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Boosting Your Body Language for Better Presentations

Preparing the content of your deck is only half the battle in delivering a presentation. You can have the most beautifully designed and eloquently written presentation in history, but if your public speaking skills are not up to snuff, then it will be all for naught.

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As the saying goes, “it’s not about what you say, but how you say it.”

Simply put, delivering a good presentation takes demonstrating good body language. Presentation experts will tell you, beyond simply knowing your content, it’s important to be able to show confidence and relatability in front of your audience. When your body language complements your content, then you’re sure to deliver a great presentation.

In this article, we’ll tackle the key aspects of body language that will boost your presentation skills to the next level.

Posture

Whether you’re sitting down or standing up, how you carry yourself greatly affects the entire mood of your presentation. You never want to be caught slouching, as it makes you look lazy and unprofessional.

Maintaining an upright and open posture presents a confident and charismatic stance to your audience. It also makes you feel more confident.

A good tip is to loosen up before your presentation. It’s meant to release all the nervous tension that may cause you to stand or sit in awkward positions.

Eye contact

Perhaps one of the most neglected steps in presenting is establishing a good connection with the audience.

The stronger the connection, the more receptive your audience will be to what you’re presenting. The quickest way to develop that is with eye contact. It sends a subtle message that you are paying attention to them, making you deserve their attention.

It may seem like a small detail, but it also subconsciously tells them how confident you are in your presentation.

Facial expressions

While we’re on the topic of connections, remember to be aware of your facial expressions.

When it’s appropriate, you’ll want to smile as much as possible. No one enjoys sitting through a presentation from someone who looks like they do not want to be there.

Remember that audiences tend to mimic or feed off the emotions of the presenter facing them.

With a smile on your face, you have the power to uplift the room you step in front of.

Gestures and Movement

As the presenter, it’s your mission to keep your audience engaged. Incorporating hand gestures and movement can be what makes the difference between a dull presentation and a captivating one.

Think of your arms and legs as storytelling tools. Hand gestures add emphasis to your speech while movement along the stage can guide the attention of your audience. And like any tool, you must handle these with care and precision. You need to strike a balance in your use of gestures and movements so that they come off as part of your natural motions and not overly rehearsed.

While presentation styles may vary from person to person, body language is universal. It’s a form of communication that speaks beyond words and potentially adds to the impact of your presentation.

To presentation specialists, using subtle hints in body language is an invaluable skill in communication and public speaking. With enough practice, you’ll be instinctively using your body language to deliver more dynamic presentations.

To learn more ways to elevate your presentations, you can contact us anytime! At SlideGenius, it’s our passion to design exceptional PowerPoint presentations. We believe that good business starts with a well-made presentation.

Let us handle the designs, while you can practice on your delivery!

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Steve Jobs: Use Heroes and Villains in Your Business Presentations

Credited as the most innovative leader in business even after his death, Jobs is still imitated by many of today’s entrepreneurs. The impact of Jobs’ legacy is greatly due to his ability to tell stories that not only inform the audience but also inspires and entertains them.

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According to Help Scout content strategist Gregory Ciotti, substance isn’t paid as much attention unless it’s structured as a story. Going through a thrilling plot alerts certain areas in the brain and lets a person experience the described scenes as if they were really there.

This must be why the technique worked out so much for Jobs, who transformed typical pitches into movie-like plots with heroes, villains, and comic stunners.

Take a look at how he incorporated this technique to his business presentations:

Introduce the Villain

When Macintosh was publicly launched, IBM had already established its position in the computer market. Jobs thought of introducing IBM as the villain to sell the Mac’s benefits.

According to brand specialist Carmine Gallo, this worked because it’s in line with the idea of a story needing heroes in villains. At the same time, it serves as a good trajectory to introduce his product.

“It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple,” Jobs said. “Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?”

Reveal the Conquering Hero

A story isn’t complete without a hero. For his introduction, Jobs positioned Macintosh as an instrument to escape from the villain’s grip.

“You’ve just seen pictures of Macintosh. Now I’d like to show you Macintosh in person. All of the images you are about to see on the large screen are being generated by what’s in that bag.”

