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Blog : The purple guide to presenting


The purple guide to presenting

We believe (and the Harvard Business Review concurs) that the traits a leader must possess are charisma, the ability to deliver key messages and to inspire those around them. This is especially true when delivering a speech to rally the troops, raise the profile of the business or when presenting to the board. People like Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, US President Barack Obama and Sir Richard Branson , founder of the Virgin Group. are all experts at this and, as a result, are listed as some of the most influential business leaders in the world.

As the Learning Director at learnpurple, I stand up in front of audiences and present most days of the week. Group sizes vary from the very small through to the very large but each time I am asked by one or two delegates ‘How do you do it?’. For most, standing up in front of an audience and waxing lyrical on their given subject is a terrifying thought. In fact, when I first started presenting I was pretty nervous. However it’s a matter of knowing your subject together with practice, and whilst now I still get the smallest butterflies, these help me to present well and I have mastered the purple guide to presenting and know I can do it and keep it fresh time and time again.

So for aspiring presenters and leaders – here is my purple guide to presenting:

  1. Know your stuff - with knowledge comes confidence. Research and update information regularly so it is always topical, interesting and not something people have heard before.
  2. Be aware of your audience - make sure the messages are relevant. Use examples which people can understand and relate to. Always write for your audience not for yourself.
  3. Attention span - this ebbs and flows every 10 minutes so a change of state or even your tone can keep them engaged. Ask a question or involve people in an interactive activity or exercise.
  4. Length - short and snappy presentations keep the audience interested and willing to listen.
  5. Bring it alive – mix narrative with interesting, real and if appropriate, funny anecdotes which, again, people can relate to.
  6. Beware of ‘death by PowerPoint': there should be no more on a slide than would be on the front of a t shirt. Use slides to enhance your presentation and never as speech notes which you read from. Images can bring to life what ‘s being said instead.
  7. When using PowerPoint - illustrations should be sharp and vibrant and demonstrate the point. Use photos or screen shots rather than clip art as your audience will have seen ‘the little blue telephone’ many times before! Google images have some good high resolution images for free.
  8. Avoid worrying about mistakes – people don’t know what you are going to say, nor do they have a script in front of them to correct you if you go wrong. So if you miss something out, stay calm and carry on as if nothing has happened – people probably won't even notice.
  9. Image - look the part, dress well and use personal image to build confidence. Hold your head high, keep hands out of pockets, stand firm and tall and never fidget or waver about.
  10. ‘Fake it till you make it’ – my personal favourite. If you are nervous put your head up, take a few deep breaths, tell yourself ‘I can do this’ and then go for it.

And one for luck – a bonus tip:

At learnpurple, we use the ‘what, why, how, what if’ format for structuring and delivering a presentation:

What – what do you want to talk about? Be clear about your message and your intended outcome.

Why - why should they listen? What's in it for them?

How – how are they going to do it.

What if- what if they do or don't do it? Answer any sceptics or deal with any barriers and allow time for discussion.

With experience comes expertise. The more you hone your skills, and are honest with yourself about your areas of development and where you need to adapt and change, the better you'll perform. However it is important to point out that if presenting is not your forte seek out help; everyone cannot be an expert at everything so be honest with yourself.

Good luck, now all you have to do is decide what you'll say though that's a whole different set of top tips!

Let us know if you used Mary Jane’s helpful guide to presenting and how you did!

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