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How to Face Unexpected Presentation Scenarios

While communication, nonverbal cues, and PowerPoint design are all very crucial, there’s one thing that will help you survive any scenario when in front of an audience. That’s to expect the unexpected, especially when you think you’ve got everything planned out.

Even as you prepare for your presentation, there are certain scenarios you won’t be able to foresee. There are things that could happen beyond your control. When that happens, most people get stuck and feel like they failed.

This doesn’t have to be the case if you can adapt to your predicament. When the worst happens, it’s better to face it head on. If you can’t be flexible in front of an audience, you run the risk of stumbling and falling.

Improv actors have mastered this skill with their spontaneous skits and quick thinking. To keep your own performance sharp, here are important improvisation tips to keep in mind:

Focus on the meaning behind your script 

Obsessing too much on what you plan to say point per point can hurt you in the long run. In cases of unexpected blunders and interruptions, sticking to your script can make you feel even more lost than before.

While it’s okay to plan what you want to say, you shouldn’t focus too much on exact delivery. Instead, you should shift your focus on what each point you prepared is trying to say.

Your presentation will be a lot more flexible if you know your core message well. At the end of the day, this is what truly matters.

It doesn’t matter if you miss a few steps along the way. Your main objective is to make sure that the audience understands the main point of your presentation.

In the same light, it’s also important that you don’t focus on your slide deck as much. PowerPoint is only there to enhance the message you want to deliver, but you can’t rely on it to do all of the work.

What if the equipment fails? What if the power goes out? You need to be able to stand on your own feet without using your slides as a crutch.

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Observe your audience 

Take your cue from the people you’re communicating with. Presentations are a two-way street.

You can try to create captivating design and content, but you won’t be able to tell how the audience will receive it until you’re in front of them. As such, it’s important to watch the room for their reactions to learn how you can adjust.

Does the audience look bored? Try to mix it up by engaging them with a quick anecdote. Or maybe your discussion is dragging out too long. If that’s the case, skip some of the parts you planned and deliver all the basics. Do they seem disengaged and uninterested? Maybe you can try to reel them back in by encouraging interaction.

Shoot a question their way or ask a few of them to share their thoughts on the discussion so far.

Let your obstacles empower you 

The best way to be flexible is to make the most of the situation that’s in front of you. Instead of trying to cover up the unexpected derailment, use it as a springboard to jump back on the discussion.

All you have to do is make sure you don’t get stuck on your blunders.

Turn around a sudden interruption from the audience by saying, “thank you for that observation. I’ll get back on that once I finish the whole presentation.” If you can make light of it and add humor, you can do that too. The important thing is that you don’t let the scenario take hold of the rest of your presentation.

You can never tell how well-prepared you are until you get in front of the audience. Even then, you can end up facing something you weren’t exactly planned for.

In that case, it’s better to not let your anxiety get to you and improvise instead. You’ll be surprised that this could even lead you to a better outcome. Improve your presentation skill with these three tips.

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Reference

5 Presentation Tools to Encourage Audience Interaction.” SlideGenius, Inc. January 12, 2015. Accessed January 22, 2015.
Fine-tuning Your Presentation’s Core Message.” SlideGenius, Inc. November 11, 2014. Accessed January 22, 2015.
What Is Improv?Austin Improv Comedy Shows Classes The Hideout Theatre . Accessed January 22, 2015.

 

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Buzz Worthy: Technology Presentation Tips from CES 2015

Leaders of the tech and electronics industry recently came together for this year’s International CES, or Consumer Electronics Show. As with previous years, top companies in the field made use of the event to announce and preview their upcoming products. CES 2015 became a huge stage for memorable technology presentations at the start of the year.

Presentations delivered during the event’s 4-day run made noticeable impact. From all of these, it’s obvious that there are plenty of technology presentation lessons that we can stand to learn. Based on the observations made by presentation expert Carmine Gallo, we run down the tips that could help you in your next big pitch.

Start with a short but meaningful story

Storytelling is always a crucial part of any presentation, but it bears special importance for a technology presentation. The best way to connect with the audience is through something they can easily relate to. Talking about technological concepts can become confusing for people who aren’t familiar with it. Skip the jargon and the long-winded explanations about your new product or service.

