Better presentations part II - H to N

London - 18th January 2010 – Thanks for your comments on the first part of my Better Presentations A to Z. One correspondent felt that H should be for Honesty. She felt that Housekeeping was just too dull! My point on housekeeping was a simple one. Let people know what to expect. Tell them how long your presentation will last. Tell them if you have notes from them. Invite them to ask questions. People like to know if you’re going to talk for 20 minutes, or if they have to prepare themselves for something of more epic proportions. So, let’s deal with honesty.


H is for Honesty. There is absolutely no point claiming more than you can deliver. It sets up what one client describes as the promise gap. You promised this much, but only delivered that much. Achieving top quality press coverage, for example, is not easy. Don’t believe anyone who says that it is. That doesn’t mean you need to be apologetic in your tone. Be clear, be confident and do by all means set out a best case scenario, but don’t be tempted to exaggerate.
I is for Interjections. Most interjections are to be welcomed. They provide an opportunity to connect with your audience. Sometimes one member of your audience might try to dominate proceedings with his or her objection or point of view. Be aware of how long you’ve been answering this one question. Is there a danger you will have to rush the last part of your presentation? Is the dialogue in danger of prejudicing the entire discussion? There comes a point where you might have to firmly but politely indicate that you need to move on, but that you would welcome the chance to carry on the conversation at the end of the presentation.
J is for Jokes. In many ways it’s great to relax your audience with a little humour. Trouble is, all of us find different things funny. Some are more easily offended than others. My advice? Know your audience, and proceed with caution. An ice-breaker is great though. Might you be able to find an apt quotation as an alternative introduction?
K. Know you material. Practice, practice, practice. Ideally you will deliver your presentation with no notes. You certainly shouldn’t read from a script. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have some prompt cards containing your key points. At least you know you have back-up should you lose your train of thought. However, if you’ve practised your presentation sufficiently, you will almost certainly find you don’t need to refer to your prompt cards. I recommend that you commit to memory a number of key ‘power-phrases’ for important moments in your presentation. Then you can concentrate on emphasising their effect through your delivery.
L is for Location. Find out what you can about where you will be presenting. Think about the acoustics in a large conference room setting. What kind of audio-visual material will be available? Even if you are in a small meeting setting, find out about the layout of the room, and do agree who is responsible for providing projection equipment. Too many presentations get off to an awkward start because no-one in the room knows how to make the equipment work.
M is for Microphones. Best to know what kind of equipment will be available to you if you are presenting in a large Hall. Wireless tie clip microphones are the easiest to work with, as you remain free to move around as you wish. Handheld microphones are much more awkward, but if that’s the only option available to you, don’t hold it too close to your mouth. Can I add another M? Do make sure you turn off your Mobile phone before you start....
N is for Names. If you can remember the names of the people you are presenting too, and can use them, it always impresses. If, like me, your memory is fading, write them down as people introduce themselves.
More in a couple of weeks. Or sooner if I can think of a relevant O, X and Z.