Presentations are also a bit of theater – they share elements with a performance. There is an audience, a presenter and a “stage”. Often the “stage” is just the front of a boardroom, but on that “stage” you want to perform well. The theatrical elements include the things that we would often classify under the subject of presentation delivery. We can divide the theatrical elements into three broad concepts: be polished, be present and be prepared.
Be polished means polishing your speaking. One way to do this is to use rhetorical techniques, how you say what you say. There are over 150 techniques or devices (as they are sometimes called). Any presenter will sound more polished by adding a few of the basic ones to their repertoire. Two that I like to use are the Rule of Three and the Pause.
Rule of Three allows you to emphasize your points and increase the memorability of your message. Effective speakers use it often. The Rule of Three is important, effective, and impactful. You will hear it used by all the famous speakers when they give a speech.
Another technique that can add emphasis to a point is the Pause. The pause gives the audience time to digest the point you just made. Good public speakers will use the pause to add drama and emphasis to their main points.
Clarity is one of the keys to being polished and simplicity leads to clarity. Keep it simple.
Being present means speaking with vs at the audience. It means being in the room 100% with your audience. Being connected to them rather than focused on your material. All good presenters drift back and forth between these two, the with vs at states. As students many of us have sat through a lot of lectures where we were being spoken ‘at’. Because of this, speaking ‘at’ people tends to be the default for many business presenters. As students we accepted this, but in a business environment it can be perceived as condescending or even insulting
There are some techniques you can use to make sure you are speaking more with an audience than at them. One of them applies the concept that questions connect. By asking the audience questions you connect them to your material. The brief “quick show of hands” and rhetorical questions helps keep an audience with you. This keeps them thinking about what you are saying. I actually plan questions in my presentation design to make sure I connect with the audience throughout my presentations. How do you make sure you stay connected with your audiences?
In theater productions they do a lot of preparation. This preparation includes script writing and rewriting and rehearsing the actors. It also includes designing the stage, planning the lighting and planning the music etc. Just like in a theater production winning presentations take a lot of preparation.
As part of your preparation it’s important to ‘write your own script’ ie. prepare your own material. If that’s not possible make sure you are at least involved in the preparation. It’s extremely difficult to understand a set of slides that you didn’t prepare. In this situation presenters often end up reading the slides to the audience. These “read-a-longs” can be the most boring types of presentations.
Rehearsing is always recommended. You can make your presentation smoother and more professional by rehearsing your transitions. A transition is what you say just before you show your next slide. Poor transitions can make your presentation appear jerky and disjointed. If you are pressed for rehearing time at least rehearse your transitions. This can give your presentation a more polished and prepared look.
Almost nothing says “You are important to me” better than preparation. Of course the opposite is also true. So be prepared.