Cue the showstopper

Jobs provided genuine showstoppers to create memorable speeches. This one is our favorite:

“Hello, I am Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I’d like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: Never trust a computer you can’t lift. Obviously, I can talk right now, but I’d like to sit back and listen. So, it is with considerable pride that I introduce a man who has been like a father to me: Steve Jobs.”

Conclusion

Jobs revolutionized the art of corporate storytelling. He brought life to dull and typical discussions by narrating events.

Incorporating stories in your business presentations sets them apart from unmemorable speeches because people remember stories more easily than they do technical details.

A story is the simplest means to get your audience on board with your projects and ideas.

Make it real. Make an impact. Tell a story.

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References:

Ciotti, Gregory. “The Psychology of Storytelling.” Sparring Mind. Accessed May 8, 2015.
Craft Your Corporate Presentations into a Great Story.” SlideGenius, Inc. May 15, 2015.
Gallo, Carmine. “11 Presentation Lessons You Can Still Learn From Steve Jobs.” Forbes. October 4, 2012. Accessed May 8, 2015.
Paul, Annie Murphy. “Your Brain on Fiction.” The New York Times. March 17, 2012. Accessed May 8, 2015.

 

Featured Image from Business Leaders: Steve Jobs

Hook, Line, and Sinker: What Makes a Great Presentation Story

What makes a great presentation? Before anything else, your presentation needs a story at its very center. This is a point we’ve talked a lot about in the past, but it’s always worth repeating.

Outstanding design and effective delivery will help your presentation stand out, but it’s the story that helps keep everything grounded. In other words, a presentation should be more than a recitation of facts and data. It needs to connect with the audience. If you spin the information  into a story, you can easily capture people’s imagination. You’re creating a connection that taps into their emotions.

For some, this might sound like a bad thing. Why should emotions play any role in the boardroom? Eliciting an emotional response doesn’t mean that you have to move the audience to tears. As we detailed in our previous discussion on  the science of storytelling, great stories can evoke the audience’s empathy. With that, they’ll find it easier to relate with what you’re sharing and to consider ideas through your perspective.

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Having emphasized the importance of a great story, it’s time to take on another question. What makes a great presentation story? How do you create a presentation story that captures the audience hook, line, and sinker? As with any endeavor, you’ll need to start with the basics.

Here are the three things that your presentation story needs:

A structure that pulls you in 

Whether it’s an epic like The Lord of the Rings or a Sherlock Holmes mystery, all stories are told through a basic structure. It might go back and forth with flashbacks here and there, but it always has a beginning, middle, and end.

The same should be true for your presentation story. As Aaron Ordendorff of Fast Company writes, too many presenters start their story right at the middle. Instead of providing some much needed context, we start at full speed and hope that the audience can catch up and run along. To avoid losing their attention or interest, the audience needs a structure they can easily follow and understand.

Dr. Paul Zak of the Center of Neuroeconmic Studies found that Gustav Freytag’s dramatic structure is the most effective for presentations. This structure involves having an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. You can spin your presentation story to follow this pattern by figuring out some essential details about what you want to say.

  • Beginning: What context is your presentation coming from? Start your presentation story by introducing how the concept you’re presenting came about. If it’s a business pitch, talk about the problem  you want to solve.
  • Middle:  With the context a lot clearer, you can start to go into detail about the purpose of your presentation. How do you plan to solve the problem you introduced? What is the main point you’re trying to impart?
  • End: After the main discussion, circle back to the initial problem and provide a resolution. This is where you reinforce your core message one last time.

A character that’s relatable 

Your presentation will also need a central character. This will give the concepts you present a relatable face. If this sounds a bit confusing, review some of your favorite TED Talks.

Most TED speakers introduce a larger theme by centering their story in a particular character. That character is often someone in their family, someone they work with, or even a younger version of themselves. You’ll need to come up with something similar, even if your presentation comes from a slightly different context.

So how do you identify the character of your presentation story? Reflect on your core message and think of how you might make it more relatable. If you’re trying to win over clients, you might want to center the story around them. You can also set up a hypothetical situation involving a person that represents your target market. Your presentation story can also be about you, especially if you want to talk about an experience that’s connected with your core message.