What you should try to do instead is to tell a story that will make the audience see why your pitch is important to them. Take an example from Mark Fields, president and CEO of Ford, who wove a story with his presentation.

Outline your presentation by listing 3-5 key takeaways

Another way you can help the audience digest the information is by outlining key takeaways before tackling them one by one. Give the audience a chance to learn the scope of your presentation by listing the major points you’re going to make. After you list down your key takeaways, you can tackle them one by one with a more in-depth discussion.

To keep your presentation in the right track, Gallo also suggests to make sure you limit yourself to only 3-5 points. Tackling too much in a single pitch can derail your discussion. Remember to keep your presentation concise. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich does this successfully by listing down his major points at the start of his presentation. Watch his keynote here and make your own observations.

Incorporate demos and other memorable moments

There’s more you can do to make sure your pitch becomes memorable. Just like Intel’s Krzanich did in his keynote, you can take your discussion to life by incorporating a demo to your presentation. As Gallo puts it,

“Many presentations—especially product launches—lend themselves to a ‘wow moment.’ A creative and well-rehearsed demo generates a lot of talk and, if people don’t talk about your product, why bother?”

Another way you can create memorable moments in your presentation is by making use of props. If you remember our discussion on Nancy Duarte’s STAR (Something They’ll Always Remember) Moments, acting out your core message with the help of props is an effective way to give the audience something to talk about.

Allow your data to stand out and shine

Lastly, PowerPoint and visuals also play an important role in a technology presentation. Don’t forget to prepare a well-designed deck that incorporates your branding through colors and images. Aside from the aesthetics, it should also do a perfect job of illustrating the nuts and bolts of the product or service you’re pitching.

How? By making sure your data is well-presented. Make it stand out by focusing on the most crucial numbers and getting creative with your visualizations.

Take a page out of Samsung president and CEO, Boo-Keun Yoon’s book. Yoon made use of slides where all the relevant numbers stood out. Check out his keynote here to see how careful handling of data can improve your technology presentation.

Delivering a technology presentation has its challenges, but achieving success isn’t impossible. Take note of these lessons straight from the CES 2015 stage and incorporate it in your next pitch.

 

Reference

Boo-Keun Yoon, Samsung – Keynote 2015.” International CES. Accessed January 22, 2015.
Brian Krzanich, Intel – Keynote 2015.” International CES. Accessed January 22, 2015.
Gallo, Carmine. “5 Presentation Tips From CEO Keynotes At CES.” Forbes. January 9, 2015. Accessed January 22, 2015
How to Create a STAR Moment for Your Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. September 25, 2014. Accessed January 22, 2015
Mark Fields, Ford – Keynote 2015.” International CES. Accessed January 22, 2015.
PowerPoint Design Tips for Presenting Data.” SlideGenius, Inc. December 1, 2014. Accessed January 22, 2015.
Why Storytelling Is an Effective Presentation Technique.” SlideGenius, Inc. September 8, 2014. Accessed January 22, 2015.

 

Featured Image: International CES Photo Gallery

Why Simplicity Wins When it Comes to PowerPoint Slides

PowerPoint slides play an important role in successful presentations.

Before you load your deck with information, take a step back and approach the task with scrutinizing eyes.

As we’ve mentioned before, your slides should serve as a visual aid. What you present to the audience should contribute to the delivery of your core message.

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Most of the time, presenters tend to create PowerPoint slides that are overloaded with too much information. Instead of using their PowerPoint deck as a way to highlight main points, it becomes the focal point of the presentation.

According to research, this becomes a problem for both you and your audience.

Presentation science: Why simplicity is crucial to PowerPoint slides

In a study conducted by Christof Wecker, it was concluded that overloaded PowerPoint slides distract the audience from listening to the presenter’s explanation.

Because the participants were shown slides loaded with information, the attention of the audience is split between two things: struggling to keep up with what the presenter was saying, or reading the slides and ignoring the explanation.

Their concentration and ability to absorb information became compromised.

