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Building Trust Through Presentations

February 8th, 2024 by

The Currency of Credibility in Business Relationships

In the world of business, the concept of trust cannot be overstated. Often referred to as the “currency of credibility,” trust serves as the cornerstone of all successful business relationships. This article explores the significance of building trust, particularly through the medium of presentations, and how it can be effectively achieved.

Understanding the Value of Trust in Business

Trust in business is more than just a feel-good factor; it’s a critical component of success. A trusted business attracts more clients, retains them longer, and often enjoys a better reputation in its industry. It is the bedrock upon which fruitful and long-lasting relationships are built.

The Role of Presentations in Building Trust

Presentations offer a unique opportunity to establish and nurture trust with an audience, whether they are potential clients, investors, or partners. They are not just a means of conveying information but are a reflection of your business’s values, professionalism, and attention to detail.

Professionalism in Presentations

Professionalism in your presentations is paramount. This extends beyond well-tailored suits and polished shoes to the very structure and content of your presentation. A professional presentation is coherent, logically structured, and free of errors. It demonstrates a respect for the audience’s time and intelligence, thereby fostering trust.

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is a critical element in building trust through presentations. This involves ensuring accuracy in the data presented, relevance in the content, and an engaging delivery. Small details like consistent formatting, correct spelling, and a clear, concise delivery show that you care about the presentation, which in turn, shows that you care about your audience.

Strategies to Build Trust Through Presentations

  1. Know Your Audience: Tailoring your presentation to the interests and needs of your audience shows that you understand and value them.
  2. Be Transparent: Honesty in your presentations, especially about capabilities and limitations, builds trust. Avoid over-promising and under-delivering.
  3. Show Competence and Confidence: Being well-prepared and knowledgeable about your subject matter demonstrates competence, which in turn builds trust.
  4. Engage with the Audience: Encourage questions and feedback. This interaction not only makes your presentation more dynamic but also builds rapport.
  5. Follow Up: After the presentation, follow up with your audience. This shows commitment and helps reinforce the trust you’ve built.

The Impact of Trust on Business Success

Building trust through effective presentations can have a profound impact on business success. It can lead to more successful negotiations, higher client retention rates, and improved business relationships. Trust, once established, can become a self-sustaining element of a business’s reputation, leading to referrals and a stronger brand.

Conclusion

In conclusion, trust is indeed the currency of credibility in the business world. By prioritising professionalism and attention to detail in presentations, businesses can effectively build and maintain this crucial attribute. Remember, in your journey to success, let trust be the foundation on which your relationships and business grow.

The Impact of Clear Communication in Business Presentations

January 19th, 2024 by

The Impact of Clear Communication in Business Presentations 

In the dynamic and competitive landscape of today’s business world, effective communication is paramount. One crucial aspect of communication within the corporate realm is the delivery of quality presentations. These presentations serve as a powerful tool for conveying information, ideas, and strategies, and their success hinges on the ability to prioritise clarity. This article delves into the significance of clear communication in business presentations and its direct influence on shaping a positive brand perception.

The Power of Clarity in Communication:

Quality presentations are those that can seamlessly convey complex information in a manner that is easily comprehensible to the audience. Clarity in communication is not just about using simple language; it involves structuring content logically, using visuals effectively, and ensuring that the message is crystal clear. When an audience can follow a presentation without confusion or ambiguity, it enhances their understanding and retention of the information.

Minimizing Confusion and Misinterpretation:

One of the primary benefits of prioritizing clarity in presentations is the minimisation of confusion and misinterpretation. Complex data, intricate strategies, and detailed analyses can easily overwhelm an audience if not presented in a clear and organised manner. Clear communication aids in breaking down complex ideas into digestible segments, allowing the audience to absorb and process information more effectively. This not only prevents misunderstandings but also fosters a sense of trust and reliability in the information being presented.

Enhancing Brand Perception:

The way information is communicated directly reflects on the brand. A presentation that is muddled or unclear may lead the audience to question the professionalism and competence of the presenter or the organisation as a whole. On the other hand, a well-structured and clearly communicated presentation enhances the brand’s image. It demonstrates a commitment to transparency, professionalism, and a genuine desire to connect with the audience. Positive brand perception is crucial in building lasting relationships with clients, stakeholders, and employees.

