Assessing what works and what doesn't is a big part of your presentation skills training!
August is a month for projects. As we wind our way through the end of summer, August can be the month when our minds turn to improvement- weeding gardens, mowing lawns, perhaps cleaning out a closet you've been avoiding.
It's also a great time to clean out a metaphorical closet- the one you fill with your presentation skills. Just like the personal items that you're unsure of parting with, figuring out what aspects of your presenting can be kept and which need some improvement can be difficult, but we're here to help. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Keep: Your PBS (Personal Business Story)
The story of how you started in your chosen field, a particular struggle you had to overcome, or a great success you had along the way is invaluable presentation material. One story can be used in different settings to illustrate things like perseverance, ingenuity, adversity, and a host of others. (Your story may also be hysterical- extra points for humor!) Keep crafting it, so it remains well-structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. An effective PBS never goes out of style.
Toss: The joke that never worked
Is there a joke you've trotted out in multiple presentations, only to be met with crickets every time? Even if you think it's the funniest thing you've ever heard, it might be time to retire it. Anyone can have a bad audience (or two...) but if it's a consistent flop, it might be time to shelve it.
Keep: Your free gestures
You've done a lot of work on the physical aspect of your presentations (good for you!) and you've gotten comfortable with larger, more specific, more organic gestures- congratulations! Keep up the good work. Remember, strong, confident gestures live above the waist and with elbows away from the body.
Toss: Steeple fingers
Oh, steeple fingers. What is it about you that is so appealing? Is it the air of intelligence we think you convey? The hand "activity" we think doesn't detract? Your ability to vary between a triangle and diamond shape? For some reason, "steeple fingers" keeps cropping up in presentations. If you think it's effective gesture, unfortunately it's not. If you feel a Mr. Burns coming on, go back to your strong, open gestures.
Keep: Your lean, mean PowerPoint
You know that less is more when it comes to PowerPoint- it's there to support YOU, not the other way around. Keep embracing the 6x6x4 Rule- no more than 6 words per bullet, no more than 6 bullets per slide, and no more than 4 text-based slides without a graphic, picture, etc. Definitely keep this in your arsenal.
Toss: Your hyper-textual slides
"But it's a process/map/set of directions, and they need to read every word!" Trust your audience- they can follow your content. Hyper-textual slides take the focus off of you and place it on to the slide itself, as your listeners try to struggle to read every word. You're more interesting than your slide. Make sure you're still the main event by streamlining slidedeck content.
Keep: Your effective attention grabber
So much more than "Hello my name is___________", an effective attention grabber wakes your audience up and lets them know it's time to start. Perhaps you start with a pocket story about your trip into work, an amazing statistic, or a bit of (well-crafted!) humor. You know that grabbing your audience's attention in an intriguing way gets things off on the right foot. Well done to you! (Need to see a great example? Listen to Richard Turere's opener here.)
Toss: Your verbal viruses
Verbal fillers (like "ummm", "uhhh", "you know", etc.) undermine your credibility and confidence. Maybe you've been trying to get rid of them for years, but now it's finally time to rid your life of them! The best way to combat a verbal filler? Take a pause to collect your thoughts- don't feel the need to make any sound to "play for time". Your audience will wait, and your credibility will remain in tact.