In cases like these, Wecker noted that it might be better to just present with no visuals at all. However, the real solution is creating simpler and more concise slides. All you have to do is focus on the most basic and crucial points of your content.

When your slides highlight key takeaways, you can help the audience reach maximum information retention.

As social science blogger Eric Horowitz wrote to explain the study:

Wecker found that the suppression of oral information was correlated with the subjective importance a person placed on slides. In other words, slides interfere with the retention of oral information because people often judge information on slides to be more important.

Tips and tricks: Making PowerPoint slides that work

That said, it’s easy to see why your overloaded PowerPoint slides have been putting audiences to sleep. To keep your presentations comprehensible, make sure that your visuals remain simple and straightforward. There are many ways to achieve simplicity in PowerPoint design. Here are just a few of the most basic tips:

  • Draft your ideas before attempting to make a PowerPoint deck. Outline the points you want to make and lay them out in a storyboard. This will give you the opportunity to arrange your presentation properly and edit out unnecessary details.
  • You can keep your slides minimal by limiting your use of text. Examine the content you have and try to get your point across in quick and simple sentences. Images can also be used to describe ideas that are a bit more complex and might require longer explanations.
  • Some PowerPoint features can also help keep your slides streamlined and simple. You can use PowerPoint’s Note section to keep detailed explanations out of your main slides.
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References:

Add Speaker Notes to Your Slides.” Office Blogs. Accessed January 8, 2015.
Create a SmartArt Graphic.” Office Blogs. Accessed January 8, 2015.
Horowitz, Eric. “Why You Need Concise PowerPoint Slides – Peer-reviewed by My Neurons.” Peer-reviewed by My Neurons. February 18, 2012. Accessed January 8, 2015.
How to Organize Your Ideas with a Presentation Storyboard.” SlideGenius, Inc.. September 1, 2014. Accessed January 8, 2015.
Visual Simplicity Is Captivating in Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc.. September 30, 2014. Accessed January 8, 2015.
Wecker, Christof. “Slide Presentations as Speech Suppressors: When and Why Learners Miss Oral Information.” Elsevier 59, no. 2 (2012): 260-73. Accessed January 8, 2015.

 

Featured Image: D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

Listen Here: 5 Podcasts for the Busy Professional

With their recent popularity, podcasts can serve as the perfect information platform for busy professionals.

Unlike books, you can listen to podcasts and digest the same amount of information while you’re on the go. You don’t have to worry about setting aside a specific chunk of time from your schedule. You can easily garner useful facts and skills while you’re in the gym or going to work. For this reason, we’ve collected some podcasts that you can plug in if you’re looking to improve your business know-how, particularly in the areas of marketing and presentations.

1.) The Public Speaker’s Quick and Dirty Tips 

the public speaker podcast

Hosted by Lisa B. Marshall, this podcast offers exactly what its title suggests—easy-to-digest tips on presentations and public speaking. If you’re looking for a way to improve your communication skills, Lisa will answer questions and delve into presentation-related topics one episode at a time. While her discussions are usually pretty in-depth and exhaustive, she relays information without overwhelming her listeners. Best of all, you can easily check out the QDT website for a transcript in case you miss an episode.

2.) Marketing Over Coffee 

marketing over coffee podcast

Just like ‘The Public Speaker,’ this podcast airs bite-sized discussions that are exhaustive but not overwhelming. Hosted by John Wall and Christopher Penn, ‘Marketing Over Coffee’ covers a host of topics about traditional and digital marketing. In a span of about 20 minutes, you can learn helpful marketing techniques and easy-to-follow tips.  They’ve also done interviews with industry personalities such as Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, and Simon Sinek. You can check this link for more information about the podcast and find notable episodes to download.

3.) Your Grand Idea

your grand idea podcast

Are you just starting up your business? If so, ‘Your Grand Idea’ is the perfect podcast for you. Hosted by Todd Skaggs and Kevin Carter, the podcast covers a wide variety of tips and case studies that will help your new venture move forward. What’s a better way to learn than by listening to the experiences of other entrepreneurs and professionals? Start listening to the 33 episodes available by visiting their website.