Building Credibility and Trust:

Clarity in communication is a key driver of credibility and trust. When an audience perceives a presentation as transparent and honest, it instills confidence in the information being presented. Credibility is an intangible asset that contributes significantly to a positive brand image. By prioritising clarity in presentations, businesses can establish themselves as reliable sources of information, fostering trust among their audience.

Practical Tips for Achieving Clarity in Presentations:

  1. Simplify Complex Concepts: Break down intricate ideas into simpler components to make them more accessible to a diverse audience.
  2. Visual Aids: Utilise visuals such as charts, graphs, and infographics to supplement verbal communication and enhance understanding.
  3. Consistent Messaging: Ensure consistency in messaging across all aspects of the presentation to avoid confusion and reinforce key points.
  4. Engage the Audience: Encourage interaction and questions to address any potential areas of confusion in real-time.
  5. Practice and Feedback: Rehearse the presentation to identify and rectify any potential points of confusion. Seek feedback from colleagues or mentors to refine the clarity of your message.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the importance of prioritising clarity in business presentations cannot be overstated. Clear communication not only minimises confusion and misinterpretation but also plays a pivotal role in shaping a positive brand perception. In an era where effective communication is a cornerstone of success, businesses that master the art of clarity in presentations are better positioned to thrive in a competitive marketplace.

­Simplify your presentation for a lasting impression

January 8th, 2024 by

We all know that first impressions are crucial… even more so when presenting to a potential new client. So, what’s the secret to a successful presentation?

Although there are many layers to an engaging presentation, simplicity emerges as a guiding principle. With many presentations overloading us with information, creating a meaningful connection often falls short, so introducing simplicity into the equation becomes not just a preference but a strategic imperative.

However, simplifying your content doesn’t mean sacrificing depth or emotional resonance. Quite the opposite, it serves as a tool to cut through the noise, creating a more profound impact, so when your audience easily comprehend and relate to your message, the door opens, forging a genuine emotional connection to engage.

Simplify for Clarity

Know your Purpose

Establishing a solid foundation for your presentation begins with a clear understanding of your purpose and audience. This approach ensures that your presentation is finely tuned, focusing on the most relevant and compelling points while avoiding unnecessary or confusing details.

Depth without Compromise

Complexity tends to breed confusion, and confusion acts as a barrier to connection.

Simplifying your content paves the way for a more transparent communication channel, forging a connection between you and your audience. This approach ensures that the essence of the message remains robust, allowing for a comprehensive and meaningful engagement.

Memorable Messaging

The mind retains what it can comprehend. Simplifying your presentation doesn’t just make it easier for your audience; it also makes it memorable. It may sound obvious but start by asking yourself what you want your audience to think, understand or do in response to your presentation. A clear, straightforward message has a more significant chance of lingering in the minds of your clients.

Tailoring for Individual Understanding

Business is built on relationships, and presentations are the bridges that connect you with your audience. Simplifying complex information doesn’t just enhance understanding; it fosters a sense of connection. When your audience feels that you’ve taken the time to make your message accessible to them, it establishes a rapport based on trust. This trust becomes the foundation for lasting relationships, whether with clients, partners, or investors.

Conclusion

Creating a lasting impression lies not in the elaborate or the intricate, but in the power of simplicity. By embracing this principle, we can effectively capture our audience’s attention and etch our message into their memories. Remember, it’s the simple, clear, and straightforward ideas that resonate the deepest and stand the test of time.

If you’d like to discover how HALO can infuse a touch of clarity to your presentation, we’d love to hear from you.

Emotional Data: a Balancing Act

November 29th, 2023 by

Data often reigns supreme in day-to-day presentations, so at first glance, data and emotion might seem like an odd pair to merge together.

But behind every statistic lies a story waiting to be told – a story that can stir emotions, evoke empathy, and leave a lasting impact.

Whether you’re persuading stakeholders, inspiring a team, or seeking buy-in for your ideas, the emotional undertone of your presentation can be the driving force behind the decisions that follow. It can add a layer of significance to the data, turning it into a story that your customer will not only hear, but feel.

