12 ways to increase the success of your presentation – before you even start

If you expect that something will be good, then you will probably experience it as good.

Many years ago I was invited to dinner at the house of a family friend – my father was the guest of honour. To honour him, our host had saved a very special bottle of red wine – worth $200. My father – an enthusiastic wine drinker – exulted over it. I’m not normally a wine drinker – but I decided I had to taste some of this wine. It was fantastic – velvety deep, a whole experience in one mouthful.

wine-bottle21But having read of the results of research on wine tasting reported on the Neuromarketing blog I wonder if I was at the mercy of my high expectations. Roger Dooley’s post is worth reading and he’s also get some simple and effective graphics to demonstrate the findings of the research. Here’s the key finding:

When people don’t know the price of the wine, they prefer cheaper wines to the more expensive. When they know the price, they enjoy the more expensive wine.

What implications does this have for you as a presenter? Bottle yourself like an expensive bottle of wine. Set the expections of your audience high. Here are some ways you can do this:

Before your presentation

  1. Provide information about yourself and your presentation to audience members beforehand. This may be a hard copy flier, an e-mail, or a pdf attachment. If you do the same presentation many times, customise this information for each specific audience so that they feel that it has been prepared specially for them.
  2. Include an up-to-date photo of yourself. This will help your audience get to know you before the presentation.
  3. Create a short video outlining what you’re going to cover and the benefits they’ll get out of it.
  4. If it’s a conference presentation, the blurb that you’re asked to write for the conference brochure is critical. Give yourself enough time to write it so that you can edit and fine-tune it.
  5. If you’re charging money for your presentation, charge a price which will have your audience thinking “She must be good!”

On the day of your presentation

  1. Take care with your grooming and your dress. I believe in dressing one notch smarter than your audience. This means that your audience will perceive you as having taken some trouble but you won’t be over-dressed and out-of-place.
  2. Arrive in plenty of time to set-up and get the room and technology just right. I pay attention to small details like chairs being in straight lines, workbooks and pads being precisely aligned. This all conveys professionalism. We sometimes present in meeting rooms which have gradually accumulated all sorts of office detritus – we clear it all out of site. As people walk into the room, you can immediately see the positive impact as they notice the difference.
  3. Have everything ready for when people start arriving so that you can welcome them and give them your full attention. Imagine you’re the host at your party.
  4. Use music to set the mood as people are walking in. We use an Ipod with a small but powerful Bose speaker.
  5. Design a specific slide or sequence of slides to be showing as people are arriving – not a boring title slide.
  6. If you use props in your presentation (and you won’t be giving anything away by revealing them) lay them out on a table to intrigue people.
  7. If it’s at a conference, attend as much of the conference as you can and network with conference attendees – let people know a little about what you’re going to be talking about – but not too much.

Just like people enjoy an expensive bottle of wine – when they know it’s expensive, they’ll enjoy your presentation more when they expect it to be good.

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