A message that’s significant 

Stories of all kinds are told to reveal broader themes and truths about life. Take the famous Harry Potter series, for example. Aside from being a story about magic and wizard, author J.K. Rowling also talks about other things like the meaning of friendship and family. While you don’t have to address abstract themes in your presentation, your story should be able to share a significant message. In other words, the story you tell should encapsulate the message that is at the core of your presentation.

The more you can fine-tune and understand your core message, the better you can deliver a presentation story with a clear purpose. To come to that concluding statement, here are 3 key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of your presentation?
  • What’s the one thing you want the audience to remember?
  • What is the best way to elevate that message?

A presentation can’t succeed if it doesn’t connect with its audience. To create a more relatable experience, you need to spend some time crafting a strong presentation story. Follow these pointers to come up with something that others can easily understand and engage with.

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READ MORE: Bring Your Presentations to Life with these 5 Storytelling Components – Fast Company

 

Featured image from picjumbo.com by Viktor Hanacek

How to Tell a Better Presentation Story

As we already know, stories make for powerful presentations. Great stories can capture the emotion and imagination of an audience. Instead of a straightforward report of the facts, stories allow audiences to connect with a message. Stories allow mundane and impersonal data seem more relatable. A presentation story creates a more personal and engaging audience experience.

Whether you’re in the boardroom or in a meeting with potential clients, here’s a list of what you’ll need to tell the best presentation story:

The heart of the story

In literature, stories are told to reveal broader themes. While you’re not expected to philosophize abstract themes in your presentation, the story you share should also have a purpose. At its core, it should be more than just a story. Your story should be driven by a rationale that is essential to your story. In other words, it should perfectly illustrate the core of your message.

To get there, consider asking  yourself these key questions:

  • What is the significance of this particular story?
  • What is the underlying principle behind your presentation?
  • What is the main point you’re trying to get across?

The more you understand the key takeaway, the better you can deliver your presentation story.

The main players

Stories can’t move forward without a central character. The character is responsible for setting the narrative into motion. It is also the character that determines what kind of story will unfold. Most importantly, it’s with the character that the audience connects with emotionally.

It may seem odd to name a protagonist for your presentation story, but even the most mundane stories have its main players. It could be your customer. It could be someone who perfectly represents the demographic you’re targeting. You could even be the character of your own presentation story, especially if you want to talk about an experience that’s central to your key takeaway.

The structure

Beginning, middle, end. Whether it’s an epic hero’s journey, or a murder mystery riddled with flashbacks, all stories are anchored by this basic structure. As such, the same should be true for your presentation story.

According to Fast.co‘s Aaron Ordendorff, the problem is that we often start our presentations at the very middle of the story. We don’t take the time to develop the narrative and provide proper context. At the same time, there is also very little discussion of the resolution and what should come next.

To structure your presentation story properly, start with the basics:

  • Beginning – While you’re not expected to give every detail of your presentation, you do need to provide the audience with sufficient context to understand your message. Begin your presentation story be introducing your character and the problem they’re facing.
  • Middle – Once you’ve provided enough background information, you can begin to detail the purpose of your presentation and how that relates to the conflict your character is facing.
  • End – After discussing the bulk of what makes your presentation, end the story by providing a resolution that reinforces your key message

Reference

Orendorff, Aaron. “Bring Your Presentations To Life With These 5 Storytelling Components.” Fast Company. September 15, 2014. Accessed October 14, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Death to the Stock Photo

Why Storytelling is an Effective Presentation Technique

Can you go a day without sharing a story? For 24 hours, you won’t be able to talk to your friends or tell your family how your day went. On Facebook, you can’t comment about the weather nor will you be able to share viral challenges you’re trying out.

Sounds impossible? That’s because it probably is. People are hardwired to be social beings, and part of that is our need to communicate with one another.

Presentation Storytelling
(Image Source)

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If storytelling is integrated into our everyday routine, why do we leave it out of our presentations? When we address an audience, we tend to focus on the important points we need to convey. We talk about data or explain a business model.

Sometimes, we turn back to our slides to display a graph. We concentrate on information that’s crucial to the outcome we’re hoping for. Despite all this, we tend to leave out something that seems just as vital. We forget to answer why everyone in the room needs to hear what we have to say.