Why does this matter in the grand scheme of presentation success?

The answer lies in the outcomes it can generate. Emotional presentations don’t just influence decisions; they ignite action, embrace change, and align themselves with the vision you present.

So how do you create an emotional connection with your audience?

Building an emotional connection with your audience involves acknowledging the limited capacity of our brains, particularly when incorporating data into presentations. When individuals make straightforward purchase decisions, they often resort to shortcuts, tapping into basic emotions like happiness, anger, or surprise to expedite their choices.

Brands can leverage these emotions – whether positive or negative – and align their strategies accordingly, crafting presentations that result in interactions and impactful experiences for their target audience. This recognition that every presentation is inherently emotional underscores the absence of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, emphasising the need for a customised strategy that caters to the unique dynamics of each brand, product, and scenario.

Take the transformative approach of Scott Harrison, the visionary behind Charity: Water. In a departure from conventional presentations, Harrison redefined the landscape by demonstrating that a potent speech need not be a barrage of numbers and charts. Instead, he weaves a narrative that taps into the depths of human emotion, fostering a connection that transcends the confines of data.

Since 2007, Charity: Water has seen an astounding rise, amassing over $100 million in funds—an achievement rooted not just in financial figures but in the profound shift in attitude and approach that his presentations instigate. Harrison’s success story challenges the prevailing notion that presentations must be cold, hard displays of data to be effective. Instead, he reminds us that the most influential presentations are those that kindle a flame within, compelling audiences to not only understand a cause but to genuinely care and take action. Watch Scott’s transformative presentation here.

Striking the balance

Mastering the delicate balance of data, stories, and emotions not only results in a more captivating and memorable experience but also accommodates a variety of learning styles and preferences. This strategic approach substantially increases the likelihood of reaching your objectives. It’s time to enhance your presentations by adopting the potency of the data-story-emotion framework and witness your audience becoming more involved and open to your message.

For more tips and insights on storytelling in presentations, take a look at our post –
How storytelling can help you build a more powerful presentation.

Steve Alford

Elevating Your Higher Purpose with Transformative Presentations

October 25th, 2023 by

It’s all about the ‘why?’

Our time and attention have become precious commodities and the art of delivering a presentation has evolved into a highly strategic endeavour. Gone are the days when you could easily capture & keep your audience’s attention – it’s now crucial to adapt your message and delivery in more meaningful ways to reflect this change and to ensure that it’s heard and remembered.

One of the key things to remember is the ‘why’ behind your presentation – the deeper meaning and broader purpose behind your messages. We feel that this often gets lost along the way. Due to busy schedules and hectic workloads, presentations can be left to the last minute or haphazardly cobbled together. When this happens, the underlying message can be lost or diluted, and an opportunity missed to truly affect a change in your audience.

So, while it’s important to create a visually engaging presentation, it’s as equally important to make sure that every piece of content you are sharing, plays a role in achieving your presentation’s purpose. A good exercise to undertake once you have pulled all your content together is to go through each slide and ask yourself whether it is really communicating your key messages and making your narrative stronger. If the answer is no, you should take it out. Even if, by the end you feel like you don’t have enough slides, as long as the slides you are showing clearly communicate your purpose, they are much more likely to be remembered.

And we aren’t just talking about the beautiful looking slides with lots of emotive imagery. Data-led slides with charts and graphs can be really powerful in reinforcing your messages too – it’s just about using them in the right way.

For example, in a sales pitch, if you were to lead with a whole selection of slides with charts showing how well your product/service performs, the audience is likely to switch off as they are being fed too much information in one go. However, if you start by introducing one particular challenge that your potential customer is facing and then talk about how your product can overcome that challenge, backed up by a chart showing the data – it is infinitely more persuasive.

