Concordia Consulting’s multipart series on preparing for presentations continues this week. In the past months we have discussed defining a purpose for a presentation, the effective use of visuals, and informal presentations within your organization. This week we consider the power of the story during your presentations.
When I hear the word story, I get a happy, snuggly feeling. I picture either myself or my husband, Bill, curled up on our bed or our favorite story chair, with one of our kids as young children. Some of our favorites stories to read were:
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
Mommies at Work
I Lost My Bear
And of course, Good Night Moon
But we had so many stories! When I traveled for work, I bought two books for my daughter Katie and I took one with me and I left one at home for her. I read to her from a car phone (no, I wasn’t driving) and she sat in our story chair at home. I told her when to turn each page. It was an opportunity for me to connect with Katie while it gave Bill time with our sons or to get dinner on the table. It was a busy household.
Even now, 15 to 25 years after those stories were read, I still can associate the feelings of each of those warm and fragrant bodies snuggled next to me while reading. Each child felt different and smelled different, and each one responded differently to the stories. What was the same is the power of the story that connected me to my children.
It is no different for adults in the workplace. A well-told story will connect us to our colleagues (perhaps without the smell of maple syrup still clinging to my jammies.) So, what do stories have to do with the board room or the emergency room?
In our multipart series on preparing for presentations, we have discussed defining a purpose and the effective use of visuals. Too often we don’t think of meetings within our own organizations as presentations, but they are! We lament “another meeting.” We rush to the restroom, grab some water if we are being healthy, caffeine if we are not, and dash off, mumbling under our breaths.
When we hear the word “presentation,” we often think of an assigned topic, an assigned time, and an audience outside our organization. Perhaps a potential customer, an educational tour, or a pitch to donors. While those are all important presentations, just as important to your career are the informal presentations you have with your leadership, your peers, and your subordinates. These colleagues are the people who will help define you, and your projects’ success.
Everyone who has a job is a presenter. If you are a speech writer, you present your ideas. If you are a tree planter, you present your concerns about the soil. If you are a preschool teacher, you present your suggestions to colleagues and your thoughts about each child to their parents. If you are a doctor, you share your recommendations for better health to your patients.
Everyone is a presenter. Begin thinking of yourself as a presenter and your effectiveness will soar.
What informal presentations do you have within your organization?
Concordia Consulting’s monthly series on presentations skills continues this week. Last month, I shared information on preparing for a board meeting. The principles of preparation are the same whether you and your group are preparing for a board meeting, a sales meeting, or a staff meeting. Step one defined a clearly-stated purpose. Today we will consider the role of visuals in a presentation.
Too often when I work with a team on preparing a presentation, the first thing they do is head over to PowerPoint and start making slides. While visuals are critical, and can be helpful for both the presenter as well as the audience by adding structure to the presentation, the presentation must have structure first and visuals second.
So, step one is to formalize the purpose and put it in a prominent place the entire time you are writing and thinking about the presentation. Remember: a clear purpose for every meeting you hold is imperative for success. For example, “Lead fundraising efforts for new facility by finding donors and soliciting funds.”
Do your visuals:
- Use pictures and graphics?
- Keep words to a minimum*?
- Contribute to the point you are making, especially if you are using animation?
- Help to keep the audience’s attention?
*If anyone can read your PowerPoint and know your presentation, you’ve gone too far. Your visuals should enhance YOU and the presentation, they should not be the presentation. If there is a lot of text (perhaps financials or contraindications of a drug), provide supplementary text in a board book or handout.
For visuals to enhance, make sure each one:
- Helps to support the purpose of the presentation
- Is crisp and clear
- Shows a graphic or picture that will help focus your audience (and you!)
If you aren’t great at creating visuals yourself, software programs can help. In addition to PowerPoint, Prezi creates engaging graphics for presentations.
Visuals help you stay focused, so I hope you will use them.
How do you like to use visuals?