Delivering the Perfect Presentation

Have you ever stood up in front of your peers to give an important presentation, only to find that for some bizarre reason your slides aren’t displaying correctly, you stumble over your introduction and you quickly spiral helplessly into the depths of brain freeze?

Typically from this point there is little hope of a full recovery, you’ve lost your composure but most importantly, you’ve lost your credibility with your peers!

Luckily for us and your future speaking engagements there are a wide number of resources available online that provide advice on how to best prepare and deliver impactful presentations. To save you time, here are my top eight preparation steps.

1. Practice your presentation (Start to Finish) – Even the most seasoned presenters take the time to practice before they present. Practice thoroughly until you become familiar with the flow of your slides, training your mind to remember the main points. Ask some colleagues to sit in on your practice sessions, their objective feedback will be invaluable in helping you to refine your approach and messaging.

If you have access to the physical room in which you will be presenting, it is advisable that you utilise it during your practice sessions. This will help you become comfortable with its environment.

2. Prepare the location – If possible arrive early to prepare the room. This includes the arrangement of the audience seating area and the removal of any distractions that may be located in the vicinity. Connect your laptop, setup and test any audio visual equipment that you will be using. Ensure that your slides display correctly and that the lighting complements with no washout. The preparation of the location should be completed at least 15 mins before the presentation is due to begin. This allows sufficient time for introductions with your audience as they arrive.

When presenting virtually it is also important to prepare. This preparation entails the organisation of your desktop so that is has a clean discrete background. A messy desktop with files positioned everywhere looks unprofessional. Keep it neat! Don’t forget to connect to a power source, turn off your screensaver and any other potential interrupters, such as your email client, popups and sound alerts.

3. Prepare yourself – It is also important for you to take time to prepare yourself for the presentation. If you suffer from nervousness, don’t forget to regulate your breathing. For instance, deep breathing exercises push extra oxygen to your brain, introduces calm to your body and helps center your focus on the task at hand.

Visualisation of your success also has the ability to calm your nerves. Imagine yourself presenting the best presentation of your life, delivering with confidence and seeing the audience congratulating you afterwards. Picturing the outcome, your success, will give you strength.

Certain food and drink also has the ability to contribute to your success. Similarly, there are certain things that you should avoid (source: Foods to avoid before giving a speech).

Examples of food and drink which can boost energy levels for your presentation..

  • Light foods which are easy to digest
  • Lean, high protein, low fat meals
  • Water and some herbal tea

Examples of food and drink to avoid…

  • Heavy meals, raw food, sugar
  • Dairy, Caffeine, hot spices, soft drinks

Have a bottle of water with you to wet your mouth throughout your presentation and don’t forget to eat something from the recommended foods list beforehand for an energy boost.

4. Open Strong – At the offset, it is important that you establish your credibility with your audience through the use of an appropriate hook. The hook may take the form of a powerful statistic, story or quote which is directly related to your main topic. The opening sets the scene and tone for your entire presentation. Although you may be familiar with some members of your audience, you should still introduce yourself for the benefit of those who do not know you.

After you have introduced yourself, you should proceed to you opening slide (with hook) and to the agenda, this sets the expectation around what you will cover and how you will handle audience questions throughout the presentation. Your choice of opening should clearly deliver the ‘what’s in it for me’ message to your audience, capturing their interest and firmly putting you in control seat!

5. Engage you audience – Remember, you are in control of the presentation and your audience are there to hear what you have to say. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian (author of Silent Messages) 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc) (source: How much of communication is really nonverbal). Therefore, how you carry yourself means a lot to the successful delivery of your message.

Beware of your posture; it’s easier said than done, but stand strong and appear confident at all times. Relax and square your shoulders in the direction of your audience, centering your gravity and avoid the urge to sway as if you are on a cruise liner! (A common solution to stop you swaying would be to position your feet in a ‘V’ shape).

