1. ‘OK, shall I start my presentation?’
When we go into a store to buy something, we want the salesperson to tell us, in their own words, why the product or service might be good for us. We don’t want them to say, ‘Let me give you a presentation’. A presentation is more like a pre-recorded video we might watch on YouTube or their website.
What your audience really wants on a video call, is for you to have a conversation with them. They don’t want to watch the standard presentation you’ve given a hundred times before.
So rather than opening with, ‘OK, shall I start my presentation?’, much better to use one of The Four Classic Openings to make it seem more like a conversation:
The Benefit, The Question, The Shock or The Story.
The Benefit is what salespeople often start with. For example, ‘Let me tell you how you could save money.’
The Question, this can be The Benefit in question form, as here, ‘Would you like to know how you could save money?’
The Shock might be, ‘If we don’t save money, we could all end up broke!’
The Story might be, ‘Last week, I was talking to a client on Zoom and she asked me how she could save money.’
If your first sentence is conversational, then it won’t feel like a presentation. It will feel more like a conversation.
And your audience will sit up and listen.
2. ‘I’ll just go through my slides …’
It’s amazing how often people use the word just in their first sentence to an audience.
They might as well say, ‘I’ll tell you this, but it’s not really important …’ or ‘I don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll just say it really quickly and get off!’.
The word just undermines everything you say. And it drains energy from what you’re saying right at the start.
It would be much better to say, ‘This morning, I’d love to tell you about …’ or ‘I’d like to tell you about …’. Your enthusiasm will add energy.
As long as you’re saying something that’s helpful to the audience, they’ll pick up on your enthusiasm for your subject.
Another way to add energy is by using active words, like interesting, challenging, unusual, exciting. If you put an active word before giving information, it will add energy and make it feel as if you’re interested in your subject. Your energy and enthusiasm will be infectious.
3. ‘Next slide please …’
I’m not sure if you saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a recent press conference saying ‘Next slide please’ at the end of every slide, but in case you didn’t, you can see here how easily it led to this comedy video on YouTube.
This looks so unprofessional. Either we should advance the slides ourselves, or the person who is clicking for us should know when we want to advance them.
Here’s the thing about slides … it’s not always Death by PowerPoint. Slides have their place and they can work really well. Keep them clean and clear, and they can often add to what you’re saying.
But the click-click nature of PowerPoint, means that it’s often a bit staccato, a bit stop-start. So it’s up to us to create a sense of flow.
Try to link each slide to the next. The easiest way to do this is to ask a question that the next slide answers. For example, at the end of a slide, you might say, ‘Now that we know there’s a problem, what can we do about it?’ Click the next slide, and we see ‘Solutions’ or whatever.
We should also try not to say, ‘The next slide show us …’ The slide doesn’t show us anything. It’s merely there as an aid. It should be the speaker who shows us or tells us.
In fact, I encourage clients never to say the word slide at all.
4. ‘I know this is a busy slide but …’
I understand that sometimes you might need to give detailed information to your audience. But an over-busy slide, crammed full of information is better suited to a printed out deck (or an academic book) than to a video call.
The writing will be too small to read. And the audience cannot read long, complicated paragraphs and listen to you at the same time.
You are there to interpret the information for the audience. Otherwise, you might just as well have sent them the slide deck to read for themselves.
If possible, split detailed information over several slides, and pick out the key learning points, or ideally learning point (singular) on each slide. That way your logical argument will be easier to follow and you’ll hold your audience’s attention for longer.
5. ‘OK, so that’s the end of my presentation.’
You don’t want it all to just to fall apart at the end. We’ve all seen speakers who’ve said, ‘OK, so that’s the end of my presentation. I hope it made sense and wasn’t too boring. I suppose we could have some questions. If you have any. But it’s fine if you don’t. No? OK, right. Well, I suppose I’m done then.’
It’s painful to watch.
Just like if you went to the theatre and at the end, as the actors were taking their bows, the curtain got stuck halfway down – that’s what you’d remember. You wouldn’t say, ‘What a great show.’ You’d just say, ‘The curtain got stuck!’ We always want to have a strong ending.
One of the simplest ways to end well is to make it clear to the audience what your call to action is. In other words, what was your point? Why have told them this information? It might be to buy your product, think differently, or action your suggestion.
Always try to end well.
I wish you the very best of luck. Go safely.
Find out about my Essential Public Speaking Masterclass.
The online Masterclass was originally developed for individuals. Now that remote working has become essential for the vast majority of us, I am offering a Team Discount for companies wanting to purchase the Masterclass for an entire team or department. To arrange a Team Discount, please contact me, I’d love to help!
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