Brilliant presentations – a very quick, very powerful tip to get audiences excited

2nd February 2016

Here’s a super-fast way to deliver better presentations.

If you have a pen and paper with you, please draw a circle.

If you haven’t, imagine you’ve just drawn a circle!

You’re going to turn this circle into a pie chart with three wedges. These will show the three things to prepare when writing a presentation:

  1. Your slides – what the audience will see
  2. Your script – the words you’ll say
  3. Your questions – the things you’ll ask

Here’s how to do your pie chart: simply split your circle into three wedges, showing the proportion of your prep time that you allocate to preparing each of these three.

If you are like the vast majority of people, you’ll have a huge wedge for slide prep and a small wedge for your script. And that’s it. There’ll be no wedge at all for preparing questions. Because people very rarely prepare in advance what they’re going to ask the audience.

And this makes sense. After all, it is called a “presentation”. So, as the “presenter”, you’re expecting to “present”.

But, as you know, presentations should be interactive wherever possible. You want the audience engaged, and discussing things with you/each other. Trust me, unless you possess some incredible presenting ninja power, it’s very hard to keep a room entertained when you’re the only one speaking for an hour.

My pie chart looks like this:

  • A tiny wedge for the slides – 10% max
  • The remaining 90% split equally between script and questions…
  • …in other words, I spend as much time preparing what I’ll ask as I do on what I’ll say

If you’re surprised by this, don’t worry. Everyone I’ve shared this with thinks it sounds – at best – surprising; and – at worst – just weird/wrong.

But spending time thinking of good questions helps you deliver successful presentations. Here are some questions that work really well:

  • After a slide showing the main benefits of your proposition, ask “which of these benefits are the most important?” When they respond with “number 3”, ask “why’s that?” This helps uncover their key priorities, and therefore helps you shape what you’ll say next
  • Running a workshop? After your first topic ends, ask “before we go to the next topic, please look through your notes and be ready to answer this question: what’s the one thing you’ll do differently as a result of what we’ve just discussed?” A great way to turn their learnings into actions
  • At the end of a sales pitch, ask the customer “Out of everything we’ve discussed, what are you most excited about?” This is a very positive, exciting way to finish the pitch. After all, you watch them discuss with each other the most exciting bits of what you’ve just said!
  • Get instant engagement by asking this: “This first slide shows our agenda for today. Which topic would you like us to discuss first?” When they answer, you know what their #1 priority is. So, go straight there. You’re already impressing them early

Finally, one very handy PowerPoint hint: some of these questions will result in you needing to change the order of your slides. That’s OK. If you’re on slide 1 and want to jump to slide 8, just press the “8” key on the keyboard and then “return” and you jump straight there.

This tip means you don’t have to deliver it in the order you prepared it.

Instead, you deliver it in the order that your audience wants to hear it.

And that’s much more likely to impress them.

Action Point

For your next presentation, script – and practise saying – the questions you’re going to ask. You’ll be amazed at what it does to the interaction on the day.

And what this does to your confidence. After all, it’s great when people engage. And it’s rubbish when they don’t. This simple questioning technique ensures they do engage. Every time.

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