Four points, that make the difference between a good and a really good presentation. (And no, that's not me in the picture.)
We project workers spend a lot of time communicating. According to the PMBOK Guide between 75 and 90 percent. Half of this time we spend with (hopefully) active listening. The other half we are presenting, lecturing, and telling different people different things. In short, we are transporting information. And in my opinion, it is incredibly important not to transport just some thing, but the right thing. I know, right now I am sounding like a motivational poster. Na no na ned, as we say in Austria - of course. Of course, we do not communicate just something somehow. Nevertheless, I can see exactly that pretty often. But what is the essence of a good presentation?
Of course, a lot is depending on the frame of my presentation. Is it formal or informal? Am I about to give a brief status update to management, am I hosting a two days long scope finding workshop, or am I having a team meeting? But after nearly 20 years of holding and experiencing presentations, a few elements have emerged that are valid everywhere. And at this point it is the same as with every craft: if I know my 101 by heart, I can concentrate on the nitty-gritty. And the nitty-gritty, ...
..the nitty-gritty is less the way of presenting, but rather the content of the presentation. And yet, I am regularly seeing people standing on a stage and rattling off their NLP-Hocus Pocus. Cheap trick, so to speak. What is the talk about? Who cares. It is all right as long as the audience is mesmerized by all those sleight-of-hand tricks. Only, the audience does care. They want to hear some content.
And I do not mean that it is enough to be a geek who is mumbling a sermon to himself. It is about communicating relevant content. Not relevant for me, but relevant for my audience. Tailored to their particular level.
And please do not misunderstand, I do not mean that craftsmanship does not matter. Phrasing, timing, patterns of movement, all important things, no question. But not to call attention, but to communicate my content effectively to a larger group of people. Just as the Ri in Shuhari (and yes, I know, many of you guys are critical of Shuhari - and you are right; I am using the term as an analogy here).
Junior Woodchucks camp
It does not matter if someone is one of those people who are moving in with a stack of moderation cards, or - like me, I admit it - to those who prefer to conduct their presentations on the fly. In any case, there is one particular secret behind a good presentation: an incredibly intensive preparation. I'm not talking about the presentation itself, but about the topic. How can I tell others about a topic, if I am not having a good grasp of it? Not at all, in my eyes. It is necessary to know more than my listeners. Otherwise, such a lecture is a waste of time for all involved.
Walk like a duck, quack like a duck
The next duck-heading, I'm sorry, I can not help it. But it just fits too well. Let us switch the meaning of this witticism: if I wade like a duck, I will quack like one. That means, you should, and you have to pay attention to a proper posture in your presentations and moderation. Why. Two reasons:
- When I am standing around like a potato bag, I will appear like a potato bag standing around. And let us be honest. When a bag of potatoes is telling us something, we will meet it with a solid amount of wariness. How does it know all these things about which it claims to be an expert? So we should use this bias for ourselves and stand straight and upright. Head up high, even if the neck is dirty. (And shoulders down.)
- I do not know if anyone of you ever heard a potato bag speaking, I certainly did not. But I have heard many people speaking that have a posture like a potato bag (and that's enough potatoes for now, I promise!). And they are all mumbling, as if they are not getting enough air. And how should they get enough air, when their lungs do not get enough space. So again: head up high, shoulders down, back upright. Just like Mom told us.
"Here's looking at you, kid!"
Finally, our headlines are leaving Duckburg. My last point is a realization. When you are standing in front of a group of people and give a lecture, there are many faces. So virtually a 1 to n relationship. But turn the situation around. If you are one of those people in that group, technically it is still a 1 to n relationship, but for you, it feels like a 1 to 1 relationship at that moment.
Good presenters manage to give every person in the room the feeling that the presentation is less like a presentation but more like a personal conversation. And I'm not just talking about looking into eyes after eyes. (By the way, the German translation for the above film quote is literally "Look into my eyes, kiddo." - which brings us back to the cheap tricks from above.) Looking into eyes is only the beginning (not just when it comes to presentations, but that is a whole different story). Ask yourself. Would you be able to give that presentation to just that single person? Because from their view that is exactly what is happening right now.
Regarding that there are so few points that make the difference between a good and a bad presentation, I've already written way too much. So here is my crisp summary:
- Content, content, content - they are not here, because you look so great and master so many cheap tricks.
- Preparation - you also won't take part in the Olympic Games without training.
- Posture - this is followed by good breathing, which is followed by a pleasant voice, which is followed by a good presentation.
- Look a guest in the eye and imagine if you could deliver your presentation just to them. Because from their point of view you do just that.
And I know, those points alone do not make a good presentation. But for me, they are the basis for one. Because without these four points, it will definitely be a not-so-good presentation. And unfortunately, there are far too many of those. But that is another topic.