Great Questions

Good to know you continue to like this short and simple feature for expanding your Workplace Presenter Tool Kits. So do I. On to this month’s questions …

#1 – Should I use jokes in my introduction to gain audience interest?

I totally agree that the first few minutes of any presentation are most important. Start strong, powerfully and engaging – immediately. But, I totally disagree with telling a joke unless you were hired to be an entertainer, it’s an after-dinner speech and the only goal is to be humorous. Jokes rarely work in a typical workplace presentation and can create a very ineffective impression from the beginning. It’s often hard to recover from such a weak start.

Introduction should be about 10 % of the running length of the presentation, or less, and accomplish a lot of important tasks:

  • Engage the audience immediately with a question, fact, statistic, quote, etc. Stories work, but they have to be very short and connect directly to the message … and most aren’t.
  • Overview your main point and sub points of the message, so they know what they’re about to hear.
  • Stress why the information is important to them – answer the question on everyone’s mind, ‘WII-FM?’
  • Briefly state your background/credibility unless that was already done in the speaker intro someone else shared for you. If so, don’t repeat what they already heard.
  • Mention when and how to ask questions.
  • Indicate if you have a handout or take-home for them and when they’ll get it.
  • Restate your Main Point and transition to your first sub point.

Like I said, a lot of important work to do in a short time. The more and better thought and effort you invest in your introduction, the more successful the rest of your presentation will be. With any luck … you’ll have them at ‘hello’.

#2 – How do I change slides when I don’t have a remote?

Regular readers know how much I love ranting about not letting the ‘Tech Tail’ ‘wag the Presenter Dog’. So, you or someone should manually change them, but avoid those annoying or clumsy habits that can really reduce the positive impression you project on your audience or the impact of your message.

  • Have someone else change your slides

Best case scenario by far – enlist the help of a colleague or staffer to change your slides. Obviously, this requires a well-planned presentation, detailed outline and you investing time to rehearse with that person. If it looks like you’re faking it, what does that tell your audience about your credibility and competence?

If you can’t rehearse thoroughly, at least come up with less annoying change cues than ‘Next slide, please’, which can get annoying very quickly. Consider more subtle cues like, ‘As this next slide indicates … ‘or ‘Let’s move on the next topic – Cost … ‘or ‘What does the research indicate?’ These alternatives should be clear enough for your ‘changer’ and can act as verbal internal transitions for your audience as well.

  • Change them yourself

If you do have to change your own slides from your laptop or podium keyboard, just do it in silence … but don’t stand behind the podium. Ever. This 3.0 second motivated movement looks natural and logical. It also gives you a chance to think of your next few words or glance at your notes. And don’t add to your Presentation Anxiety by stressing over hitting the wrong key or messing up the mouse. Simply put a piece of masking tape over the advance key so you can find it in a hurry.

There you go … when it’s time for a change, make it easy on you and your audience. And keep that technology tail from getting in your way.

#3 – ‘In a group sales pitch, how much eye contact emphasis do I give to the obvious decision-maker?  

It’s not unusual in a sales pitch scenario to have a senior person in the room with several levels of subordinates, even administrative support staff. In creating your audience-centric message, aim the content and approach at the needs and wants of the key decision-maker. But, deliver it to all audience members with equal physical attention, maintaining effective eye contact with everyone.

If you obviously focus your eyes on the big dog, all the little dogs can tell and it can turn them off. And, after your presentation, if the big dog asks the little dogs ‘So what do all of you think of this guy’s proposal? You’re the ones that are going to have to work with him’, your playing up can really backfire. Therefore, treat everyone in the room equally. They all bought a ticket for the show and there are no cheap seats.

So, tune in next month … same time … same station … for more of your questions and my answers.