Richard talks to Simon Raybould, a presentations coach, based in the north east of England but delivering training around the country. They talk about the challenges MSPs face when it comes to giving presentations and what makes a presentation bad.
They also discuss how to deal with the fear of public speaking, how to make your presentations sharper and some practical tips you can implement straight away to help you feel more confident.
An Interview with Dr Simon Raybould
Who is Simon Raybould?
Dr Simon Raybould is a presentations trainer, based in the north east of England but working across the UK. He has a background in research science and uses that to inform the advice he gives.
Much of his work is with corporate clients, but he does support individuals too. He helps with stage presence, public speaking and putting together presentations and slide decks.
The Challenges with Public Speaking for MSPs
Simon says that MSPs (managed service providers) have two main challenges. The first is that they’re often introverts, although Simon believes that this can be an advantage. However, the bigger problem is that they suffer from ‘the curse of the expert’.
They are so knowledgeable about their subject that they struggle to understand why other people don’t find it easy. They also can’t identify what are the crucial parts to share and what to leave out, because from an IT perspective everything is essential.
What Makes a Bad Presentation?
A bad presentation doesn’t tell the audience what’s inside the box. MSPs know what’s in it, because they work inside the box; but the truth is that the audience doesn’t care what’s in it, only how it works.
For example, your audience will all have used a spreadsheet, and most of them have used Excel and sorted a column of data, but they won’t know how it happens. And they don’t care, because what matters to them is that it happens.
As the expert, you want to explain it to them, but to deliver a good presentation, you need to tell them why something matters and how to do it. Engage them emotionally and give them the data. But, if you find that you’ve started to talk about what’s in the box, you can recover by saying, “which means that…” and you get back on track.
Tips for Making Your Presentations Sharper
If you’re worried that you’re waffling in your presentations and taking a while to get to the point, Simon suggests a technique called “the Twitter test”. Try to get the main point of your presentation into a single tweet (and use 140 characters, not 280!) What is your call to action or the one thing you want people to take away?
Another way to test out your presentation is to deliver it to some teenagers. They won’t know anything about the subject, but if you’ve made it clear and simple to understand they’ll absorb it. They’ll also be brutally honest and tell you what’s bad about your talk or your slides.
Dealing with the Fear of Public Speaking
Simon offered some great tips for dealing with nerves. Firstly, he recommends practicing at a networking group or an event where your target audience is unlikely to be. That way, if you mess it up, it won’t matter.
It gives you the chance to practice and refine your presentation, and you don’t need to worry about making a mistake in front of someone who might have bought from you until you messed up.
Simon says that people aren’t scared of ‘stuff’ but the consequences of the stuff. You’re not frightened of falling off a wall, you’re scared of hurting yourself. The more significant something is, the greater the consequences. Practicing with a group of people who aren’t your audience lowers the consequences.
Practical Tips for Presenting
One of the most important things when you present is to control your breathing. If you use your intercostal muscles, they activate your ‘fight or flight’ response and release adrenaline, making you sound breathless and stressed. Breathe from your diaphragm instead, because it slows you down.
If looking at the audience makes you nervous, use your peripheral vision to focus on things around you that aren’t scary and distracts you from what is. Finally, use the ‘sentence zero’ technique.
Rather than starting with “Hello, I’m Dr Simon Raybould and I’m here to talk about…” say something unimportant and get rid of as much air as possible. It could be, “There aren’t as many people here today, so I’ve got spare handouts”. Then introduce yourself.
Mentioned in this episode
Most of Simon’s work is delivered in-house for corporate organisations, with only one or two open-access workshops per year. However, he also offers a 45-minute clinic to go through your slides. You can find out more him about here: www.presentationgenius.info and find all of his blogs, videos and his book ‘Presentation Genius’.
Connect with Simon
Drop him an email on [email protected] or get in touch on Twitter: @presentations. Alternatively, if you’d like to use a tool to help you put together your slides, visit www.design.presentationgenius.info and grab yourself a Presentation Design Pack. Following the step by step instructions will help you create a really good presentation.
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