Monday, 30 April 2012

Presentation v Presenter

Over an evening meal an interesting question was asked regarding presentations.  The question opened up a debate with many views exchanged with no great consensus.  The question was “What makes a presentation most memorable? Is it the presenter or the presentation content?”

Searching the internet does not seem to produce a percentage to which proportions play the largest element of a memorable presentation, ideally the presenter and presentation work in tandem, but what happens if one slips below par?

Early discussion focused on the presenter and how a good presenter can carry a poor presentation, making certain elements memorable. The confidence of the presenter can basically carry the audience. This confidence could be through a positive physiology and narrative to support the slides. This visual stimulus can stay within the long term memory but overtime the message can still be lost.  Personally I remember a couple of occasions where the presenter has stood out but over time the message has faded.  One presenter explained why he always wore a dinner jacket and another who was exuberant always wore a brightly coloured bow tie, both at the time were visually stimulating.

As the conversation developed and more views and examples were shared, thought drifted to the presentation as a whole.  This was based on whether a presentation can be remembered even if it is extremely well crafted with clear key messages, but the presenter is a little hesitant. It would be no contest if both the presentation and the presenter were poor, but for this discussion we assumed the presentation material was of a high standard. A colleague had to admit to seeing the same corporate presentation performed by two of his colleagues. The presentation with the confident presenter as you would expect carried more clarity. The hesitant colleague dragged attention away from the presentation, if you like creating noise for the key message to battle through. How bad though does a presenter have to be to really influence the key message of the presentation?

The conclusion from the debate was that the presenter carries more weight to the presentation than the presentation quality itself, not concluded though was the proportion of influence.

Do you agree? What percentage ratio would you place on the presenter to presentation 60:40, 80:20? Let us know your thoughts.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Keeping presentations interesting

10 quick tips

1.  Credibility
One of the key methods of keeping presentations interesting is to give credibility to your role within an organisation.  This credibility raises your stature with the audience allowing your presentation message to be set on an equivalent level.  One method of achieving this credibility is to refer early on in the presentation to case studies or research you may have undertaken.

2. Visual stimulus
Don’t stay on one presentation slide for too long. If a slide does not change with regard to content it leaves purely the slide narrative to stimulate the audience. Only having the one stimulus gives opportunity for the audiences mind to wonder. This drifting mind will not be receptive to a key message.

3. Transitions
Don’t move between slide transitions or visual stimuli too quickly. Doing so will cause the audience to process information at a high rate; this will leave the audience unable to take on board the full extent of the key message.  Whilst the audience are processing the imagery they will not be listening to the supporting narrative of your presentation.

4. Inflection
It is important to control the pitch, tone and inflection of your voice. This variation during the presentation allows emphasis to be placed on key message areas. A monotone voice does not provide sufficient variation to maintain interest.

5. Pre-empt questions
When designing your presentation think about the questions that the audience will be thinking as your presentation progresses.  By pre-empting the questions and supplying answers as part of your presentation will maintain the level of interest for delegates.

6. Information
Keep any information during the presentation relevant to the audience.  If this means adapting your presentation then do it.  No one wants to sit through content that does not apply to them. Once interest is lost in the presentation it is extremely difficult to regain the audience.

7. Ownership
To maintain interest in a presentation then let the audience feel part of the presentation. Any key messages will be easier for the audience to absorb if they feel they own a little part of it. This ownership could be through a voting system or other form of formal interaction.

8. Style
Don’t overindulge your passion for acting.  Your presentation style can carry a level of interest for the audience; however beware of becoming over elaborate. Performing gestures like an old style silent movie star will only cause distraction for the audience. Therefore distinguish between a confident presentation style and an over elaborate actor.

9. Bluffing
The audience you are presenting to are human beings. They will pick up on every piece of negative physiology, this includes lying or bluffing. Audience members will lose interest if they do not trust your integrity. Therefore be honest during your presentation.

10. Rehearse
Finally to maintain the interest in a presentation do not stumble over the narrative of the presentation. The more you rehearse the clearer the presentation will become and the greater confidence you will have when standing on the stage.

The Presenter’s Handbook is available from or also follow us on twitter

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A night to avoid

As junior organiser at my local golf club I had to attend an evening meeting on the development of golf at grass roots level. Nothing particularly special about this you may think, and you would probably be right. However this meeting turned into a lesson on how not to present and reinforced the need for The Presenter’s Handbook.

First speaker
The first speaker introduced the whole concept and message of the evening, as you may expect.  However that is where any form of excellence stopped.  The presenter fell down on many PowerPoint presenting errors.

