I recently attended the Professional Speaking Association’s spring convention Creativity Live. What a day! I came away with many new ideas and ways of improving my professional speaking. In this blog post I am going to share with you some of the key points and learnings which I got from the top professionals.

Slides

We had over 6 speakers enthral the audience and keep us engaged and entertained. Whilst some slides were used, guess what, there was not a bullet point amongst them. Seriously. No bullet points. Any slides that were used were either pictures to illustrate a story, or a few selected words to make a point. Any visuals used were professionally produced and looked and felt clean and simple.

Structure

Presentation skills was the first training course I ever delivered. That was over 12 years ago now. In those 12 years I’ve been telling everyone to structure their presentations in this way:

  • tell them what you are going to tell them
  • tell them
  • tell them what you have told them

None of the speakers on the day used this structure. The ‘content’ speakers (rather than motivational speakers) all tended to use this structure:

  1. Establish rapport with the audience by telling them a story which shows that you are really one of them and truly understand them.
  2. Then briefly tell them what they will get from your presentation (maximum of 3 points)
  3. Then tell story, draw out the relevant points and give the audience an action
  4. Repeat the story, point, action
  5. Summarise with the key points that you want the audience to take away

Have a 3 minute rescue story

I regularly speak to conferences of lawyers and accountants. Very often I am asked to present in the morning after the delegates have had a big boozy night the previous evening. This means I get a room full of hungover and very tired delegates. Oh joy. If you haven’t had to present to an audience like this, it’s an experience! It can be very tough at times to keep their attention and engaged at all points. Therefore, if this is the case then have a 3 minute pre-prepared rescue story which you can pull out at any time to re-engage with your audience.

Get your points across through the stories you tell

Whilst we had two amazing motivational speakers at the end of the day, all the other speakers were content speakers. I.e. they gave us a ‘taster’ of the expert knowledge. However all the speakers told stories. They all made their points through the medium of stories. There wasn’t one bullet pointed slide being talked through. I wonder whether you could do your next presentation using purely stories? Whether these are through your own experiences or your client’s experiences?

It’s not about me

The first speaker of the day had what is known in the business as a ‘marmite’ style. You either loved it or hated it. It was all about ‘her’, ‘her’, ‘her’, ‘her’. She did the ‘professional northern’ act on the room, and dialled this up by 500%. You were either inspired by her achievements, or totally turned off by them. (She had done some amazing things, by the way). My learning from this was you need to earn the right to talk about your achievements. (Even if you are a motivational speaker who has climbed Everest, you still need to be humble and earn the right…)

But what do a lot of us do when we start a presentation? We establish our credibility in the opening. I.e. I have x amount of years of experience etc etc etc. My learning from the day was get someone to introduce you to the audience, and in their introduction get THEM to talk through your achievements.

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What are your tips to present like a professional?

Author Credit:

HowtoMakePartner book jacketWritten by Heather Townsend. I help professionals become the ‘Go To Expert’. I am the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life‘ and the author of the award-winning and bestselling book on Networking, ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking‘.

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