4.) The Toastmasters Podcast

toastmasters podcast

For more public speaking lessons, you can also tune into the Toastmasters Podcast. With hosts Bo Bennett, Ryan Levesque, and Greg Gazin, this podcast offers in-depth discussions that will help anyone improve their presentation skills. From lessons on using props during presentations to interviews with noted industry professionals, this podcast almost serves as a crash course on communication in the workplace. If you find yourself struggling with public speaking, the Toastmasters Podcast is a helpful antidote. Here’s a complete list of their available episodes.

5.) The Friday Hangout 

the friday hangout podcast

This podcast—hosted by Janet Fouts, Adam Helweh, and Steve Farnsworth—zeroes in on marketing in the digital world. There are plenty of discussions on social media marketing, branding, and PR to learn from, as well as interviews with a number of notable guests. The best thing about this podcast is how the three hosts inject elements of humor and fun in each episode, so it doesn’t feel like what you’re doing is all just for work. If you’re looking for a podcast that’s both engaging and informative, you can start listening to ‘The Friday Hangout’ here.

Podcasts can be your best source of information for today’s fast-moving world. Despite your tight schedule, you don’t have to forego learning important lessons that can help move your career forward. All you have to do is subscribe to these podcasts, plug in your headphones, and take a quick listen.

 

Featured Image: Robert Couse-Baker via flickr

Presentation Books: 5 Titles to Read During the Holidays

Even as you enjoy the parties and activities that come with the holidays, it’s important to give yourself a break. No matter how enjoyable, it can still be exhausting to be whisked away from one activity to the next. You also need to make sure you get some time to relax and recharge. The holiday break can be the perfect time to sit back and crack open a few presentation books. If you’re looking for titles that are refreshing and creative, these books can give you a new perspective on tired and cliched tips. Snuggle in your sofa with a book and a hot drink and give yourself the opportunity to feel inspired.

Here’s a list of presentation books you should read in-between your frantic holiday activities:

Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)

51oXKWrcYYLWere the days leading up to your holiday break a stressful time at work? If so, reading Thinking Fast and Slow might help you come up with fresh ideas. In it, Daniel Kahneman, a winner of the Nobel Prize Memorial Award for Economics, introduces his readers to the different ways our brain works.

In particular, he explains that there are two different systems that drive the way we think. The first one is centered on intuition and emotion, while the second system focuses on deliberate and logical thinking. It’s the perfect read for anyone who wants to learn more about the decision-making process.

Confessions of a Public Speaker (Scott Berkun)

072-1Do you often find yourself feeling anxious about delivering a presentation? If you want to combat your presentation fears, you’ll definitely find comfort in the book Confessions of a Public Speaker. Here, the author Scott Berkun relays notable lessons from his years as a professional public speaker.

All of his tips are told through anecdotes that will definitely feel relatable. He shares both hits and misses, making the book a fun and humorous read. Among the presentation books in this list, this is the perfect choice for someone who’s looking to breeze through their holiday read.

The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand (Lee LeFever)

9781118374580_cover.inddHere’s a presentation book that’s perfect for those preparing for a big presentation. As you know, the success of your pitch will rely on how well you can explain the merits of your vision. To make sure you’re able to present your ideas well, Lee LeFever offers The Art of Explanation.

Take your audience through a journey and allow them to see the details of your idea clearly. Make sure your big idea is well-received by your prospects or colleagues by perfecting your communication techniques.

Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations (Dan Roam)

5140FskdsML._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Are you able to explain your ideas well, but don’t know how to convey them through visuals? If you think you’re not as adept in the design department, Dan Roam’s Show and Tell can be a great place to start. In here, you’ll be able to learn some of the basic lessons you need to ensure that you find the perfect balance between “showing” and “telling” in your presentations.

Engage your audience and make sure you give them an extraordinary and memorable experience.

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking (Mike Rohde)

51PefxyjMIL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Do you have a hard time recalling information that’s been presented to you? The Sketchnote Handbook proves how important it is to incorporated visuals in presentations. While this is for the people sitting in the audience, it can also give presenters a fresh new perspective on the visualization of ideas.

Here, Mike Rohde makes it a point to each everyone that visual note taking isn’t exclusively for artists and creative types. According to him, all you really need is a pen, a notebook, and a lot of creativity.