It’s time to connect – Our top 5 ways

Connecting with your audience on an emotional level is vital. Embrace the power of storytelling to create empathy and use relatable examples to drive your points home. Here are our top tips for making a connection:

  1. Share Personal Stories: Open up about personal experiences or anecdotes that relate to your message. Sharing your own journey can make you more relatable and evoke empathy.
  2. Craft Compelling Narratives: Structure your presentation as a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. This creates a storyline that captivates your audience’s attention.
  3. Highlight Real-Life Success Stories: Showcase real-life examples of individuals or businesses that have benefited from your message or product. Success stories humanize your message and make it more relatable.
  4. Use Metaphors and Analogies: Comparing your message to something familiar through metaphors or analogies can simplify complex concepts and make them easier to grasp.
  5. Show Empathy: Demonstrating empathy and understanding towards your audience’s concerns or challenges can make them more receptive to your message.

Final thoughts

By adapting to the modern landscape of communication and employing these strategies, you can elevate your higher purpose and make a profound impact.

So, the next time you step up to present, remember that it’s not just about the way slides look but about the transformation you can create through your words and ideas.

Don’t just make a presentation, Inspire Change.

5 Quick Tips to Boost Audience Interaction

August 30th, 2023 by

Capturing your audience’s attention and keeping them engaged during a presentation is a challenge we’ve all faced. A well-crafted presentation can make all the difference in conveying your message effectively.

One key way to achieve this is by encouraging audience interaction. However, this can sometimes be easier said than done. For example, what can you do to counteract the dreaded ‘no question’ silence at the end? Or how can you encourage the audience to be actively involved during the presentation?

We’ve pulled together five tips that you can use in your next presentation to both engage and leave a lasting impact on your audience.

1. Begin with a Powerful Statement or Question

Start off the presentation with a powerful or thought-provoking statistic, statement or question. If just a statistic or statement, once you allow it to settle in for a moment, ask audience members to share their thoughts on it, or go for a show of hands to gauge their feelings about it. This can be a very impactful way to grab (and keep) their attention straight away – you’ve not only immediately piqued their interest, but have also drawn them in to becoming active participants.

2. Tell a Compelling Story

Humans are hardwired to connect with stories. Incorporating a relevant and relatable story into your presentation can transform it from a mundane information-sharing session to an engaging experience. Sharing a personal anecdote or a client success story related to the topic at hand can help your audience connect emotionally and invest more in the content. Not only does storytelling make your presentation more relatable, but it also opens the door for questions, discussions, and insights from your audience. Encourage them to share their own experiences or opinions related to the story you’ve shared.

3. Gamify Your Content

Introducing an element of gamification can infuse energy and excitement into your presentation. Design interactive segments such as quizzes, polls, or challenges that require audience participation. Platforms like Slido make it incredibly easy to incorporate live polls, quizzes, word clouds and more directly into your presentation. Gamification not only keeps your audience engaged but also helps reinforce key points and encourage active listening. You can offer small incentives such as digital badges, shout-outs, or small prizes to participants who perform exceptionally well in the interactive challenges.

4. Invite Questions – Anonymously

Inviting questions from the audience is an obvious and well-known tactic to allow for more participation. However – it may be that sometimes you don’t get any questions at the end. It could be that audience members aren’t confident enough to ask questions – especially if the subject matter happens to be of a sensitive nature. No questions can perhaps be a bit of an awkward note for an otherwise fantastic presentation to end on. To counter this, try asking questions anonymously – for example, before the presentation begins, have pencils and paper available for each audience member, and encourage them to write down a question during it. Then have a helper collect any questions towards the end of the presentation to have them ready for the presenter to go through once they’re finished. Alternatively, you can use Slido, which gives the option for participants to ask questions anonymously.

5. Employ Visual Engagement

A visually appealing presentation is important to have for more than just aesthetic reasons. Using visual aids like images, infographics and videos to support your content not only breaks the monotony of text-heavy slides, but also can serve as conversation starters. Incorporate visuals that resonate with your audience’s preferences and align with the message you’re conveying. Encourage your audience to analyse and discuss the visuals you’ve presented, leading to deeper engagement and understanding.

Presentations hold the power to make or break your message. By implementing these five quick tips to encourage audience interaction, you can transform your presentations into immersive experiences that captivate, educate and resonate with your audience.

Closing the Digital Skills Gap with Interactive Learning

August 2nd, 2023 by

In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the demand for interactive learning (eLearning) presentations from both our longstanding and new clients. Undoubtedly, the pandemic played a crucial role in driving this, as individuals looked for flexible learning options that could accommodate their busy schedules and deliver impactful results. However, even after lockdown was lifted and restrictions eased, we saw this trend continue.

