Presentations: 14 Ways to Make Them Interesting

 They’ve come to hear you speak. Their time, like yours is precious. There were many other things they could have been doing. Instead, they chose to attend your presentation. In reality, they’ve entrusted you with their time – a precious gift. You therefore owe it to your audience to make it interesting, and to give them the stuff they came to hear.

So how do you grab your audience by the scruff of their necks right from the start and keep them riveted to your message through to the finish? You certainly need to attend to a lot more than just your content. You need to be purposeful in your preparation. By asking yourself these 14 key questions, at preparation stage, you will set yourself up for a presentation that is sure to keep them riveted:

1. Why did they come? They came to receive value specifically related to the topic you were billed to speak or present on. As a result of what you say, the best result for everyone is that something should happen. If nothing happens as a result of your presentation, then why did you bother? Be absolutely clear about your central message.

2. What did they come to hear? Whether it was the talk title, topic or product they came to hear about – that’s what you should give them. Not a whole lot of other stuff. The other stuff we mistake for value add is merely clutter. Go deep into the stuff they came to hear. 85% or more of your content should be only that.

3. How will they remember what I said? If you can link specific concepts or points to real life scenarios or stories, your point is more likely to be memorable. After 24 hours most people will only remember 1 or 2 key points anyway. Link your stories to those key points, and make sure that they remember the important stuff.

4. Is structure important? The structure of your content is more than important – it’s vital! Start by telling them what you’re going to be speaking about – it’s called setting up the topic. That way, they know they’re at the right place! Maintain a thread of logical order throughout your presentation so that it makes sense and is easy to follow. Wrap up neatly at the end. If you’re going to allow a question time, before the wrap up is the time for it. If you have the opportunity to record your rehearsal, play it back to ascertain whether the flow works. If you’re not sure, ask someone else’s opinion.

5. Are last minute changes advisable? Introducing a snippit of current news or up to date information immediately grabs people’s attention and can be a great addition to your presentation. Up to date information can be added a day or 2 before, and a news snippet can be added on the day. But avoid making far reaching changes a few hours before. You may confuse yourself completely!

6. Must I use humour? Light heartedness is preferable to a string of pre-planned jokes which can fall flat if not delivered properly. Humour gets people into a receptive mood and engages them – and spontaneous humour is easily the most effective. It is therefore important to get yourself into a relaxed, up-beat state of mind prior to your presentation.

7. Should I interact with the audience? Audience interaction is on the increase as the Silent and Boomer generations give way to the X & Y generations now taking over the marketplace, social space and audiences. These younger generations now expect interaction. In the future speakers or presenters who fail to interact with their audiences will become largely obsolete and irrelevant. The most common way of interaction is via questions. The presenter can ask the audience questions or invite questions from the audience. Increasingly, presenters will get the audience to interact with props, electronic gadgets and even television screens. If you develop the ability to respond to reactions or chirps from the audience, you will heighten audience interest and engagement. This also indicates that you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself.

8. Do I bang on too much? Waffling on and pontificating about the same thing is the quickest way to shift audience attention to the nearest mobile device within reach. Keep your points crisp, illustrate using stories or examples, then move on. It’s far more powerful to return to a key point to re-emphasize, several times if warranted, rather than going on continuously.

9. What kind of language do I use? In order to reach as many audience members as possible, simple is always the best. Except in rare cases, the vast majority of audience members use a vocabulary of less than 1500 words and simply won’t understand words outside of that range. It follows that too many “big” words will result in you losing that person completely. It’s important to note that the possibility exists that that was the very person you most wanted to influence!

10. What techniques can I use? My friend and fellow author Alan Stevens refers to the “rule of three” which creates a strong impact. For example you may say “regardless of wind, rain or blizzard, we will deliver on time”. In a political context, try this. “They have no clothes, they have no food, nor do they have shelter, but they are our countrymen and it is our duty to help them.” You can always slip one of those in somewhere. Another one is the technique of anaphora, where one repeats a phrase in a speech. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” is a great example of this.

11. Is tone of voice important? People may be attracted to attend a presentation to learn, but once they’re there, they also like to be entertained and informed. A warm, friendly, conversational tone will keep them engaged far better than preaching. Listen to a recording of your speech to help eliminate voice tone problems such as monotony or speaking too fast.

12. What about the visual aspect? A person can only focus their eyes on one place at a time. Preferably, that should be on you. Slide shows, unless used professionally and sparingly can be distracting and cause confusion. When planning your presentation be absolutely sure where you want the audience to be looking at any given time. Keeping them looking where they should be looking makes the presentation much more interesting for them. If various people are looking at different things at the same time, you have not got their focused attention. Distraction is therefore a major reason for presentation disconnect.