Take a moment from your busy holiday schedule to find inspiration from these presentation books. Here are 5 titles you need to try before the year ends. Are there any other presentation books in your holiday reading list? What other titles would you like to try out?

 

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The Pyramid Principle: Tips for Presentation Structure

There’s no easier way to lose the attention of your audience than by dumping too much information on them.

When you’re delivering a presentation, it’s important to a structure that everyone can follow. This structure needs to keep everything concise and straight to the point. It should allow one point to flow to the next in a logical manner. After all, the audience will find it confusing to hear wayward and tangential points. Luckily, learning Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle will keep you on the right track.

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Basically, the Pyramid Principle is a communication technique that allows you to to structure your points and arguments properly. It works by introducing a thesis statement before going into points and arguments that support it. Like a pyramid, the information you present should branch out as you move on towards specific details of the discussion. As written on Minto’s website,

“Extended thinking eventually ends in a single pyramid of ideas, at many levels, obeying logical rules, and held together by a single thought. Communicating the thinking requires only that you guide the reader down the pyramid.”

In other words, we can break down the Pyramid Principle into three main points:

1. Start with your thesis statement or key takeaway
2. Group arguments into main points
3. Branch out to discuss supporting details

If you map out your presentation, the structure would follow a hierarchy that look like this:

pyramid principle

As you can see, your presentation will be held together by single, key idea. To prove your statement, you will several different arguments that are grouped according to similarities. After that, you will discuss each detail as you move from one main point to the next.

To give you a better sense of the Pyramid Principle, let’s get into each of its three main points:

Start with your thesis statement or key takeaway

Following the Pyramid Principle, the best way to start your presentation is by laying out your conclusion immediately.

For business communication, it’s important to give the audience a clear idea about which direction you’re heading. While everyday conversations with friends will usually have a slow build up to a conclusion, talking with potential clients and investors are a different scenario. Considering the limited time we usually get with prospects, getting straight to the point obviously makes a lot of sense. In turn, this also allows them to see where you’ll be taking your discussion.

Group arguments into main points

With your takeaway presented, it’s time to delve into your main discussion. According to the Pyramid Principle, the next level involves grouping together all your arguments into main points. Each point will be a summary of specific supporting details that you’ll get into one by one.

Branch out to discuss supporting details

Finally, you can start getting into each of your main points by branching out to your supporting details. The idea is to keep everything under one theme so that the audience can easily picture how each item is related to one another.

Before arranging your presentation using the Pyramid Principle, you need to be sure of all the details of your content. You’ll need to brainstorm and draft out all of your ideas first. From there, you can edit your outline using either deductive or inductive reasoning.

You can start from the bottom up—deciding on all the points you want to make, grouping them together by theme,  and finally deducting your main takeaway. You can also start the opposite way—figure out the premise of your presentation, thinking of arguments what would make it valid, and then draft supporting details for each.

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Improve Your Presentations with the Power of the Metaphor

The success of your presentation is determined by how well you can connect with your audience. If you’re able to capture their attention and engage them with your discussion, you’re on your way to a great outcome.

So how do you capture their imagination?

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For poets, authors, and songwriters, there’s always the metaphor. They equate certain ideas or concepts with images that people are already familiar with. Since these concepts are often abstract and difficult to explain, metaphors help them reach out in ways that others can easily understand and relate to. .

A quick example can be found in William Shakespeare’s famous passage from “As You Like It:”

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;

Instead of trying to endlessly explain the nature of life, he chose an image that his audience were already familiar with. Since they were already watching a stage play, the audience can easily see what he meant with his metaphor!

Your message should be as compelling as a dangling carrot. (Image Source)

While your presentations aren’t expected to be as poetic as any of Shakespeare’s works, they can definitely improve with the use of simple metaphors. While we often associate them with artistic expression, metaphors also play out in our daily conversations. Expressions like “our hard work went down the drain” call to mind images that are familiar and relatable.