According to a recent study by Econsultancy, there is currently a digital skills gap within many organisations. One of the biggest challenges uncovered is that employers and employees alike are identifying a need for training across numerous areas such as marketing and ecommerce.

83% of organisations polled said that “their growth depends on rapidly evolving their employees’ skills/capabilities to meet emerging customer and business needs”.

Interestingly, the study goes further to claim that a company obtaining a singular learning solution will limit their growth potential. It states that “companies that invest in multi-modal learning and development are more than twice as likely (57%) than their peers to say their employees have the necessary digital skills to meet business goals”.

We firmly believe that interactive learning must be among the primary options on offer. This is because it allows for far more flexibility; and when learning at one’s own pace, it leads to a deeper understanding of the subject matter. In fact, Leftronic reports that 58% of workers prefer to learn at their own pace.

Our interactive learning presentations transform this learning setting into an experiential one, which according to the article, makes it “meaningful, stronger, and durable”. In fact, a study from Prezi showed that 68% believe of people that interactive presentations make the content more memorable.

But don’t just take it from the business leaders being polled – employees themselves agree. “Employees at companies that deliver multiple types of learning are 68% more likely to say that they find learning opportunities to be of a tangible benefit to their jobs.”

When addressing the digital skills gap, integrating interactive learning opportunities emerges as a strategic and effective solution. These versatile learning options offer individuals the freedom to progress at their own pace while benefitting from increased engagement and improved retention through interactivity.

For businesses, this approach holds immense value, as it empowers employees with vital skills necessary for optimal performance and meaningful contributions to organizational objectives. By providing accessible and convenient learning experiences, employees acquire the expertise to excel in their roles, leading to greater efficiency in achieving business goals.

Ultimately, interactive learning serves as a powerful catalyst in closing the digital skills gap and cultivating a workforce that is skilled, motivated, and adaptable. It positions businesses for success in an ever-evolving digital landscape, securing a competitive advantage in the modern world.

Steve Alford

The Importance of Design in Presentations

May 21st, 2023 by

Presentation design… is it really needed?

People tend to underestimate the power of good design in presentations. It can be easy to think that it’s an unnecessary embellishment, or just something extra to look at if there’s time. However, design is in fact a crucial marketing asset, especially when it comes to presentations.

Think about it – you’ve spent hours crafting and honing your message, ensuring the content is relevant and engaging. So, when it comes to adding it into a presentation, you wouldn’t just carelessly throw your quality content onto some bland slides and call it a day, right? The visual element of your presentation needs just as much effort and consideration as the content. A well-designed presentation elevates and reinforces your content, whereas a poorly designed one may distract from, or even diminish your content.

For example, you wouldn’t want to make the common mistake of featuring text-heavy slides overloaded with bullet points that lack visual engagement – you’d instantly lose your audience’s attention. It’s crucial to strike a delicate balance between aesthetics and usability, where a visually pleasing design shouldn’t compromise the message’s effectiveness.

However, design needs to do more than just aesthetics.

It plays a crucial role in presenting a solution for a problem effectively and engagingly. By using visual elements and strategic communication techniques, design can simplify a problem by presenting information in a visually appealing and organised manner, enabling the audience to grasp the core issues effortlessly.

That’s why every presentation needs to do more than to just look good.

Still not convinced as to the value of design in a presentation?

Here are three reasons why it’s so important:

It makes it more memorable – Humans are visual learners and are much more likely to retain information when it is presented visually. Since the age of cave paintings, to emojis used today, visual communication is key to our development, learning and understanding. According to Harvard Business Review: “Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.”

It grabs the audience’s attention – You have a very small window to make an impression: the average attention span of an audience within a presentation is around 10 minutes. So not only is making it visually appealing more likely to catch the eye, but adding imagery also makes your message easier to digest – conveying more of your message quickly and efficiently. Prezi found: “It takes 1/10 of a second to understand a visual scene, compared to 60 seconds to read 200-250 words.”

