Have you ever been out for a meal and overeaten?
Maybe you didn’t notice how much you’d eaten because you were thoroughly enjoying the food and the company. However, within minutes of finishing, that full feeling creeps over you. Fairly quickly it turns into an uncomfortable, bloated, heavy sagging. You wish you hadn’t consumed so much — but now its too late!
You feel like a beached whale
You fidget with discomfort. Worst still, you know it’s going to take hours before you feel better.
Maybe you’ve had similar feelings sitting through a presentation!
A presentation probably delivered by a well-meaning and talented person, who just wanted to impart some of their vast knowledge to their audience.
Their vast knowledge is often part of the problem
With many years of experience in their chosen topic — often the reason they’ve been asked to present in the first place — they want to be generous and give their audience plenty of information. Their focus is often on imparting that knowledge.
So they talk, and talk, and talk
Pretty soon the audience is full. They’ve consumed enough. But the speaker continues. He continues until the audience is way past full. They’re starting to feel bloated and uncomfortable. They begin to fidget.
They haven’t moved in what seems like months.
Before long they feel as restricted and anxious as that beached whale. And like that whale, all the audience can do is stay where they, as the information washes over them like an incoming tide.
How does a presentation arrive at this point?
Presenters often begin in the wrong place; by making notes about what they want to cover. Each thing they write reminds them of other things they want to say, which in turn reminds of them of even more things they want to include. They have so much they wish to impart they feel overwhelmed with their own information. They don’t know where to start.
So as a presenter, where do you start?
You need to know two things before you begin:
1. The amount of time you have for your presentation and
2. Your audience
I’m assuming you either already know, either through experience or from thorough research, what you’re going to talk about. So lets start with number one.
The amount of time.
Even if you can talk 50 times faster than the chipmunks on speed and don’t take any breaths, you still can’t fit 15 years of experience into a 2-hour presentation. But even if you could, that’s not going to be a satisfactory experience for your audience, now is it?
If you give them too much information to consume they’ll just feel bloated, anxious and overwhelmed. At the end of your presentation, they won’t do anything except stagger out looking dazed and confused. And that’s not what you want. So, lets consider the audience a little more.
It’s all about your audience
Your audience hasn’t come to listen to how much you know. Sorry. Generally, they want to learn something that they didn’t know before and to be able to use it immediately. If you give them those things you’ll engage them – and they’ll love you.
Involvement is the key to engagement
For a presentation to be useful to your participants, they need to do something; to engage in some activity that will embed the knowledge you’re imparting. Just talking at them for two hours is not going to do this. No matter how titillating your presentation, how many powerpoint slides you have or how much they like your voice, they need to do something with the information while they’re there. If they don’t, its highly likely they’ll forget everything you talked about in the rush to find the nearest exit.
Audience participation limits your talk time
Your presentation should include some audience participation or activities that assist in embedding the learning. These activities can take a fair amount of time and will cut into the amount of presenter talk time. While this might sound scary, it means your presentation will be a lot more focused and therefore useful to your audience.
So in a 2-hour presentation, as much as half of the time might be taken up with audience activity and participation.
There’s now only 1 hour left to talk
Take out time for an introduction and a summary — and you might only have 50 minutes remaining. In that 50 minutes you’ll want to focus on just the two or three key pieces of information that you want your audience to take away. Your audience activities should then be designed around embedding those critical pieces of information.
By limiting the amount of information you expect your audience to consume, they’ll leave your presentation feeling en-lightened and confident in their new knowledge. Much better, don’t you think, than heavy, bloated and washed-up like that poor beached whale?
- Know how much time you have for your presentation.
- Think of just 2 or 3 key points you want the audience to take away.
- Remember: it’s all about the audience.
- Structure some activities that will embed what you’re trying to teach.
- Avoid overloading the audience with information; You want to en-lighten — not weigh them down!