blank audience Every type of presentation has its own challenges. I’ve put together my best presentation tips for each different type of presentation.

Best presentation tip for a training session

Running long (sometimes all-day) training sessions is probably the worst possible method of learning. So, as trainers we have to compensate for the terrible format. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, delivers 50 minute lectures. His experience, backed up by peer-reviewed studies, was that after about 10 minutes of the lecturer talking, most students had checked out. So he applies the 10 minute rule:

“I decided that every lecture I’d ever give would come in discrete modules. Since the 10 minute rule had been known for many years, I decided the modules would last only 10 minutes.”

And then every 10 minutes – between the modules – he has an “emotionally competent stimuli”, otherwise known as a hook, such as a relevant story or anecdote. It’s like resetting the audience’s attention meter to zero.

For longer training sessions here’s my extended version of the 10 minute rule:

  • 10 minutes trainer talk
  • 10 minutes exercise
  • 10 minutes discussion

How do your training programs measure up to that 10 minute rule?

Best presentation tip for a conference presentation

There’s a shift happening in conference presentations. Nowhere is this shift more eloquently described than in Cliff Atkinson’s The Backchannel Book. It’s a shift from a one-way presentation to a two-way dialog between you and the audience. The catalyst has been the technology that allows a backchannel at mainstream conferences, but the shift is much bigger than the technology. It’s a ‘new’ perspective on conference presenting. I put ‘new’ in quote marks because to a lot of people it’s not new. People have been experimenting with alternatives to conferences for years, for example, the Open Space (PDF download) movement and the Unconference movement. Now the principles of Open Space and unconferences are infiltrating more formal conference situations. Nick Morgan has written about this in his series on the future of conferences. See this post on involving the audience in particular.

If all this is new to you, here’s a small practical  step you can make in your next conference presentation. Build in breaks for questions throughout your presentation. About every 10 minutes. If it’s a small group this can be in the front channel i.e. out loud, but in a large group make use of backchannel technology which makes Q&A almost friction-free. Here are two posts which will help you make this transition:

8 tips for encouraging questions in your presentation

Why most attempts at audience participation fail and what to do about it

Best presentation tip for a sales presentation

Sales trainers all sing from the same song sheet – make your sales pitch about the client, their needs and how you can solve them. Ditch the company background and credentials until the client asks. Joey Asher encapsulates this point in his post In a pitch, nobody cares about your resume (love that title).

This is nothing new. But just about every client we work with needs to be reminded of it.

For more from Joey Asher check out his book How to Win a Pitch (here’s my review of the book where I highlight some of his best pitch presentation tips).

Best presentation tip for internal company presentations

Many years ago, a senior manager commissioned us to run a presentation skills course for his team. His request to us was simple – but tinged with desperation “I just want to know what their message is.” Clarity is the no 1 requirement for internal company presentations. Clarity is achieved by thinking. My favourite line from Scott’s Berkun new book Confessions of a Public Speaker is this “Good public speaking is based on good private thinking”.

The first thinking step is to decide and develop your key message. For more tips on this see my post How to craft a memorable key message in 10 minutes.

Best presentation tip for Toastmasters

I haven’t been a member of Toastmasters for many years, but I can spot a Toastmaster on one of our courses almost instantaneously (people who’ve done debating are even more obvious!) The Toastmaster program and culture tends to encourage people to develop a certain rather “stagey” style. When I made the transition from Toastmasters to real-world presenting I had to make the transition from my Toastmaster style to a more conversational style. If you’re in Toastmasters break out of the Toastmaster mould this year – start talking in a conversational style to individual members of your audience (see this post for more on How to get the most out of Toastmasters.)

What’s your best presentation tip for these presentation types (and any others)?

Note: This post was written as part of a  blog carnival organized by Angela DeFinis, “Public Speaking and the New Year” .

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