It inspires action – One of the most common goals when giving a presentation is to encourage the audience to take action. So how do you go about making it more persuasive? By adding visuals, of course. In this study about the effectiveness of visuals in presentations, Prezi noted: “Researchers found that when the presentation was delivered with visual aids, it was 43% more effective at getting people to take action than when the presenter used no accompanying visuals.”

Ultimately, a well-designed presentation is far more likely to truly capture attention. And the more the audience is engaged, the more likely they’ll take in your key messages and really understand and consider them. Plus, you are far more likely to persuade your audience of a particular view or solution with quality visuals.

It will also bring your story to life when considering the power of visual storytelling (read more about this in our last blog post).

So, whether in a sales pitch, a seminar, or an informational talk, when your presentation uses design effectively, it will be more successful at keeping your audience engaged and getting your message across.

Steve Alford

How storytelling can help you build a more powerful presentation

April 12th, 2023 by

In our previous blog, we focussed on the importance of building a structure into your presentations. But so is building an emotional connection with your audience. So how do we bring these two things together?

One way is to use storytelling.

In this blog I’ll look at why you should consider using storytelling in your presentation. I’ll also unpack three storytelling structures and consider how we can use them to structure a presentation. Lastly, we’ll look at what to do if you want to use the power of storytelling but don’t want to build your entire presentation around it.

Why use storytelling in your presentation?

For me, there are three reasons why storytelling is important when you’re thinking about the structure and emotional impact of your presentation.

Firstly, because it reflects who we are as human beings.

Storytelling is part of our everyday lives. It’s in the films we watch and the books we read. We also spend a lot of time telling stories to each other – one study found that up to 70% of our conversations with each other are spent telling personal stories.

Secondly, research suggests humans tell stories because it helps us pass on knowledge. When you think about it, that’s the purpose of every presentation – to pass on knowledge.

One study showed that after a presentation, 63% of attendees were able to remember stories, while only 5% could remember statistics. (I think it’s funny we use statistics to prove statistics don’t work! It’s a reminder that we need to engage hearts and heads when we present.)

Finally, we know that storytelling helps us get results.

Studies show that focusing on the impact of a tragedy on a single individual helps charities raise more donations than statistical references to the thousands or millions of people who are affected by it. This is because we can empathise with an individual’s story and we become emotionally invested.

So we know that storytelling is powerful. But what is a story?

A story is a structure

A story is made up of a few key ingredients, such as characters, an emotional hook, but the thing underpinning them all is a solid structure. There are generally considered to be eight key types of story structure:

  1. The hero’s journey
  2. The mountain
  3. Nested loops
  4. Sparklines
  5. Converging ideas
  6. False start
  7. In media res
  8. Petal structure

You can build a presentation around any of these story structures. However, in reality, I think there are three that work particularly well. They are the hero’s journey, in media res and sparklines.

Let’s explore each of them, how they work and the types of presentation they are most suited to.

Using the hero’s journey in your presentation

The hero’s journey is the plot of thousands of books, plays and films. (Star Wars is the example you’ll most often see.)

If you Google the hero’s journey, you’ll find it has up to 12 steps. Broadly speaking, though, these divide into three parts:

  • the hero leaves the familiar world behind, either intentionally or unintentionally
  • the hero learns to navigate the unfamiliar world
  • the hero returns to the familiar world transformed by their journey and equipped with new-found wisdom

The most obvious use for a hero’s journey in a presentation is when you’re telling your own story. For example, it would be great if you’re delivering a keynote speech about a notable event in your career.

It’s also ideal for raising awareness about a topic you care deeply about. Here’s the description of a TED talk for example:

“After bacterial meningitis took her legs, Amy Purdy struggled with depression, and only beat it when she learned to accept her new reality, but not any limitations. After being unable to find prosthetics that would allow her to snowboard, she built her own. Today, she is a world champion female adaptive snowboarder. In 2005, she co-founded Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit dedicated to introducing people with physical challenges to action sports.”

Watch Amy’s TED Talk

The hero doesn’t have to be you, though. If your presentation was about a customer problem you worked on, the hero might be your customer. In this scenario, Act 1 would look at the problems they were facing. Act 2 would be about their search for the ideal solution (which was your product or service) and the work you did together. Act 3 would be about their world now and how it’s been changed for the better by your work.