Certain metaphors can also convey a more heightened sense of emotion because they’re described in a way that people can easily call to mind. Another example was brought up by presentation expert Nancy Duarte in an article for the Harvard Business Review. She writes, “we [incorporate metaphors] naturally in conversation—for instance, ‘The news hit her like a freight train.’ By comparing the situation to something people already know or can at least imagine, we convey its intensity and urgency.”

Most presentations often end up as a dump of data and information that are too difficult to understand. If you want to keep your audience engaged, you need to capture their attention with something that stands out to them. A recitation of facts and data can easily become boring. But if you can liken your new business model to a game of soccer, your audience will remain intrigued and interested. Like Shakespeare, try to explain a complex concept with the use of a metaphor. Turn the unfamiliar into something you know they encounter in their daily lives.

Moving past cliches: How to come up with a unique metaphor

Obviously, not all metaphors are created equal. Some have been used so much that they’ve become unoriginal. How many times have you heard love likened to a red rose? Or, to be a bit closer to the corporate world, a business goal to a bull’s-eye? If you really want to capture the imagination of your audience, you’ll need to come up with a metaphor that is unique. The most effective metaphors are particular and specific to what you’re describing. It calls on something that you know everyone has experienced or can easily imagine.

For Nancy Duarte, the best way to do that is through a brainstorming session.

brainstormfresh2
Brainstorming is the most effective way to come up with the perfect metaphor. (Image Source)

The perfect metaphor won’t come to you immediately. As Nancy has written, the first things we often come up with are the cliches. Since these are associations we often see and make, they’re the ones that are usually top of mind. To push past them, you’ll need to allot some time for brainstorming.

Sit down away from your computer and start listing down everything that comes to mind. Start with the cliches and try to move to more original ideas. If you’re feeling stuck, just try to think of any word that you think is connected with the previous one you listed down. The important thing here is to keep writing. Don’t stop to edit yourself until you’ve written down everything you can. If you feel conscious about what you come up with, you can turn it into a little game. Set a timer for 9 minutes and don’t stop until your time runs out. You can also give these other brainstorming techniques a try.

Once you’re happy with the list you’ve come up with, it’s time to start pruning it down. Choose the images that are more unusual since these are the ones that will surely stand out to your audience. Above, you can see the example that Nancy came up with. Instead of going for the cliched image of a “handshake in front of a globe” for partnership, she opted for a reef ecosystem and the dance partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. If you want to use a metaphor that references pop culture, make sure it’s something that is appropriate for your audience’s demographics. The Astaire/Rogers metaphor won’t make sense to millennials, but perhaps a reference to the Avengers will. Always consider the point of view of your audience when choosing the perfect metaphor.

With your metaphor planned, it’s time to incorporate them with your visuals. It’s one thing to hear you liken your new security plan to a terrifying guard dog, but it’s a different experience to see it right in front of their eyes. If you really want to engage your audience, your metaphor is a great way to enhance the slide decks you present. Instead of using stock images and cliched graphics, you can perfectly illustrate your points with a powerful visual metaphor.

To connect with an audience, you need to urge them to embrace your core message. The best way to do that is by tapping into their imagination. Commonly used in artistic expression, the power of the metaphor can also improve your presentations. Give your audience an opportunity to see a unique presentation by translating your ideas into something that they can relate to.

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Presentation Science: 5 Thought-Provoking Presentation Resources You Need to See

A lot of presentations fall short because of insufficient preparation. Plenty of presenters have faced an audience thinking they can just “wing” the whole thing. While this technique may work for some, it’s not exactly a fool proof plan. When the stakes are high, we can’t just leave the outcome of our presentations to chance. That’s why it’s important to plan and prepare for presentations. Part of that process is to look out for new presentation resources that will help you improve your skills.

A successful presentation involves careful consideration. To communicate your message effectively, you need to take note of several different factors. Do your slides highlight your main points? Is your content memorable and easy to understand? Are the numbers and data well-represented with visuals? Is your presence on stage distracting the audience? Will your nervousness get the better of you once in front of everybody?

We’ve compiled 5 presentation resources that can help answer some of your important questions:

Reel your audience in with the power of curiosity

presentation resources 01

Curiosity: It Helps Us Learn, But Why? – NPR.org

While this article is mostly focused on the role of curiosity in the classroom, it also highlights information that is crucial for any presenter. The author cites a study that observed how our brain’s react to curiosity. According to the research, our brain’s chemistry changes when our curiosity is piqued, leading to better learning and information retention.

