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When it comes to presenting, do you know your tigers from your zebras?

In their first Spirit Short, Creative Director  Jude D’Souza shares some of the key points to remember when building and delivering a smash-hit presentation.

The first trap presenters commonly fall into is forgetting to treat their presentation like, well, a presentation! In the video Jude provides some ideas on the most effective way to create your visual aids..

And, as Jude makes plain, the attention of the audience should never be taken for granted. Engage, explain, use humour or anecdotes – don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.

Overall, the factor that makes a presentation individual is the individual who delivers it and they should act as a storyteller.

Always remember – you wouldn’t feed raw steak to a zebra, so don’t try to present a document to your presentation audience!

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Before I share my thoughts on how we can improve our presentation technique, I’d like to show you something.

This is a tiger. And this is a zebra. The two of them are, in fact, entirely different animals. They are both mammals, they both have four legs, and stripes, and a tail but they are, in fact, completely different creatures. And, if you’re thinking to yourself ‘Well, yes… that’s obvious, the two are nothing alike!’ Let me ask you this: if it’s so easy to tell apart things that are nothing alike, why is it that so many learned professionals in medical communications can’t seem to tell the difference between this – a presentation – and this – a document?

They are both ways of imparting information; they both involve text, and often images, and figures but beyond that, they are about as similar as a tiger is to a zebra. A document can be read at your leisure, in any order you like, in multiple sittings, if you like and the author does not need to be present. For a presentation, on the other hand, it is delivered in one sitting in a linear order and at a pace set by the speaker. So, as you can see, the two really aren’t that similar and treating them as if they’re the same thing is like… feeding raw steak to a zebra. It’s not going to be that effective. So the first rule of better presenting is to treat your presentation like a presentation… not a document.

What do we mean by that? Well, in the current climate, we’re going to enormous effort to record our speakers even videoing them wherever they are around the world. Why are we doing this? After all, if they’re just going to read the content on their slides, do we really need them? I mean, they may as well just give audiences a copy of the script to their presentation!

No. The reason we do it is because slides are not the main draw of a presentation. The reason audiences attend a presentation is because of the presenter. They are there to see and hear the speaker. The slides should really just be visual aids: there to reinforce key points or make them easier to understand. So, for example, if you have lots of figures in your presentation, instead of just popping them into a table on your slide do something meaningful with them: illustrate them in a way that makes them mean something more to your audience.

If you think of your key messages as the nails, your slides should be the hammer that helps drive them home and simply repeating the messages on the slides is not going to do that. It’s like trying to drive a nail into a wall using… well, another nail. And part of driving those metaphorical nails home effectively is using more of them. If you know anything about DIY, you’ll know that hammering a massive nail into a piece of wood risks splitting the wood. On the other hand, if you use a lot of much smaller nails, the wood accepts them more easily and they go in more firmly.

So, by that same token, break up your messages. Information is much easier to digest in smaller pieces so consider spreading your content out across more slides. I know that, in medical communications, that can be a scary prospect; we’re very allergic to adding more slides to our presentations. But the fact is it’s a false economy. Think about it: ten slides, with three key points on each one will take the exact same amount of time to speak to as thirty slides with a single point on each one. The difference is: an audience will find thirty slides that are less dense much easier to digest.

And, in virtual environments it’s that much more important to engage our audience and make it easier for them. Think about it… it’s a little bit harder to drift off in a crowded auditorium surrounded by your peers than it is when you’re viewing a presentation at home, on a device, surrounded by distractions.

So when you’re putting your presentation together question whether you’re earning your audience’s attention. Before you start creating slides, ask yourself: have you formed your content into a compelling story? Have you given your audience a reason to care? A reason to keep listening?

Think about how you can hook them in: perhaps you could tease a surprising conclusion, or set up an intriguing problem that you intend to solve in your presentation. Maybe even appeal to them on an emotional level. The one thing you should never do is take your audience’s attention for granted because as soon as you do that the only thing you’re guaranteeing is that you will quickly lose it.

Look, I know everyone in our industry tends to present the same way and I know that stepping outside of the mainstream can be scary; If all of our respected peers present their content the same way will we lose credibility by doing things radically differently?

Well, here at Spirit, we don’t believe in following conventional wisdom when it doesn’t seem that wise. So, if you would like to be a bit different… if you would like to be a bit bolder… if you would like to be heard… then please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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