don't present, perform

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We all remember our favourite teacher. That really inspirational educator. Imagine them in your mind’s eye now. I bet they all had a few things in common: quiet, monotone voice, no engagement, the amazing ability to send you off to sleep…

What? They didn’t? Funny that.

The presentationalist puts their audience first, second and third. They know that means conveying passion and engaging your audience. A common answer to that is, “well, I’m not outgoing”. I know what you mean, when we imagine someone performing and grabbing an audience we tend to visualise something like this:

Except that Freddie Mercury was actually very shy and cultivated his stage persona bit by bit to help him perform. But even if you don’t think you could ever do that with all the practise in the world have a look at this performance:

Make no mistake, this is a performance. It’s education. It’s a man sat down with no supportive media at all and he manages to hold the whole room, including Hollywood actors, in the palm of his hand just through sheer passion for a subject. He’s telling a story. He cares. So you care. And now you know about how rhinos do dummy charges.

There isn’t only one way to do presentations. The right way is the way that helps you give your message with passion.

So when we present we have to approach it like a performance. This isn’t about just standing there and nervously reading our some bullet points on a screen. If we view it like a performance we can change the way we approach it.

We take to the stage having practised. We know exactly what we’re going to say when we’re going to say it. We have our slides but they’re only there to help. We could actually do the presentation without them. If we can show we care then our audience will care and the rest will flow.

Don’t be held back. Don’t hide behind the lectern. With a USB slide clicker suddenly you have a wand in you hand controlling the slides and you’re free.

My presentation gear. Kensington USB slide clicker, VGA adaptor and bag.

My presentation gear. Kensington USB slide clicker, VGA adaptor and bag.

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There’s a reason why no matter how many times you’ve driven your car you don’t get any closer to being an F1 driver. Deliberate practice is the model for improving at a skill to become an ‘expert’. This involves focused instruction on particular aspects of a performance. Just presenting many times again and again may make you feel happier but to become truly skilled this involves a presentation buddy acting as a coach. They watch your performance, they give feedback, you use that to develop.

Deliberate practice is a highly structured activity, the explicit goal of which is to improve performance. Specific tasks are invented to overcome weaknesses, and performance is carefully monitored to provide cues for ways to improve it further. Through deliberate practice we can get better at any skill. Presenting is a skill. It must be practised deliberately.

Use your presentation buddy. Practice your talk. Be able to do it without slides. Be able to do it blindfolded. Know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.

If your slides are in Keynote will it play in the room? Does it have internet? Make sure your slides are in the right format and that any videos etc will work.

Get a good night sleep the day before your talk. Watch presenters before you. Get a feel for the room and the audience. Enjoy the experience.

Ey oh.