Today’s blog is going to be focussed on visual presentation skills. Good public speaking skills are important if you plan to present in person, but if you’re developing a visual or written aid to go along with your presentation there are a whole range of other considerations for you to make.
Presentation Skills – Speaking with Visuals
We recently published a blog on public speaking skills (click here to read it) in which we examined the various elements that go into verbal presentation that are, perhaps, overlooked.
Along with getting your body language, tone and rate of speech (to name but a few) presentation-ready, you do have to consider visual aids. If you’re presenting along with a document it must be;
- Not too distracting
Be aware of the softwares available and try moving out of your PowerPoint box. There’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint, of course, but perhaps a different software will help your presentation along. Here are a few of our favourites.
Prezi is a free software, though there is a paid-for Business option available too, which can be used online, no downloading necessary. Prezi bridges the gap between creating a slide presentation and creating an animated infographic. Here’s an example of what can be done with Prezi.
From the minds of a graphic design team, Custom Show was born. The online software allows for cloud-based collaboration, so this is a great option for teams to use. Plus, the software comes with some analytics built in, so if you’re emailing your presentation you can see who’s watched it and how far they watched for.
Haiku Deck can be operated entirely via smartphone or tablet, as well as on a computer. It’s niche is simple, stylish presentations – perfect if you’re busy and lack graphic design skills. They even have an AI service which lets you upload your text and it’ll use it’s experience to put together your presentation for you, amazing.
With PowToon you can create a hybrid presentation / animation simply and easily. It’s free and comes packed with tonnes of drag and drop elements ready to animate.
Presentation Skills – Avoiding the crickets
Often, you’ll be presenting in a formal setting. Perhaps you don’t know your audience, perhaps they don’t know you either. Even when you speak in front of colleagues you work with every day it’s easy for nerves and the formality of the situation to make people feel a little uneasy. Here are three tried and tested ice-breakers you can use.
- Humour is often an ideal ice-breaker in these situations. Just make sure it’s appropriate for the setting.
- Start with a positive ‘Raise Your Hand’ question, you’ll immediately make your audience feel more involved.
- Start with a local news story or a locally relevant fact. Your audience will feel something in common with you right away.
Presentation Skills – The Science
It helps, when presenting, to understand a little about how our minds work, so let’s look at a few facts that’ll come in handy when presenting.
It’s helpful to consider the learning types you have in your audience, do they learn best by reading, listening, looking or doing? You can’t always have an answer to this question as you may not know them well enough at this point, if this is the case, try to include something for everyone. Speak clearly, have keywords and facts written within your presentation, use graphics to help the visual learners and, if possible, involve your audience in some way to keep the kinetic learners (those who learn by doing) switched on.
If you’re presenting in-person, keep the slides very text-light. We can’t read while we’re listening and vice-versa. Plus the brain can process symbols and graphics much faster than words and sentences.
Use stories and try to relate to your audience whenever possible, not only will this make them feel involved, our brains are more active when listening to stories and metaphors.
All serious presenters need to consider cognitive load theory – when you’re presenting, the likelihood is that some of your information will be new to some or all of your audience. Our brains can only handle a certain amount of new information at a time, so when explaining complex ideas, keep your visuals minimal. You can even throw a blank slide in there to give people a little time to process what you’ve just taught them, this works in the same way as a well-times pause in your speech.
Presentation Skills – Written
If you’re not presenting your document and it’s more of a proposal/report, or if you need to email your presentation at a later date, you may need to rely more on the written word.
In these cases, it’s acceptable to use more writing to get your point across, but don’t go crazy with it. There’s a great book by Josh Bernoff called ‘Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean’ where Bernoff explains that most of us were rewarded for writing as many words as possible throughout our education. For example, a ‘10,000 word’ dissertation is set, rather than an essay to ‘communicate your ideas effectively and efficiently’. And indeed, it is harder to write efficiently, saying only what needs to be said. Keep this in mind and try to cut our unnecessary copy wherever possible.
Film your talks wherever possible to assess how well you’re using your new skills, it takes practice, so you won’t be perfect first time. But keeping a visual record which you can reflect upon does help massively.
As does asking for feedback. There is great debate about non anonymous vs anonymous feedback, but anonymous feedback – as long as it’s all constructive – tends to see a better return. You can hand out simple feedback forms with questions leading to constructive feedback or even put together a little online survey with a free tool like Typeform.