Whilst it wasn’t rocket science, I always thought carefully in advance about my appearance as well as how and where I stood. And I looked at the driver as the vehicle approached. Simply put, by thinking what would influence the driver I was doing my best to sell the idea of being offered a lift.
As the pace of life speeds up, so we have to make more decisions and judgements than ever before. Consequently, our frontal brain lobes develop automatic short-cuts and become wired to rely more heavily on first impressions. We just can’t cope with the amount of information and data streaming into our heads. Hitchhikers today probably have a maximum of two seconds to influence a driver’s decision. So to get the desired result, a simple and audience-focused presentation style is critical.
Influencing a whole audience as part of a professional presentation is typically a more complicated process because there are far more people with whom to communicate and greater amounts of information to convey. However, the fundamental principles learnt from hitchhiking hold.
A sound presentation needs to inspire confidence in an audience and the message must be conveyed in a clear and easy to digest format. Presenters must also prepare and look the part. To see someone executing these principles brilliantly, watch this video of a leading voice of education ‘Sir Ken Robinson’.
Unfortunately, far too many presentations fail to get close to the quality of Sir Ken’s work because keeping things simple (i.e. one man talking without a script to an audience on stage) typically requires a combination of: lots of practice; experience; confidence; and passion for the subject. Yet you can do it if you are prepared to put in the effort.
However, there’s another fundamental reason why presentations are not as good as they should be. And this one’s much easier to remedy. According to advertising guru Jon Steel, presentations are poorer because of the way ‘PowerPoint’ is used.
Jon’s excellent and highly recommendable book ‘Perfect Pitch’ highlights how and why we use PowerPoint as a crutch. Not only does this make us lazy but it also takes the focus of the presentation away from our ability to communicate directly and passionately with the audience. How many times have you sat and been bored by someone going through endless PowerPoint slides, each one packed with mind-numbing information? For top ‘tips’ on this subject, read the blog post: ‘If you’re going to screw up a pitch, here’s how’.
For over 25 years Jon Steel has experienced remarkable success at the top of the global advertising industry. His book outlines precisely how to present ideas convincingly (like hitchhiking; simple, personal and audience focus are key messages). Reading through the pages you will also discover how people like Sir Ken Robinson are able to stand on stage, talk for 20 minutes without barely moving and then receive a standing ovation.
Entrepreneurs must constantly pitch ideas. And employers are always looking for people who know how to deliver sound presentations and influence the thinking of others. If you can communicate with an audience in a confident, clear and meaningful manner you will have a special talent that will last you a lifetime.
Key Learning Points: Convey clear messages in presentations by thinking about your audience & keeping things clear. Watch presenters like Sir Ken Robinson to hone skills and avoid using PowerPoint if it detracts from and dilutes the quality of what you say.