“One idea lights a thousand candles.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Your success at work depends greatly on your ability to convince others and present your ideas.
This might be freakishly frustrating, especially if you have doubts you’ll ever make a good point in front of others.
Have you ever worried about:
- Being in the spotlight?
- Boring people with your presentation?
- Messing it all up the moment you open your mouth?
These are just a tiny chunk of all the worries I have when I know my next presentation is coming, and I present at least once per month.
If you worry about or hate presenting – you’re not alone; most people do.
The good news is that when it comes to presenting, there are simple and effective rules to boost your confidence as a speaker and make your presentations stand out.
I will give you my top 3 rules for making a good presentation, but first, let’s see why you should give presenting a shot.
Presentations. Why bother?
Think about it this way – convincing people takes time.
Take an idea that needs an hour to be presented and discussed.
If you sell your idea to ten people individually, you need to spend ~10 hours.
If you sell your idea to ten people at once, you will spend 2 or 3 hours preparing and then an hour presenting.
That’s 2.5 times more effective!
Not only that, but good presentations give your audience an emotional attachment to this idea (and to you as its owner).
They make your life so much easier long-term.
Once people are on board with your idea, they will also enable you to go for it (or at least they will not try to stop you actively).
But how do you make a good presentation?
Let’s get to my three rules:
How to make a good presentation
A good presentation has three components:
- A topic worth talking about
- A structure to help people follow your thoughts
- Respect to the people who listen to you and their time
Rule #1: Pick a topic worth talking about
Okay, it seems reasonable, but how can you tell if your topic is good enough?
Any topic is worth talking about if:
- You care about the topic
- Your topic can help the people in your audience in some way
If you have the knowledge you want to share, an idea of how to address a common problem, or a way for everyone to benefit – go for it.
If you feel uncomfortable with presentations (don’t we all), I recommend you start with baby steps and present in informal situations.
Examples: Over lunch, during knowledge-sharing sessions, with a small team.
Soon you’ll find that people are genuinely curious about what you have to say.
But how to help others follow your thoughts and learn from you?
Rule #2: Old but gold – “The Millennium Structure”
Today Aristotle would be ~2406 years old.
The “Father of rhetoric” is famous for his in-depth analysis of public speaking. He left us with one golden rule, which is particularly useful for presentations.
The rule goes like this:
In reality, this means:
- You start by announcing the topic of your presentation.
- You give some hints about which aspects of the topic you will cover or the options to solve the problem at hand
- You present the aspects and the options
- You give your opinion along the way
- You close with a summary of the topic, the aspects & options you presented, and your opinion on them
The part when you “tell them what you are going to tell them” is tricky.
I have a suggestion for you:
There is nothing wrong with having “an agenda” slide in your deck.
It’s a valid approach to “tell them what you’re going to tell them.”
I don’t like it because I want my audience to focus on the topic at hand, not the order of the time we will spend on it.
Once you have the people listening to you with the proper focus, the rest of the structure will guide them for the time you have together.
Speaking about time, it’s essential to:
Rule #3: Respect your audience and their time
If you have an idea worth 100 points and only you believe in it, your idea is worth 100 points.
If you have an idea worth 5 points and 100 people believe in it, your idea is worth 500 points.
To become a multiplier of your ideas, you must show respect to your audience.
So, how to do this?
Preparation takes time. Start preparing at least five days before the presentation. (You read that right – not at 11 PM the day before)
Your focus should be on:
- Who will listen to you – who are the majority of the people there?
- Creating your presentation for your audience, not for yourself.
- Practice, practice, practice!
Don’t hesitate to adapt your talk as many times as you need to keep the time you planned for it. Practice until you’re sure you transfer your message in a way that gives you confidence as a speaker.
I recommend you to put yourself in the shoes of a person listening to you while you prepare.
I typically record myself to see how my presentation looks, sounds, and feels.
I also have the habit of practicing with friends, so I can hear their feedback and suggestions.
Note: You don’t need an expensive camera or a set-up to see yourself from your audience’s perspective.
A recorded meeting with yourself on Zoom or Teams will do the trick (that’s what I use). Or, use your phone – whatever works for you.
If you enjoy your presentation, others will enjoy it too.
It’s a sad paradox.
We all feel uncomfortable with public speaking, yet we have so much to say.
We dwell so much on how to say it that we start hating the idea of talking.
Using the key rules above, you can present your ideas without hating it.
And remember, your unique perspective can be groundbreaking for someone who has never seen it.
Your knowledge, your ideas, and your thoughts are of enormous value!
Don’t keep them hidden in your head.