Using in media res in your presentation

Like the hero’s journey, an in media res structure has three acts:

  • set up
  • confrontation
  • resolution

The crucial thing that separates it from the hero’s journey, though, is where you start it. Because ‘in media res’ translates as ‘in the middle of things’. You start your story at the most climactic moment.

You see the in media res structure in films and TV programmes a lot.

The opening scene starts with something unusual or intriguing – a familiar character behaving in an unfamiliar way or in an unlikely situation. Then, we get the text on screen that says something like: ‘Two days earlier’. We then go back to where the story actually begins and go through all the stages that led to the opening scene. In process, we get to see how the familiar character ended up in the unfamiliar situation.

This structure grabs your audience’s attention right from the start and engages them to listen on.

You’ll often see in media res described as ‘cutting to the chase’. Rather than starting your customer success story at the beginning with a description of your customer, you could try starting it at the moment they realised they needed help.

Or in a sales presentation, you could open by painting the picture of the problems that your product or service solves. Alternatively, you could start with a piece of feedback thanking you for the difference your company made.

Using sparklines in your presentation

Sparklines are when you contrast an existing world to an ideal world. The most famous example is perhaps Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Here’s an extract:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Sparklines is a good storytelling structure to use when you need to get people on board with something. You might need to show people the benefits of using a new piece of technology or a new way of working. You might need them to buy in to a new business strategy.

You take each of the problems you currently face. You then contrast it with a world where the technology is in place or the strategy has been implemented to show how much better it is.

By switching, you help to pull out all the problems with your world as it is at the moment. You also highlight all the benefits of the your new world. This helps to build a powerful argument people can buy into – and gets them excited about making the changes needed to get there.

Harness the power of storytelling in your next presentation

We love using storytelling to build powerful presentations for our clients. I hope this blog has shown you why.

But if you don’t want to build your entire presentation around a storytelling framework, you can still use the power of stories. For example, you could try opening your presentation with a personal anecdote. This will help create an emotional connection with your audience and they are likely to be much more engaged in what you have to say. Three steps to writing and structuring a winning presentation has a little more on this.

Let us know your experiences of using storytelling in presentations – and remember, when you tell us, you’ll be doing what humans have been doing for generations – telling a story!

Steve Alford

How to be more confident when it’s time to present

February 24th, 2023 by

If you get nervous when presenting, you’re not alone. More than 75% of us experience glossophobia – the fear of public speaking. In fact, it’s the most common social fear.

But feeling nervous or anxious needn’t be a barrier between a good presentation and a bad one. It just means we need to acknowledge the fear we experience and equip ourselves with the tools to handle it. We’ll explore a few of those tools in this blog.

The key to confidence is preparation

The idea of presenting in front of a room full of people can be enough to put off even thinking about your presentation, let alone starting it. But preparation is vital.

The fact is, the more preparation you put in, the more confident you’ll feel. You’ll know how to deliver the key points to get your message across and maximise the impact of what you want to say.

Remember too that confidence is contagious (yes, really!) When you’re more confident, your audience will have more confidence in you and what you’re saying. The same thing applies in reverse as well – when your audience has confidence in you, you’ll gain confidence in yourself.

It all comes down to neuroscience and the phenomenon of mirror neurons – brain cells that fire ‘when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another.’

So if preparation is the key to confidence, what does good preparation look like?

For me, there are three steps:

  1. Practise your presentation
  2. Plan your delivery
  3. Focus on your stage presence

Practise your presentation

Putting together your presentation and slide deck is your first task. (If you need tips on where to start when creating a presentation, take a look at our blog Structuring your Presentation.)

Remember, though, that your finished slide deck is not your presentation – it’s you, presenting it.

So, take the time to practise and then practise some more (… and then some more). You’ll have heard this countless times before, but it cannot be emphasised enough. Carving out enough time to prepare is often the key to the success or failure of a presentation performance. It’s also where you’ll gain your confidence.