More reason to integrate storytelling in your presentations

presentation resources 02

Elemental Storytelling – NPR.org

Here, the author analyzes several pieces of art to learn why some things are more compelling than others. According to his assessment, the secret is in the “grab”. Like the best stories, your presentation should have an element that proves irresistible to the audience. This article also shows how you can use the same technique to improve your slide decks and visuals.

Handle tricky situations during the Q&A

presentation resources 03

The best way to win an argument – BBC.com

Knowing that the Q&A is often the most dreaded part of presentations, this article might be useful for overcoming some difficult scenarios. When faced with dissenting opinions from the audience, our natural response is to be defensive and list the same reasons we’ve already mentioned during the main presentation. According to a phenomenon called “the illusion of explanatory depth,” this will only fuel your disagreement. Instead of arguing your point, it might be better if you take the time to explain how it works. According to a study cited in the article, those who explained how the policy they were advocating for would work had better success at changing the minds of others.

Always turn your data into great visuals

presentation resources 04

The beauty of data visualization – TED.com

In this TED Talk, a data journalist talks about his work turning information into comprehensible visuals. According to him, the wealth of information around us can change the way we look at the world once they’re turned into graphics that are compelling and attractive.

The science behind your presentation anxiety

presentation resources 05

The Fear of Public Speaking – Psychology Today

We’ve written a lot about presentation anxiety and methods to beat it, but we have yet to get to the bottom of it. In this blog post, a psychologist explains why the fear of public speaking is so prevalent. She shares the process researchers use to figure out what causes presentation-related stress, and provides some insights on how knowledge of this process might help soothe your anxiety.

Before facing an audience, take some time to consider how you can improve the communication experience. Read these thought-provoking presentation resources to learn useful information that can improve the quality of your message.

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The Creative Process: 4 Steps to Presentation Success

We like to think of creativity as something elusive. It’s either you have it or you don’t. But as we discussed in the past, creativity is not a special trait reserved for artists, musicians, and writers. Creativity is a vital for endeavors that involve communicating and connecting with others. Whether you’re working on a novel or pitching to investors, creativity is crucial for capturing the imagination. The creative process is considered elusive only because we don’t know how to navigate through it.

The science of creativity

The idea that creativity is black and white comes from the notion that the left and right sides of the brain are distinct. Those who use the left side of their brains are more logical, practical, organized, and analytical. On the other hand, “right-brained” thinkers are understood to be more creative, artistic, and emotional.

That means an entrepreneur who carefully plans his next step is left-brained, right? And a pianist practicing a sonata is obviously using the right side of her brain. Recent research prove that this is just a myth:

Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.

Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. In recent years, evidence has accumulated suggesting that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”

In truth, the creative process involves several steps that happen in different regions of the brain. As indicated in the quoted passage, the brain is actually a complicated network that operates as a whole. There is no divide between the creative and logical. While some are more inclined to either one of these traits, both can be true for a lot of people as well. The creative process doesn’t involve magic. It can happen for an artist, as well as an entrepreneur preparing for a presentation.

The creative process in four stages

The social psychologist Graham Wallas described the creative process as a series of steps. According to Wallas, the creative process has four stages that involve both conscious and unconscious thinking. If you feel like your presentations can use a bit more imagination, you don’t need to wait for the muse to come. Just take note of the following steps to help you get started:

Stage One: Preparation

Creative Process 1: Preparation

The first stage involves laying down the ground work of your project. To prepare, you consult prior knowledge and experiences, as well as seek out other resources. In presentations, this is when you define the main purpose of your presentation. Upon figuring out your goals, do some research and seek out inspiration.

Stage Two: Incubation

Creative Process 2: Incubation

After gathering inspiration comes a period of “unconscious processing.” Here, you let your brain piece together what you were able to gather. Wallas describes it as “voluntary abstention” from consciously thinking of the problem at hand. Instead of trying to find a specific solution, you take a step back and consider different possibilities. If you remember our previous discussion on creativity, this is similar to creating “psychological distance” between yourself and your work. At this point, instead of letting yourself be boxed inside a specific line of thinking, try to explore other solutions through brainstorming and mind mapping.

