SLEEP – ROADMAP – PRACTISE – VARIATION – RELEVANCE – EMOTION
Throughout our experience as a professional presentation company providing a range of services to clients holding conferences, award dinners, roadshows and most types of live events throughout the UK, we often hear from presenters we are working with that their two greatest fears when they first started were: –
- They will forget what they intended to say.
- Their audience won’t remember what they said.
These dual fears are understandable and create much concern among nervous and novice presenters. However, by employing specific techniques and practises all presenters can deliver more memorable in-person and online presentations that both the presenter and the audience will remember.
Simple rules to abide by if you are asked to present live online or in person at a conference.
- Prepare your presentation properly.
- Structuring your presentation.
- Practicing the content and the tools you will be using to present.
TIP 1. SLEEP IN and REMEMBER MORE
The best preparation advice sounds like it comes straight from a parenting book.
Sleep is critical to memory.
Sleep researchers have now concluded that one of the important aspects of sleep is to consolidate memories. You are much more likely to recall information if you are well rested from a good night’s sleep than if you stay up all night trying to memorise salient points of your presentation. Furthermore, getting a good night’s sleep allows you to better cope with the following day’s experience.
TIP 2. MAKE A ROADMAP BEFORE YOU BUILD YOUR PRESENTATION
Many presenters’ messages lack a clear, coherent and consistent structure. It is no wonder that they get lost in their presentation and if the speaker cannot follow the presentation how will the audience do so?
Building a roadmap into your presentation is the best you can do to ensure both you and your audience follow the presentation. By employing a structure, you can more readily remember where you are and where you are going. In fact, research suggests that people recall structured information 40% better than unstructured information. Many effective structures exist, such as: –
- First – second – third.
- Past – present – future.
- Problem – solution – benefit.
The true benefits of utilising structures allow your audience to understand the path of your presentation, this in turn increases their connection with you and their interest in the subject of the presentation you are giving. An added benefit of a structured path is for you the presenter, if for any reason you momentarily lose your way your own logic allows you to remember what comes next.
TIP 3. PRACTISE OUT LOUD STANDING UP
To practise effectively – and you must practise in order to remember – you need to be professional and do the same as top grade actors, stand up and speak out loud. It is not enough to simply think through your presentation. The physical act of standing and speaking your presentation helps you to better remember your script. Mental rehearsal cements your message, but physical practise prevents forgetting.
One helpful way to rehearse is to practise the “segmenting” technique whereby you divide your presentation into distinct segments based on your structure (e.g. introduction, problem, solution, benefit, conclusion, etc.). Next, you practise each segment alone, and then you begin to combine the segments. The combinations need not be chronological, for example, you could first practise your conclusion followed by your introduction. This segmenting allows you to increase your familiarity with your presentation without necessarily memorising it. Memorising invites forgetting because you are more focussed on saying it right each time rather than communicating with and connecting your message to your audience. Segmenting encourages you to speak in a fluent impromptu manner.
Employing proper preparation, structuring and practise techniques will help calm the nerves and allows you to focus better on your audience.
Next, we must explore what you can do to make your presentations more memorable for those who listen to it.
TIP 4. VARIATION IS THE SPICE OF LIFE AND A MEMORABLE PRESENTATION
“Variety is the spice of life” so the saying goes, and it certainly applies when it comes to presentations. The variety of which we speak includes variation in your voice, visuals and evidence. The primary type of presentation variation that most people think of is vocal variety. Engaging speakers vary their voice and rate of words to gain and hold their audience’s attention and interest, whilst unengaging speakers present in a monotonous manner. Adding variation in your volume and speaking rate serve to keep your audience’s focus and motivates them to listen. Yet many nervous and novice presenters do not feel comfortable speaking with an expressive and varied voice.
Additionally, for inexperienced and novice speakers, there are certain words in our vocabulary that are emotive such as: –
that they can use in their presentations. Then, when they speak these terms, they can inflect their voice to reflect the true meaning of these words. If you are speaking about an exciting experience, then literally say “exciting” in an excited manner. With time, they will feel more confident and comfortable presenting in an expressive way.
Variation in the evidence you use to support your ideas is also critical to engaging your audience and helping them remember your content.
Presenters tend to favour one type of evidence such as data, anecdotes, testimonials, definitions, etc. Academic research has shown that triangulating your support provides more compelling and memorable results. So, this means you should vary the types of evidence you use to make your point: Use a data point, a testimonial and a story. Try to be like marketers and advertisers who regularly rely on multiple types of evidence to sell their products and services. Varying your evidence types reinforces your point and gives your audience multiple opportunities to connect with your idea and remember it.
Variety invites focus on the task at hand and guides your audience to stay engaged in your talk without wandering off. This is why variation in your voice and the evidence you use help make your ideas stick. Similar to a droning voice and singular evidence, slides crammed with words and gestures that repeat themselves cause disengagement and distraction – the archenemy of compelling, memorable presentations. Really it all boils down to cognitive load, in other words, what is your audience capable of understanding and absorbing.
Remember – Less is more: Think visually.
Thinking visually can often rescue you from the trap of creating verbose slides that act more as eye test charts than helpful aids. Use as few words as you can on any one slide, make everything readable from the back of the hall, avoid complexity, and keep it simple and above all understandable.
TIP 5. RELEVANCE IS THE KEY TO MEMORY
When you present you must tend to your audience’s needs so that they can understand, remember, and ultimately act on your messages. To begin you need to make your message easy for them to understand. This does not mean you make your message simple, it means you make it relevant. In order to create a relevant message you need to do some homework to determine your audience’s knowledge, expectations, and attitudes and you need to adjust your presentation to your audience’s needs.
This tailoring is especially needed when presenting numeric data. Too often presenters deliver numbers devoid of context and relevance, which makes it hard for the audience to comprehend and understand. Instead of reeling off annual costs which are probably astronomic and beyond your audience’s comprehension break them down to a weekly cost. Remember context is important – by making your content relevant to your audience, you ultimately make it more memorable.
TIP 6 EMOTION GETS A RESPONSE FROM YOUR AUDIENCE
It is well known that emotion sticks. People remember emotional appeals much more readily than simple factual ones.
To help your audience remember your message, work to have your tone and delivery match the emotional impact you desire. You must take time to reflect on the emotional response you want and then work to make sure your delivery is congruent to the emotional impact you desire. However, be careful not to be too scripted or theatrical. For emotion to help you it must be authentic and credible.
It is said that many technical presentations need to be highly detailed and descriptive and therefore emotion is incompatible to their objectives. We firmly believe that even the most technical and scientific talks can infuse emotion in them. The best way to bring emotion in is to focus on benefits and the implications of the technology or science in question.
Benefits are inherently emotional … saving time, saving money, saving trees, saving lives…. these are emotional.
By including an emotional component to your presentation via your tone, delivery, and connection to your audience you can increase the long-term engagement and understanding of your presentation.
By invoking specific techniques and practises you can deliver a presentation, however complex, that is memorable for both you and your audience no matter your presentation environment or topic. To help you remember your presentation focus on your preparation, message structure and practise-practise-practise.
To aid your audience in remembering your presentation adding emotion, relevance and variety to your presentation you can be sure the audience will remember what they hear and see.
The techniques and approaches we have described will also help you to be more comfortable and confident in your presenting which will only amplify your positive impact on your audience.