Make your presence felt by utilising the space available to you between the projected slides and audience. The speaker’s triangle is a common methodology that governs the deliberate movement within this area to emphasise points of thought. When used correctly, the movement allows you to plant points in your audience’s mind , using a simple confident step forward to instil emphasis.

Gestures are another powerful asset that you can use to engage your audience. For instance, rather than looking awkward by keeping your hands by your side or glueing them to the podium in an effort to stop them from shaking, you can use gestures and deliberate movement of your hands to reinforce and regulate your audience’s response to your main points. An example of an effective use of gestures would be the ‘Obama Hug‘ (skip to 13:41).

Gestures should be used as a strategic complement to your verbal messages, overuse can often make you appear nervous or unfocussed. Remember, gestures can serve to deliver energy and emphasis your message or distract from it!

Lauguage is the final element here that I will mention to effectively engage your audience. In this particular case knowing your audience is critical, for instance the use of certain terminology or acronyms can be catastrophic for you if your audience isn’t familiar with them. Likewise if you have a diverse audience where english mightn’t be their first language, you should make an extra effort to pronounce all your words correctly and perhaps even adjust your language to the lowest common denominator.

According to the National Center for Voice and Speech, conversation speech in the US is roughly 150 – 200 words per minute. With this in mind, it is recommended that you aim for this benchmark, controlling your speech so that you come across relaxed without going too fast, raising your voice or going to the other end of the spectrum, speaking too quietly.

6. Make eye contact –  I have purposely listed this behaviour as a separate item due to it’s ability to connect directly with your audience in a way that the other elements can not. As the saying goes “The eyes are the windows to your soul” and are probably your most powerful asset available to you when presenting.

Rather than scanning the room or focusing on a single spot at the back wall, it is recommended that you spend time (roughly 3 seconds) making eye contact with each individual in your audience. Of course, this isn’t practical if you are presenting to an auditorium of 50+ people. But in small groups, you should use your eyes to engage people on an emotional level as you emphasis certain points. Often those on the receiving end will return some form of non-verbal feedback (a nodding head, etc.) that will help build your confidence.

If you do struggle with making eye contact, at the very minimum, DO NOT look at the floor or the ceiling, instead try to apply a gaze to the forehead of individuals, just over the line of vision. This is where your practice will help you immensely.

7. Close Strong –  Now that you are on the home stretch it is time to finish with a bang! Similarly to the importance placed on a strong start to your presentation, the finish is equally as important.

Try to keep your conclusion to one slide and recap on the important points that you want your audience to take away. Audience members tend to remember the elements of a conclusion more clearly than the main body of a presentation, so keep it short, to the point and ensure to include specific calls to action or next steps.

Never introduce new information during the conclusion, as this tends to interrupt the natural flow and thought progression for your audience.

8. Q&A – The Q&A section is another opportunity to reinforce your main points, so be sure to dedicate enough time for your audience members to ask questions. While taking questions, it is beneficial to take questions from different areas of the room, this approach often breaks audience hesitation to ask questions and encourages greater participate. Sometimes it helps to prepare back up slides with links to additional resources for your audience.

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Planning the Perfect Presentation

According to George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place!

Have you ever sat through an entire presentation, only to find that at the very end you struggle to remember the presenter’s main points or even worse, failed to understand what they expected of you? Both of these frightening thoughts are two of my pet hates and the reasons that I go to great lengths in planning my presentations.

For now, without addressing the delivery aspects of a presentation, all good presentations require presenters to undertake the following four steps…

  1. Research the topic in detail and the audience’s level of knowledge of it
  2. Decide on the key content elements to communicate the required message
  3. Design your presentation for impact
  4. Building your presentation

Step #1 – Research the topic and the audience’s knowledge level of it

All presentations should begin with careful research and planning. A number of key questions can be used to help you determine the type and amount of information that you will need.