Bullet Points
The presenter used bullet points to the maximum during the presentation.  On some slides 15 separate bullet points were used.  Not only were the bullets used but they were then used as a script for the presenter.  As we read quicker than the spoken word most of the points were completely lost as was the message of successful achievement within the community. With so many bullet points on the screen this had one major impact on those at the back of the conference room. The font size required to get 15 bullet points on the screen meant those at the back of the room could not read the slides making them pointless. It would have been far better to have just emailed the information to each delegate.

The presenter never really came across as part of the presentation.  What I mean by this is that the presenter never presented the material that appeared on screen because it appeared all in one go as a ‘splat’ to the audience. Projecting onto a large screen the opportunity was available to gesture as text came onto the screen, however as all text appeared at once this opportunity was lost.

Transitions play an important role in a presentation, done well they can enhance the message to the audience. Using transitions badly and the audience can be lost in confusion as to what they have just witnessed moving between slides. In this example each slide transition was different with a logo moving at different angles.  The logo in question was that of the sponsor and I am sure was designed to draw attention to so said sponsor, however by the end of the meeting you felt antagonised by the sponsoring company.  Not something they would wish their audience to feel I am sure.

During the presentation several questions were asked, to answer these question we had to stand up when either A, B, C or D was called out from a list.  This interaction purely caused the audience to chatter as seats were moved backward and forwards. In today’s technological age solutions exist that allow audience participation via the use of polling handsets. One popular example is the solution offered by Turning Technologies which seamlessly works with PowerPoint.  The presenter could easily have gathered information about the audience but this opportunity was lost.

Second speaker
The second speaker lost all integrity almost immediately by arriving late, not only that but as she started her presentation she drew attention to the fact. There then followed a selection of PowerPoint errors that meant the presenter fell well short of a Power Presenter as outlined in The Presenter’s Handbook.

Please advance
The presenter had to call upon the services of a stranger to advance the PowerPoint presentation for her.  Whilst advancing slides using a colleague is acceptable under certain circumstances, you would have at least practiced and they would know the presentation.  In this case, neither of these measures where met making the presentation extremely disjointed and ultimately forgettable.

Laser pointer
Just as I thought it was impossible for the presentation to get even more disjointed and forgettable the laser point started to be used. This was used to point out certain elements of the slide, but consider this point. If the point was so important why rely on the laser pointer to make it obvious, surely you should design it into the slide to stand out as a key message?  All laser pointers achieve is to highlight and exaggerate the nerves of the presenter as any small movements are enlarged by the time the laser reaches the screen.

These presenters show the need for PowerPoint to be developed as a presentation tool, breaking away from the standard features to produce a Presentation of power and engagement. The examples outlined in this blog are not unusual and I am sure you will be able to easily recall your own experience of poor presentations.  The question is do you recognise any of the issues raised in your own presentations? If so The Presenter’s Handbook is for you, if not I am sure colleagues may be in need of a nudge towards becoming a Power Presenter.

The Presenter’s Handbook is available from or also follow us on twitter

Thursday, 5 April 2012

About the authors

Phillip Adcock
Phillip Adcock is a leading authority on people’s behaviour. With more than 30 years of human behavioural research, he has developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people tick, both psychologically and physiologically. He works in an advantageous position of not being constrained within any particular brain science field. Moreover, Phillip has developed his skills by combining the teachings of experts on numerous aspects of neuroscience, psychology and emotion within his professional role of helping leading brands and retailers better understand how to communicate with their customers. Over the last 30 years, Phillip has presented to thousands and thousands of people, from CEOs of leading companies to delivering lectures at a number of universities. So he has uniquely been able to understand and develop communication from a number of different angles, from communicator to ‘communicatee’ (recipient).
Ian Callow
Ian Callow is an experienced director of training, which has developed his interpersonal communication skills, in conjunction with an increased understanding of a presenter’s physiology and psychology. Ian has presented and trained thousands of delegates within an array of industry sectors including corporate, MOD, police, NHS and education. This wide breadth of people experience is what developed Ian’s interest in the subjects of psychology and physiology and how it can be applied to the training environment. His undoubted experience and developed interpersonal skills has allowed presentation styles to be adapted in both content and language, a key for a successful presentation. In recent years he has been involved in newer technologies for engaging the audience and providing companies with productivity savings. With over 20 years spent in the business presentation environment Ian now feels able to convey some key messages and experiences allowing you to become a Power Presenter, breaking down the presenter/trainee and presenter/delegate barriers.