This is where storytelling comes in handy. A presentation with a story has something more than a list of numbers that prove your business plan is viable. Take this scenario narrated by Dennis Nishi in an article for the Wall Street Journal:

Paul Smith had 20 minutes to sell the CEO of Procter & Gamble, and his team of managers, on new market-research techniques for which Mr. Smith’s department wanted funding. As associate director of P&G’s market research, Mr. Smith had spent three weeks assembling a concise pitch with more than 30 PowerPoint slides.

… “I felt like maybe I hadn’t done a very good job because he wasn’t looking at my slides like everyone else,” says Mr. Smith, who also noticed that the other managers didn’t seem very engaged. “It didn’t occur to me until later that he did that because he was more interested in what I had to say than in what my slides looked like.”

Like most people, Paul worked hard to hone his pitch into a PowerPoint deck. Despite his effort, he noticed that the people he was trying to convince seemed disengaged to what he presenting. As he later realized, a successful presentation goes beyond what your slides look like. What really matters is the heart of what you’re trying to say.

Storytelling in Presentations: A Tale as Old as TED

The reason storytelling is an effective presentation technique lies on how your audience reacts to it. As social beings, we’re all naturally attuned to our emotions.

Time for another challenge. This time, take a minute to list down 10 of your favorite movies. Looking at your list, think about why these movies made an impact on you. I’ll wager it’s because they were able to connect with you on an emotional level.

It doesn’t matter whether it makes you sad, happy, angry, or nostalgic. Our brains love a good story that makes us feel something. This is something successful TED presenters have capitalized on. If you review the list of the most viewed TED Talks, you’ll see each of them has a story integrated into the discussion.

As Forbes contributor Nick Morgan points out, “no matter how interesting the information, you’ll run up against the limitation of the brain and quickly overtax your audience…If instead you tell your audience a story, you get to jump right into the deeper parts of their brain, where emotion and memory work together, the hippocampus and amygdala.”

Integrating Storytelling in Business

Now, the only question that remains is how. It’s pretty easy to create a heart-warming story for an inspirational presentation. The real challenge is turning data into a narrative that packs an emotional punch. How do you do it? According to presentation expert Bruce Gabrielle, you’ll need to follow a simple but effective structure: Beginning, Middle, End.

Storytelling: 3 steps
(Image Source)
Beginning

Start your presentation by identifying a hero that your audience can relate to. Instead of leading with numbers or graphs, introduce a human element into your presentation. There is always a face behind all the abstract concepts and issues you’re taking on. To identify it, tackle your presentation using a different angle.

Substitute “what” with “who do I really want to talk about?” For example, if you’re trying to discuss a marketing strategy, your hero could be a potential client. Describe the person you want to engage with your services. Talk about their demographics, traits, and values.

Middle

What would your favorite movie be like without conflict? Like any good story, business presentations also need a bit of tension. Apart from his or her goals, you also have to identify the challenges and risks faced by your hero.

What are the things that bother your potential clients? What’s preventing them from engaging with your services?

End 

After building conflict, offer your audience some reprieve by giving them a satisfying resolution. At this point, you can put everything together and focus on data necessary to your discussion. While explaining the graph on your slides, keep referring back to your hero. What do these numbers have to do with the hero of your story? How does it solve the problems you identified earlier?

To give your stories more impact, try to make use of captivating visuals as well. While your narrative is certainly the most important part of your presentation, visuals remain to be an effective way to enhance audience immersion.

Conclusion

Apart from working on a short PowerPoint deck, try to make use of words that generate mental images. Make use of vivid descriptions and action words to allow some room for imagination.

Not only is storytelling an integral part of our daily lives, it can also be a powerful presentation technique. Turn dull data and information into a feast for the imagination by learning to craft your own presentation story.

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References

Gabrielle, Bruce. “Storytelling in the Boardroom: Part 3 – Three Secrets for Better Stories.” Office Blogs. Accessed September 9, 2014.
Morgan, Nick. “Three Secrets To Delivering A Powerful Speech.” Forbes. Accessed September 4, 2014.
Myers, Courtney Boyd. “Why the Human Is a Social Animal [Report from the 99% Conference].” TNW Network. May 05, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Horia Varlan via Flickr