  • What is the main purpose of the presentation? (and desired outcome)
  • How much time has been allocated to the presentation?
  • When will the presentation take place?
  • How familiar is audience with the topic being presented?
  • What is their main interest in the topic? What is their associated authority level with the topic?
  • To what level is the presentation being pitched? Detailed vs. High Level for executives?
  • Is there a subject matter expert within your organisation that can help you source content?
  • How prepared will the audience be for the content that you are presenting? Will they be ‘Ready’ to receive the message? Will they be ‘Apathetic’? or will they be ‘Resistant’?
  • Are there any cultural norms to consider? Will the audience expect a copy of the slides before the presentation? Will an extensive ‘backup’ section of supporting information be expected?
  • How will the presentation be delivered? In-person or virtually?
  • Where will the presentation take place?

Answering these questions will help you understand more about the type of information that your audience is expecting and the detail to which it needs to be pitched at. Now you can set about gathering your content!

Step #2 – Decide on the key content elements to communicate the required message

Now that you have gathered all the appropriate content and supporting data points for your presentation. It is time to narrow down its scope (cutting irrelevant content) so that it addresses only the main areas of interest. This is beneficial because it helps to categorise and sort content into related chunks that you will use to build a logically flowing presentation from introduction through to close/next steps or Q&A. Here are some pointers to help you organise your content…

  • Define a suitable introduction with a compelling ‘hook’ such as a relevant statement, quote or story.
  • Organise the content into chunks so that there is a logical flow between sections, use transitions slides if appropriate. It will be easier to start off with 3 sections in the beginning (Introduction, Body, Conclusion). The body section can be elaborated on later if needed.
  • Create a clear agenda slide. This allows you to communicate early on in the presentation what information will be covered and whether questions will be taken throughout or at the end of the presentation.
  • Develop a strong closing slide that recaps your main points and clearly communicates your ask of the audience (if there is an ask).

Step #3 – Design your presentation for impact

Before you build your slides in PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi*, it is a common best practice and recommendation that you first sketch your slides on paper. This allows to visualise the layout and flow of the presentation before you start the build, thus helping you to avoid unnecessary changes and edits later on.

(*if you are planning on using Prezi for your presentation, ensure that you obtain corporate infosec approval before putting sensitive corporate information on an external application)

  • Decide on a suitable theme (colours, fonts, layout structure). Organisations with a solid marketing department often possess a catalogue of brand compliant templates with embedded themes that employees can pull from for internal and external facing presentations.
  • Decide on appropriate titles for each slide, ensuring that they are not too long.
  • Structure the content of each slide so that the message is conveyed with the least amount of content possible. Overly busy slides tend to be confusing and counter productive to the delivery of the message.

Step #4 – Build your presentation

Equipped with your sketches, you are now ready to build your slides. Each audience will have unique needs so make sure that you cater to what’s appropriate.

  • Use relevant images to support the message. Images also help to break up the content and keep the audience engaged. DO NOT over use images and other media, as this will distract the audience from the message.
  • Only use animation if it serves to enhance the flow and delivery of the message. When delivering presentations virtually (i.e. through WebEx or GoToMeeting), beware of animations as these may loose their impact due to slow internet connections. Always build with the audience experience in mind.

Here are some questions to help you gauge the quality of your built presentation…

  • Are there too many slides for the allotted time of the presentation?
  • Was the introduction clear and descriptive to the purpose and content of the presentation?
  • Was the selected template (theme, colour, font, imagery) appropriate to the message?
  • Does the presentation flow logically and seamlessly?
  • Are there any slides that can be removed from the body and placed in the backup?
  • Does the conclusion effectively round up the presentation? Recapping the main points and clearly communicating the next steps or asks of the audience?

Following these four simple steps will help you to create an impactful presentation that will leave your audience informed with the right information that they will be ready and inspired to take action on the ‘ask’ (or next steps) outlined in your conclusion slides.

