Me and three of my colleagues met up this week to share our presentation techniques in order to teach each other to become better communicators. This is what I learned from them.
Keep your slides short and snappy
If you're giving a presentation with a slide deck, understand what's your role and what's the role of your slides. You are in the room to tell a story, answer questions, and connect with the audience. You are the auditory and interactive element of the presentation. Your slide deck is the visual element. Its job is to use images and short sentences to encapsulate ideas. Its job is to guide people back to the presentation when their minds start to wander. Its job is to afterwards help people recall your presentation using their visual memory.
Don't let your slide deck compete with you. Let it help you instead. Your audience can either focus on reading your slides crammed with text or they can focus on listening to you. Few are able to do both at the same time. However, if you keep your slides short and snappy, you allow people to take in the content of your slide in two to three seconds. After that, they can focus on you. As an additional bonus, your slides are much more memorable and captivating.
Address the current landscape
We often give presentations when we want to create change in the world: there is knowledge that we need to share with others in order to help them build better systems and cultures, or we might need to agitate people into action so that we can deal with the threats and opportunities as teams and communities instead of individuals.
Because of this, our communication is often centered around future states. We speak about what could be, instead of what is right now. However, your audiences aren't going to listen to you if they are not convinced that you share their understanding of the present. Therefore, don't take it for granted that everyone in the room sees the current landscape exactly how you see it. In addition, even if the present issues seem self-evident, your message is easier to understand if it's preceded by an observation of where we are now.
Prepare for objections
Every great idea faces objections. You can't avoid criticism if you are proposing something truly meaningful and ambitious. But even if you can't prevent objections (and the discussions about them), you can still try to guide the discourse. If you are the first to addresses possible challenges, you are able to signal that your analysis is comprehensive and your thinking objective.
If a member of your audience is able to poke holes in your arguments with reasonable objections that you have overlooked, you know that the audience (big or small) will start listening to you with heightened skepticism. And for a very good reason. You have approached the topic from a place of ego and arrogance–not from a place of curiosity and humility.