5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, in your favourite bar with your best friends.
If a fly on the wall was to report on your behaviour in that scenario, they’d likely report:
Open, natural hand gestures.
High energy and enthusiasm.
An abundance of story-telling.
A refreshing lack of business speak.
In short, effective presentation skills.
Consider that scenario again, but this time on the way to the pub, a man bumps into you.
He knocks you to the floor, before walking off without acknowledging you.
That would be the first thing you said to your friend.
“You won’t believe what just happened to me”
When you are relaxed, and in your element, you get straight to the point.
You’ll drop long, formal sentences and speak colloquially.
Any other way and your friends would get bored and eventually stop wanting to meet up.
Here’s how to present informally:
Tell everyone about the most important thing about your presentation.
The results of your research, the big breakthrough you’ve had in developing your business.
About the person that knocked you to the floor on the way here.
If you want your audience to engage like your friend would, speak as if you’re in your comfort zone.
Instead of “we are”, use “we’re”.
Avoid acronyms and technical speak (here’s more on that).
Paint pictures and tell stories.
Talk about real people and real examples in such a way that it allows your audience to relate.
As an audience, it’s refreshing to hear a new approach based around stories, examples, anecdotes and illustrations, rather than your corporate plan.
The parting words of a senior manager in the whisky industry after a presentation skills training course in Edinburgh last week.
Because he should have been.
To borrow a sporting analogy, he left everything out on the pitch.
Utterly infectious in his enthusiasm for the total of nine minutes as he presented across three presentations over the day.
He told me he regularly presents whisky tastings for two hours, but that day he felt more tired after less than ten minutes of presenting.
It was simply the extra 50% effort.
Aim to exhaust yourself in your presentation.
People buy people.
If they buy into your energy, they are more likely to buy what you’re selling.
For lots of people this is the hard part.
When walking through airport security at Glasgow, Edinburgh or London, you’ll be aware of the fake smile.
The one we use to say:
“I’m not a terrorist”.
I often feel it’s making me look more guilty.
It feels the same when you aim to smile naturally during a presentation.
With practice, it will come.
To help, draw a smiley face on the page.
Remind yourself of a joke before the presentation begins.
Say hello to someone in the front row before your start.
Whatever gets you smiling, do it.
Your audience will see someone that’s comfortable and relaxed, and they’ll feel the same way in your presence.
A common mistake we often see made with presentation skills and public speaking is that “natural” means “unprepared”.
It’s tempting to feel that way.
More importantly, we dislike someone being over-scripted.
Therefore, we go the opposite way.
While it works for some, they’re normally regular public speakers and presenters.
Their material comes to them under pressure because they’ve put in their 10,000 hours.
If you want to come across as off-the-cuff, prepare well and limit your notes.
Now you’ll be able to glance down and see important figures, as well as knowing where you’re going at all points.
Great tip to play it safe but limited enough that you’ll still enter easily into your ‘5 o’clock in the pub’ self.
(Before the alcohol kicks in, of course).
Enjoy your next presentation, and your Friday evening.
Andrew McFarlan is the Managing Director of Pink Elephant Communications.
You can view his profile here.
Some media trainers knock you down…and leave you down. Our media coaches show you how to deal with each knock…and still win through. So you have the presentation skills to perform – with confidence.