This week we’re joined by Bhaskar Chopra, the Industry Manager for Material Handling Solutions with Siemens Digital Factory. We met Bhaskar back at MODEX, where Joseph interviewed him about the latest in Siemens products and solutions, especially including the company’s new IoT cloud platform, known as MindSphere. Bhaskar presented the information with ease, and so we met with him again in our Atlanta studio to discuss a new topic: honing your presentation skills.
Every job, from marketing to engineering to finance to politics, usually requires a presentation or two.
We’ve all seen excellent presentations, and we’ve all seen painful and snooze-worthy presentations. What’s the best way to prepare? How can you avoid being someone’s example of what NOT to do?
1. KEEP YOUR SLIDES MINIMALIST
People assume that the first step of preparation is to set up the powerpoint. But actually, you need to plan out the powerpoint first.
Start by building a storyboard.
You’d be surprised how much rearrangement will go into this, but at the end of it you will have a much more linear, coherent story before you. You will know what you want to discuss where…and then you will have the difficult job of trimming down what will actually go into the slides.
Yes, the ever-irritating “less is more,” mantra applies here. While some of us like to blame bad presentations on the speaker or the topic itself, the content isn’t usually the problem: it’s how the content is presented.
Simple slides are better slides.
DO NOT fill your presentation to the brim with text.
“Presentations really should be a dialogue. It shouldn’t be you preaching to them.”
The last thing anybody wants is for you to read them a huge paragraph, as if they can’t read. But it’s also rude of you to expect that they will read a book’s worth of material as well, especially if it’s in a font so tiny that they need binoculars. If they’d wanted a manual on this topic, they would have gotten a manual.
Technical jargon reduces comprehension.
2. TRUST YOURSELF
Your viewers can’t actually read and listen at the same time. They’re not here for the slides, they’re here for you – so know your content.
“Step 1: make sure you’re confident in what you’re presenting… You can be a more effective liaison of that information than words on a slide ever will.”
We get it – you don’t want to shuffle through index cards to try and remember your speech…except this isn’t a speech. Really, it’s a conversation. If you work in aerospace engineering, you might not have the right presentation skills to present about plumbing – but the good news is that you usually shouldn’t have to.
You’re probably going to give a presentation about something you’re already familiar with, so trust yourself to explain it well.
Use the slides as prompters for yourself – with maybe just three to five bullet points, or even as little as three to five words. Where possible, use a picture instead of words.
“If you do have a technical topic…I always like to have images up there, and images that have as little word content as possible; and I let myself do the speaking.”
Own your topic. But even then, believe it or not… knowing what you want to touch on is actually only half the battle.
3. GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT
When you start preparing your presentation, it’s like any other sales or marketing activity: you need to know your audience. You could even go the extra mile and chart out actual personas for yourself but that’s optional. And do you know what’s even more effective?
It’s okay to ask your audience what they want to learn about.
You can email them ahead of time in some cases (if this is for, say, a business meeting). Or, if you don’t have that option, it’s acceptable to ask them at the very beginning of the presentation! They won’t see it as an annoying delay: they’ll see it as a sign that you’re here to get them results.
Bhaskar especially likes to have a whiteboard handy for this – though a notebook can sometimes work as well.
“What I do like to do is, before I start any type of presentation –especially for a smaller crowd…I’ll go around the room. I’ll take a legitimate five minutes and say, ‘Hey. I’m Bhaskar. Here’s what I do. Who are you? What do you do? Why do you care about Siemens, why do you care about VFDs, why do you care about material handling? Tell me your experience and what you care about ”
Write down some of their questions or topics right there, and try to make sure each is answered by the time you finish.
“Keep in mind what their goals out of this meeting are.”
If they know you’re going to address their concerns or their pain points, they’re definitely going to listen to what you have to say. And even if you wrap up and you haven’t answered a few of the questions, you’d be shocked how many people will be perfectly okay with waiting a few minutes while you pull up an additional, relevant powerpoint that may provide an answer for them.
4. REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE THERE
Inviting audience participation will automatically increase their engagement.
Whether you’re going around the room and asking everyone to introduce themselves, or whether you let them know that you’ll need a volunteer later, the more your focus is on them instead of your content, the more they’ll be paying attention. And if you invite someone onstage to perform a demo, they’ll be more likely to believe that this really is “easy as one-two-three,” compared to if you perform the demo yourself.
“At the end of the day, isn’t this a bit of Sales 101?”
Wherever you go and to whomever you present, you need to remember that the presentation is ultimately about them and answering their questions; not about you and what you have to say.
Always remember to prepare ahead of time…and to “give the people what they want.”
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