D&D Creative Solutions

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SEO – Boost Your Search Traffic by Creating and Submitting Sitemaps to Google and Bing

To help search engines to find and index all the pages on your website, it is important that you create and submit a sitemap to the main search engines. Google and Bing account for 89.7% (search engine usage june 2014) of search traffic (Yahoo gets its search results from Bing). Therefore, it is recommended that you submit to both Google and Bing.

There are two main types of Sitemap.

  1. HTML Sitemaps – These allow visitors to easily navigate your site and generally consist of a text version of your site navigation with appropriate keywords used as anchor text.
  2. XML Sitemaps – These are created purely for the search engines, allowing them to find data faster and more efficiently. In some cases, XML sitemaps help search engines to find website pages that may have been missed during the normal crawl process.

Google, Yahoo and Bing jointly support www.sitemaps.org. Please refer to this resource to learn more about the intricate details of sitemaps.

Below are two examples of sitemap – HTML (on the left), XML (on the right)

JLL HTML Site Map 010814 JLL XML Site Map 010814

How to create your sitemap… 

To create a sitemap there are a number of free resources available to you:

  1. https://code.google.com/p/sitemap-generators/wiki/SitemapGenerators (for larger sites) and
  2. http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ (for smaller sites).

For this example, I will use xml-sitemaps.com.

To create your sitemap, go to the URL shown and follow the first three steps.

  1. Enter your full website URL and some optional parameters in the form below.
  2. Press ‘Start’ button and wait until the site is completely crawled.
  3. You will be redirected to the generated sitemap details page, including number of pages, broken links list, XML file content and link to a sitemap file. Download the sitemap file using that link and put it into the domain root folder of your site.
    sitemap-generator-screenshot
  4. Then, once your sitemaps have been generated and added to your website root directory, you should proceed to the Google and Bing Webmaster tools to submit your sitemaps.

Submitting your XML sitemaps to Google & Bing

Submitting Sitemaps to Google:

  1. Login to the Google Webmaster Tool.
  2. Add your website.
  3. To do this a number of options are available to you:At this point, you will be asked to verify your ownership or authority over your entered website. To do this a number of options are available to you:
    1. Add a Metatag to your webpage.
    2. Add a DNS record to your domain registration.
    3. Link to your Google Analytics account (the email address used with your webmaster account must match the email address that is used with your Google Analytics account).
    4. Add a Verification File to the root directory of your website.
  4. Once you have completed one of the above options, click ‘Verify’.
  5. The next thing is to submit your sitemap. Go to the ‘Crawl‘ area and click on ‘sitemaps‘.
  6. Click the ‘submit a sitemap‘ button, include the URL file path of your website sitemap, then click ‘submit’.

Google will now go out and collect all sorts of information about your site; search traffic, content keywords, security issues and more. After a little while, log back in and explore all the information that Google has found.

Submitting Sitemaps to Bing:

  1. Go to the Bing Webmaster Tool and sign in.
  2. Click the add a site button.
  3. Enter your website domain URL, then submit.
  4. Similar to Google, you will be asked to verify your ownership/authority over your entered website. To verify, you can do one of the following:
    1. Add a Verification File to the root directory of your site.
    2. Add the appropriate Metatag to your webpage.
  5. Once you have completed the verification process, click ‘configure my site‘ to find the option to submit your sitemap.
  6. Enter the URL of your sitemap, then click ‘submit’.

Bing will now go out and crawl your website.

As I mentioned earlier, 89.7% of search traffic is covered by Google and Bing (Yahoo gets its search from Bing). Therefore, it is recommended that you certainly submit your sitemaps to these two search engines.

Another step that you can take to help search engines to find and index all the elements of your website would be to reference your sitemap within your Robots.txt file. But that’s a topic that I’ll save for another day.

