Who are champions?
Champions are people in all walks of life that chase after a goal. You see them cheered in competitions and applauded in contests. Those who persist have a clear set of priorities and pursue their goals uncompromisingly. In addition, champions are people who support, promote or defend an individual, a cause or an idea.
Presentation champions are public speakers who have committed themselves into being informative, effective, inspiring, enlightening, engaging and motivating.
What is their secret?
In the digital era, the audience is a speaker’s most valuable asset, and only speakers who successfully engage their listeners succeed. Consequently, speakers must master an engagement strategy—through a deep understanding of the three areas of interest that describe the act of developing, creating and delivering a presentation: Function, Form and Content.
Function refers to the workings of software and hardware and how they can be configured to work to the speaker’s advantage. A Presentation Champion pays attention to the following:
- FUNCTION Uses many tools when designing
- FUNCTION Uses Keyboard shortcuts
- FUNCTION Goes the extra mile
- FUNCTION Customises PPT for Easy Access
Form refers to the layout, arrangement and use of information and how they can be manipulated to convey the message and fulfil the speaker’s intention more effectively. A Presentation Champion pays attention to the following:
- FORM Practices repeatedly
- FORM Learns rules of good design
- FORM Gets inspired before design
- FORM Promotes visual literacy
Content refers to the structure of the constituent parts of the speech and how they can be combined to form a unified whole conceptually and aesthetically. A Presentation Champion pays attention to the following:
- CONTENT Keeps slides nice and tidy
- CONTENT Displays info in Creative ways
- CONTENT Consistent choice of (nice) visuals
Four aspects of Form revisited.
Form implies or even prescribes that the first step towards a winning presentation is familiarization with content. It is more than ‘knowing your stuff’:
- Primarily, familiarization with content suggests that the speaker has a clear appreciation why the content of the speech is relevant principally to himself. It forms part of his social, professional and personal landscape.
- Secondly, the speaker supports the content of his speech with his own actions. He teaches by example. He shares personal experience. He approaches content critically and honestly while focusing on aspects that really matter to his listeners.
- Thirdly, what the speaker preaches has stood the test of time. It is not a unique performance based on temporary needs or fleeting requests. It is part of the development of his own understanding of how things work.
- Fourthly, the aim of the speaker is to inspire his audience into action. Action in the form of exploring widely, researching extensively, experimenting broadly. The speaker wishes his audience to start thinking of what they actually do and not of what they say they will do. After all, actions speak louder than words.
- Finally, an engaging speaker firmly believes that his impact extends beyond a physical presence, a live performance. His audience may become initially acquainted with or revisit his content through an audio or a video recording or his slides and notes, or through all of the above.
In practical terms:
- Practice makes perfect. Actually, perfect practice makes perfect. An engaging speaker does not practice until he gets it right. An engaging speaker practices until he cannot get it wrong. It is a learning process: in addition to appreciating content, the speaker acquires a feeling of what the audience might identify or struggle with.
- Good design is like clear thinking. It helps make content intelligible and memorable. It encourages listeners to learn more. It inspires and motivates participants. It fosters communication at the expense of decoration. If design shows taste, good design shows character and opinion.
- Be inspired in order to inspire. When agreeing to present, it is natural to feel scared. It is also expected to be excited. Inspiration should precede perspiration. It is easy to ask people to shoot for the moon in everything they undertake. Yet, remember this: even if you miss you will still land among the stars. It is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. An engaging speaker never underestimates non-verbal communication. “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember”. Visually literate people can comprehend the meaning, interpret the purpose and evaluate the form and structure of the content.