researchers placed some fleas in a transparent canister and then put a lid to close the canister top. In a bid to escape from their prison the fleas would jump, because jumping is the only thing they know to do. Every time the fleas jumped they hit their heads against the lid of the canister. Every hit on the lid brought with it excruciating pain and possibly headaches. The fleas, being good learners soon adjusted their strategies. Instead of jumping high, they would jump in such a way that they would not hit their heads against the lid at the top. With this strategy they succeeded in avoiding the pain of crashing their heads against the lid, but they also forfeited the possibility of ever escaping out of the canister.

The researchers kept the fleas in the closed canister for many days. After a while they noticed that the fleas had adjusted their life styles and were not making any attempts to jump beyond a certain height. At this juncture the researchers removed the lid from the top of the canister. An amazing observation was made, instead of the fleas jumping to freedom, they just kept jumping to the heights they were used to. The headaches and the pains of bashing heads against the lid had taught the fleas to quit jumping so high, enjoy the comforts of jumping low and avoiding pain. Although the lid that once held them captive had now been removed, the mindset that said to them, “This high shall you jump and no higher” still imprisoned them.

This little experiment has very profound lessons for us all. Let us unpack them.

The Normalizing The Abnormal Syndrome

If perfectly normal human beings are put in abnormal situations, their survival instincts kick in immediately. They learn very quickly to adjust their behaviors in a way that minimizes pain and suffering. This is similar to the way the fleas learnt how to adjust their jumping habits. However, when this stay in abnormal conditions is prolonged the survival habits set in and the people become fossilized in those habits-what started as an abnormal response to an abnormal situation soon becomes the norm. People forget that they never used to do things that way, and soon begin to say “this is how things are done here.” We will call this tendency the tendency to “normalize the abnormal”. There are several everyday examples to illustrate the prevalence of this phenomenon. People who stay in problems for prolonged periods begin to see no problem with the problems. Most people born in poor families under very adverse conditions soon adjust and begin to feel very comfortable in their poverty. Most oppressed servants and spouses are inclined to acquiesce than to rebel. The above examples are extreme cases. However, there are numerous less graphic but equally tragic examples.

Here is the great catch! Survival is instinctual, a kind of reflexive response meant to minimize pain and make it from one day to the next without little regard to the quality of life. The key words here are, “little regard to the quality of life.” On the other hand winning in life is a productive of conscious endeavor, the product of deliberate consistent application of certain learned habits, attitudes and skills with deliberate regard to the quality of both life and results. The big question is-Are you living in a survival mode or a winning mode.

The survival mode is designed to minimize pain, failure and inconvenience. Often, but not always, it begins as a response to adverse circumstances which is so prolonged that it soon sets in as a habit. At the beginning it serves a useful purpose because it grants survival, but because it is now a habit it becomes the way of doing things even in the absence of threatening circumstances. It becomes a prison where people and their potentials are imprisoned. The most tragic part is that, like the fleas in the experiment, people are not even aware that the real prison is the mindset and not the initial limitation. Well after the lid had been removed, the fleas were still not jumping to freedom. The fleas were living in the past.

It is very tempting and easy to dismiss this flea behavior as irrational and nonsensical, yet the truth is that most of us are trapped in the past just like the fleas were. Like us examine the evidence.

There is a strong positive correlation between success and the tendency to engage in adventurous efforts. This is a proven truth. The other proven truth is that children tend to be more adventurous and more successful at what they do than adults. The reason is that most adults become less and less adventurous as they grow old because of the painful experiences that they experience while attempting to achieve something. People fall in love and sometimes get heartbreaks and in response they become less inclined to fully commit themselves in future relationships. People attempt some business ventures and most of those that fail become too cautious and less inclined to try again in future. Their past failures follow them and in a way influence their current behaviors.

The biggest casualty in all this is human potential. When the fleas learnt to jump to only the comfortable heights, they learnt to do less than their best and consequently never fully realized their potential. The same is true of you and me. Our current heights in life are not indicative of our potential but of our past conditioning. Each one of us can do better that we are currently doing, but we are stuck in the flea syndrome. Some of us are stuck in a strategy that served us well in the past but is now outdated. Some are stuck in a heartbreak that occurred in the past but is now over. To some the prison is the fear and caution carried over from a long gone and forgotten event. Together we are driving with our hand breaks on.