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SEO – Identifing Keywords For Your SEO Strategy

The first step of any SEO strategy begins with an exercise to identify the keyword universe that can be used to optimize your website and content marketing strategy. Formal keyword research is important because in relation to your business, it is critical for you to know:-

1. Keywords – What keywords people are typing into search engines.
2. Frequency – How frequently they do it.
3. Relevance – How relevant those keywords are to your business
4. Competition – How competitive those keywords are to rank for.

Brainstorming:- A good exercise to identify potential keywords for your SEO strategy would be a brainstorming session. Although this is a simple exploratory process, it is one that should not be skipped. In relation to all the goods and services that your company provides, invite your fellow employees to list all the words that they would associate with those goods and services. Where the opportunity arises, I would also recommend that you do this exercise with people unconnected with your business, such as friends, family, customers, etc. This would help capture external keyword ‘connections’ that would otherwise go unrecognised.

Once you have generated your entire list of potential keywords, the next stage would be to do a relevancy sanity check, doing away with irrelevant terms, then progressing to the task of establishing the frequency, volume and competitiveness of the remaining keywords.

Frequency, Search Volume & Competitiveness:- There are a number of powerful on-line tools and resources that can be used to assess the volume, frequency and competitiveness of your potential keywords. The most popular being:

Once you have evaluated your keywords to establish their competitiveness, search volume, frequency and pattern (seasonality), it is now time to organise and categorise them so that they can be implemented throughout your website and content marketing strategy.

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Building A Solid Foundation For Your Social Media Program

The challenges presented by social media are not that the technology is so hard to master, it’s that so few have mastered the art of communication. Also true is the fact that social media communities are no longer swayed by cheap discounts or an invitation to try a new product. Instead, they are looking for a connection. This is why social media marketing is not a quick process – it takes time to nurture relationships into conversations, creating solid, trusted connections that will extend your organisation’s reach.

I feel nothing but admiration for any manager that sets out to build a sustainable Social Media Program within a traditional ROI driven organisation. Especially when resources are normally limited and management seek to apportion a demonstrable return – be it in terms of sales or revenue associated with specific social media activities. When building a social media strategy, there will be some tough conversations to be had and decisions made, as investment is funneled away from other important business activities in support of your social media program. This is where it is critical to set the right tone within an organisation at the offset, ensuring that expectations are set with management and support is in place to ensure the program can develop without the distractions of corporate politics. In Christopher Barger’s book ‘The Social Media Strategist’, he outlines two important persona’s that are vital to the long-term success of a social media program:

The Executive Champion – is normally someone within an organisation that operates at the executive level. Someone whose opinion carries an air of authority and has the ability to influence the decisions being made at the highest level. Normally the head of communications or PR, this person wouldn’t be directly involved in developing strategy or executing social media campaigns. But acts as the main program sponsor, fully endorsing its activities, obtaining funding and providing the Social Media Evangelist with space to execute a successful program.

Their main role can be described as follows:

  1. To promote the Social Media vision within the highest management levels of the organisation. Obtaining continued executive buy-in, with the associated financial commitment to see the program through to fruition.
  2. To communicate the Social Media vision to the rest of the organisation. This ensures that across the organisation, business owners understand the strategy and align to the plan developed by the Social Media Evangelist. In the event of a dispute arising around the ownership of the Social Media strategy or its direction, in the interest of consistency, the Executive Champion would possess the mandate and authority to enforce alignment to the current strategy.

The Social Media Evangelist – is the point person who leads the strategic and day-to-day execution of the social media strategy. Leveraging the resources provided by the Executive Champion, they are tasked with building the organisation’s presence within social networks, winning converts and influencing conversations with a delicate balance between social and digital, internal and external, strategy and tactics, relationships and business goals.

Before diving into social media, it is imperative that organisations possess a solid foundation, with the Executive Champion and Social Media Evangelist roles being central to this. Without their unquestionable partnership and leadership, a social media program is destined to reach only a fraction of its true potential.

Who do you count as the Executive Champion in your organisation?

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