Don’t use your preparation time to correct typos or play with design. Instead, use it to work out what works for you in communicating your story and eliminating anything that doesn’t. You will only find this out by practising. If you continue to stumble or don’t feel like it’s working the way you wanted, don’t be afraid to rewrite, reorder or even start again – you will only gain confidence when you’ve got a presentation you’re comfortable with.

If you can, rehearse it in front of people you trust. Honest feedback is important, and it’s a valuable opportunity to see which parts of your presentation are working and which aren’t.

Plan your delivery

Once you are happy with your presentation, it’s time to focus on how you will deliver it.

There are basically three approaches you can take:

  • reading directly off a script
  • memorising a script
  • developing a set of bullet point cards that map out what you plan to say.

I imagine you’ve watched a presentation where the presenter has read their script aloud. You’ll know how distancing it is and how any connection with the audience slowly disappears. Try to avoid this if you can.

Memorising a script is mentally exhausting. It’s also risky. It might start off well, but one small mistake can suddenly alter the way you present as you struggle to remember your lines. This again creates distance between you and your audience.

Getting past this point is simple. It’s a matter of rehearsing (I will keep saying this!) to ensure the flow of words becomes second nature. When this happens, you can focus on delivering the talk with confidence. In turn, this will also allow you to improvise because improvisation only starts when our mindset is relaxed.

If you don’t have time to learn your speech off by heart, or don’t want to risk it, don’t worry. This is where bullet points on note cards come in. As long as you know what you want to cover under each bullet point, they can be a great aide memoire.

Focus on your stage presence

Having a solid presentation with a solid structure (that you’ve rehearsed until you can deliver it backwards!) should automatically give you a confidence boost. The final step is to focus on ways to boost your presence and your appearance of confidence on stage.

Here are a few tips.

Make eye contact with people in your audience

You’ll find this easier when you have rehearsed your presentation so you don’t have to rely on looking at your notes or your slides so much. It can be tempting to pick out one or two friendly faces, but this can get awkward for them and you! Do your best to look at as many different people as you can.

Watch your body language

If you’re nervous, it’s very easy to cross your arms in front of you to subconsciously protect yourself. You might also feel like a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ and find yourself frozen to the spot. Both of these signal your nerves, which isn’t great for those mirror neurons!

When you’re practising your presentation, focus on having an open posture – it will help you look more confident and feel more confident. Gestures can help too. For example, body language expert Carole Railton analysed 10 of the most popular TED Talks to see what they can teach us about strengthening our communication using gestures.

Avoid fillers

In everyday conversation we use lots of filler sounds – such as ‘um’, ‘ah’ or ‘so’ – and filler words – such as ‘actually’, ‘basically’ or ‘I mean’. They’re natural because they give us the time we need to formulate what we want to say next. But in a presentation, we know what we want to say next (or we should do!). Filler sounds and words therefore distract our audience from our message. You won’t be able to eliminate them entirely, but use your practice time to become more aware of the fillers you use and work on removing them.

Speed up and slow down

Varying the pace of what you’re saying is a great way to keep your audience engaged. You’ll likely tend to talk more quickly when you’re nervous, but your practice time will help you combat this tendency. It will also help you identify where it makes sense to speed up (for example, when you’re adding detail or rattling through some stats) and where it’s good to slow down (for example, when you’re making a key point).

Understand the power of the pause

Silence is incredibly powerful. It helps you focus attention on the most important parts of your presentation and exudes confidence. (This compilation of highlights from a few of Barack Obama’s speeches is a great reminder of the power of the pause.) When you’re practising your presentation, consider where pauses could help. And don’t forget that one or two seconds will feel like a long time to you – especially when you’re nervous! – but it won’t feel too long for your audience.

Embrace your time to shine

Nearly everyone gets nervous before a presentation. It’s completely natural. Nerves are adrenaline going into overdrive, a natural response you can use to sharpen your mind and improve your performance. In other words, feeling nervous isn’t a disaster.

Remember too that there’s no right or wrong way to give a good performance or be a naturally confident presenter. The best talks aren’t the ones that follow all the best practice guidelines. They’re the ones that offer something fresh, not formulaic.

So while I’ve given lots of advice here, there’s no need to take every piece of it on board, just the bits you think could work for you. Embrace what makes you and your idea special – and go out there and shine.

Steve Alford