13. If I smile frequently will I be taken seriously? Paradoxically, yes you will! Friendliness makes you appear more charismatic and authentic and ensure that people warm to you. The smile is the big persuasion tool that wins over your audience. Use it lavishly, but at the appropriate times. Your default expression should be one of warmth.

14. Where should I be looking? You should not be looking at slides, the carpet, your shoes or the ceiling. Making eye contact with your audience creates a strong connection and makes your presentation much more engaging – and interesting. For a larger audience, looking at sections of the audience will do the trick.

There’s just one more thing, of course. You need to go through it a few times beforehand. That’s the bit we usually forget. Preparation without rehearsal is like an unserviced vehicle – it just doesn’t go very well. You only need a few failures for your confidence to plummet, so don’t do that to yourself. Make the time to rehearse. That means your other prep should be completed well in advance.

There is nothing like a well planned, riveting presentation to ensure that you get the result you planned.

Negotiating Skills and the 10 Powers of Negotiation: The Critical Role of Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking and the 10 Powers of Negotiation…

Does anyone doubt that men and woman are sometimes different — or that they sometimes view the world differently? Has anyone experienced how men and women can sometimes have different perceptions of the same event? Can anyone seriously dispute that men and women sometimes approach relationships quite differently? So, why is this? And why is this even remotely relevant in the context of negotiation?

To negotiate effectively, we need to use both sides of our brain. Left-brain people focus on logic, mathematics, rational thought, and black-and-white thinking. Approximately 90% of men in the world are left-brain dominated. Right-brain people focus on intuition, emotion and creativity. Approximately 90% of women in the world are right-brain dominated. To be effective negotiators, we must become lateral thinkers by learning to use both sides of our brain.

After spending more than 30 years negotiating agreements around the world and after researching Nelson Mandela’s approach to his historic negotiations with the South African apartheid government, I identified 10 Powers of Negotiation. These 10 Powers reveal the critical role of lateral thinking in the negotiating process by highlighting that negotiators need both left and right-brain skills. You will notice that some require predominantly left-brain skills and others require predominantly right-brain skills. But, to pull all the Powers together, negotiators require a combination of both.

These are the 10 Powers:

• The power of understanding that a negotiation is a process.

• The power of preparation.

• The power of positioning.

• The power of common sense and logic.

• The power of dignity, congeniality, humility and humor.

• The power of truth and fairness.

• The power of observation – of listening and seeing.

• The power of morality, courage and attitude.

• The power of patience.

• The power to walk away.

The advantages of lateral thinking…

Because lateral thinkers are people who have the ability to use both the left and right sides of their brain, they have significantly more insight into human behavior than those who are not lateral thinkers. They not only see unusual patterns of behavior that others might miss, they also have a more nuanced and layered sense of what is happening around them. Because of this, they also see more options for problem solving and have far superior problem solving skills than those who are not lateral thinkers.

And because the negotiating process is about identifying the problems each side is hoping to solve, the identification of the problems and finding different options and approaches to solving those problems lie at the very core of any successful negotiation.

Lateral thinking and empathy…

Nelson Mandela’s negotiating skills and experiences highlight the enormous importance of looking at every negotiation through the eyes of those with whom you are negotiating. He saw the enormous advantages that this can present on many different levels in a negotiation. His life is a remarkable window into his lateral thinking skills. It is quite fascinating how he honed these skills during his life and how he used them in his negotiations with the South African government.

When it comes to being able to see the world through the other side’s eyes, empathy is the name of the game. While it might be tempting to argue, using left-brain skills, that a position the other side is taking is “logical” or “illogical” or “black-and-white,” almost invariably the right-brain skills are far more telling and useful. Clearly, to get into someone’s head we need to tap into their emotional state and understand it. We need to tap into whatever intuitive skills we can muster. In doing so, we come to realize the enormous advantages most women have over those of us who are predominantly left-brain oriented.

This is why we either have to develop both left-brain and right-brain skills, or we have to assemble negotiating teams that possess these skills.

How lateral thinking exposes the risk of negotiating alone…

I’ve accepted that I’m a predominantly left-brain person. I think of myself as logical and rational — perhaps to a fault. I’ve also always accepted the problem that this almost inevitably creates — and the opportunities that I might lose as a result. I’ve therefore accepted the absolute need to work on my right-brain functionality. Unfortunately, what I’ve sometimes found is that, as I began to focus on my right-brain development, I often found myself taking my eye off my left-brain functionality. I needed to find a solution to this — and I did.