Stage Three: Illumination

Creative Process 3: Illumination

As the name suggests, the third step of the creative process involves the moment when everything finally comes together. According to Wallas, this stage can’t be forced. It happens unconsciously, only after you were able to step back and consider different solutions. He describes illumination as the following:

[The] final “flash,” or “click” … is the culmination of a successful train of association, which may have lasted for an appreciable time, and which has probably been preceded by a series of tentative and unsuccessful trains. The series of unsuccessful trains of association may last for periods varying from a few seconds to several hours.

Stage Four: Verification

Creative Process 4: Verification

The last stage of the creative process involves carrying out your idea into the real thing. To ensure success, consult the goals and parameters you’ve determined in the preparation stage. For presentations, this involves finally building your PowerPoint deck, as well as the act of presenting in front of an audience.

Creativity doesn’t need to be magical and elusive. It can be accessible to those of who aren’t particularly inclined to artistic endeavors. Familiarize yourself with the different stages of the creative process and ensure that your presentations end successfully.

 

References

Kaufman, Scott Barry. “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity.” Scientific American. August 19, 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.
Popova, Maria. “The Art of Thought: A Pioneering 1926 Model of the Four Stages of Creativity.” Brain Pickings. 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Chris Isherwood via Flickr
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The Science of Effective Storytelling in Presentations

We often talk about the advantages of storytelling as a presentation technique.

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A presentation that’s filled with facts and figures can easily stray into a monotonous lecture that slowly lulls the audience to sleep. But if you choose to tell a story, you can give your audience something personal, concrete, and relatable to listen to. You can elicit very strong emotions that allow them to participate and engage with what you’re sharing.

As Dr. Paul Zak of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies found, narratives can trigger powerful responses when told the right way.

The science of effective storytelling

In this short film made for the Future of Storytelling Summit, Dr. Zak carefully explains how the human brain responds to effective storytelling:

After observing the neural activity of respondents who viewed the story of a terminally-ill two-year-old boy, Dr. Zak found that effective storytelling can evoke powerful feelings of empathy that come from the release of particular neurochemicals, including oxytocin and cortisol. Furthermore, these powerful responses often turn into concrete and positive action.

This, however, doesn’t happen by telling just any other story. In order to be effective, the narrative has to follow the dramatic arc outlined by German playwright Gustav Freytag: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Otherwise, as Dr. Zak concluded, listeners will have “little if any emotional or chemical response.”

What does this mean for presentations?

To elicit the same powerful emotions from your audience, craft a story that follows the solid structure Gustav Freytag first envisioned 150 years ago:

Exposition

In a literary story, this is where the author lays out some “ground work” by presenting the characters, setting, and basic conflict.

For your presentations, this is where you establish some context. Introduce the point of view you’re presenting, and share some background information. If the story  focuses on an experience you had with a client, set the scene and introduce important details.

Rising Action

After presenting the context of your story, it’s time to build tension and increase conflict. This is where you identify obstacles that prevent your character from feeling fully satisfied or happy. If your story is from a target customer’s POV, tell your audience about the challenges they face.

Climax

As the turning point of your story, the climax is the part where your character comes face-to-face with their problem. This is where the conflict becomes fully-realized and a solution is seen on the horizon. For your presentation, the climax marks where you start driving home your core message.

Falling Action

Slowly, as a solution becomes clearer and clearer, your character takes a course of action towards the identified goal. In the traditional sense, this is where the protagonist battles the antagonist. For your presentation, this is where you continue explaining your core message, focusing on how it helps resolve the problems you introduced early on.

Conclusion/Resolution

Finally, describe how your character meets their goals. This is where you explain how you and a difficult client came to an agreement. In another example, the conclusion is the part that details how your target customer finally achieves full satisfaction.

Powerful storytelling can change the outcome of your presentations. Share stories that engage your audience by following an age-old technique that has always been universally effective.

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Featured Image: Screen shot from Future of StoryTelling: Paul Zak