I decided that, whenever possible, I would never negotiate alone. Instead, I wanted at my side the smartest right-brain negotiator I could find — as well as the smartest left-brain negotiator to keep me focused. I would have to gather around me the smartest right-brain and left-brain people I could find. And because 90% of women are right-brain dominant, that was where I’d look for the right-brain part of my team.

As the 10 Powers of Negotiation highlights, negotiators have to keep their eyes on my different balls simultaneously. And as they have to observe and listen to the other side’s negotiating team, and particularly when that team is sometimes quite large, it is almost impossible to do this alone. To have a team of left and right-brain negotiators watching and listening and assessing what is happening is a huge advantage and will always yield a better result than handling this alone.

So, don’t be proud, folks. Gather together a team of the most skilled lateral thinkers you can find…

Compiling Pictures Into a PowerPoint Presentation in Under Five Minutes

Showing slides before, after and during the breaks of a business conference or business meeting, can be a great addition to any itinerary. Don’t think that you haven’t got time to put your photos into a presentation. If you are using MS PowerPoint, you can do this in a matter of minutes. Even someone new to the process can create a Photo Album in under five minutes.

TIP: If you put all of your photographs into one folder, it is much easier to find them and insert them into the Photo Album. You can put them into a logical order in the folder, or do it while creating your Photo Album.

Basic Creation

1. Open PowerPoint

It doesn’t matter if you open a blank presentation or something that you have previously created. PowerPoint will create a new presentation to contain your Photo Album.

2. On the Insert ribbon, in the Images group, click on the Photo Album button, New Photo Album

If you click on the bottom half of this button you will see options to create a new album or edit the existing one. If you click on the top half of the button, you will go straight to creating a new album.

3. The Photo Album dialog box will open

4. To insert your photos, click on the File/Disk… button underneath the label Insert picture from

5. Navigate to the folder with your photos

6. Select the photos you want to insert

TIP: If you have created a dedicated folder for the pictures you want to include, click on one thumbnail, or file name and then press Ctrl + A on your keyboard to select them all.

TIP: If you only want to choose some of the pictures, click on the first one you want to select then hold your Ctrl key down while you click on each of your other choices. This will allow you to select photos regardless of where they are in the file.

CAUTION: If you hold the Ctrl key down, click on a thumbnail or file name and move your mouse cursor even a tiny bit, you may find that you have created copies of all the photos you had selected. Be careful not to let your mouse drag when you are selecting with the Ctrl key pressed.

7. Click the Insert button on the bottom right of the box

TIP: If you don’t like the order the photos are in, you can rearrange them at this point by selecting the picture you want to move and then using the arrows that are underneath the list.

8. Click Create on the bottom right of the Photo Album dialog box

PowerPoint will need a few seconds to compile your photos, but soon you will see a presentation with each picture on a slide.

Finishing Touches

1. Change the title slide if you want it to show something other than Photo Album and the name associated with the computer

PowerPoint slides are very easy to edit. Simply click on the text that you want to change and you are ready to edit it.

TIP: If you want the slides to automatically begin again when they reach the end, it may be better not to have a title slide. In this case click on the thumbnail of the title slide (to the left of your slide), right-click and then choose Delete Slide from the menu that appears.

2. Add some background colour to the slides

If your photographs are a different size to your slides, the background you see will be white. This can be hard on the eyes. Changing the colour to something darker is often easier to look at and will help your pictures to show up more.

a. On the Design ribbon, in the Background group, click on Background Styles

b. Choose one of the existing backgrounds or click on Format Background to create one of your own

The same background will be added to each of your slides.

3. Add timings to your slides to enable them to advance automatically

a. On the Transitions ribbon, in the Timing group take the check mark off On Mouse Click and put one on After

b. Adjust the timer to whatever length will suit your needs

TIP: It can be challenging to find a timing that won’t feel like you are whizzing through the slides, or boring everyone to death by leaving them up too long. I find that ten seconds per slide is a good compromise.

c. On the Transitions ribbon, in the Timing group, click Apply To All

4. Set your presentation to start again from the beginning when it reaches the end

a. On the Slide Show ribbon, in the Set Up group, click on Set Up Slide Show

b. In the Show Options group, make sure there is a check mark on Loop Continuously Until ‘ESC’

When you are ready to stop your presentation, press the ESC key on your keyboard.

5. Save your presentation

6. Press F5 to start showing the slides

The toughest part of this process is choosing the photos you want to use. Once that is done, you can create a Photo Album in a matter of minutes. A picture really does paint a thousand words, so put that power to work whenever you want to show your team what they have accomplished, or show clients what you are all about.