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Here are 14 simple tips to avoid boring your audience in a presentation

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

Human beings are creatures of hope and New Year’s celebrations allow us to celebrate the passing of a year and resolve to do better in the next.

It’s a time which traditionally helps us to look back, reflect and assess for a few moments what’s important in our lives and how we are doing so far.

The hope of advancement isn’t of course reserved exclusively for the start of the New Year. Every day in businesses across the globe people sit attentively in the hope that the speaker will tell them something they don’t already know in a way they’ve never been connected with before.

Were you on the receiving end of some of these types of presentations last year?

  • The monthly senior management team review
  • The quarterly update
  • Committee meeting
  • Board meeting

I imagine that even if it was a different type of presentation they were all essentially the same or at least boringly similar.

Wouldn’t it be great for our audiences if they were met with the same level of inspirational creativity, meticulous planning and dramatic delivery as we see each New Year’s Eve?

The key to animating each presentation is far more exciting than it sounds; it’s mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about being present with what you are doing while you are doing it and being so non-judgmentally. In the context of presenting, that presence extends through every aspect of contemplating, crafting and delivering your message.

In business, some of the world’s most successful and influential brands are using it to enhance emotional fitness and improve productivity.

We become what we think about.

One of the main reasons the New Year offers such significance to most of us is because it’s that time of year the year where we get to relax a little, think about others more and in the process, become more self-aware.

We step off the proverbial treadmill for a short while, detached from the deadlines and targets to step into a seasonal environment that is all about reflection.

Self-awareness creates an opportunity to better understand ourselves; however momentary it may be, we get to experience ourselves as unique and separate individuals, away from the day to day wheel of life which was hurtling at such great speed. With our new insights we feel inspired to make changes and improvements in our life.

Self-awareness is at the heart of mindfulness.

It enables us to become more conscious of who we are and where we are right now while acknowledging what we have yet to learn and what we need to do.

Having welcomed the New Year, I propose we prepare now, as we get ready to go back to work, to make a commitment to our audiences over the coming months to present our ideas more mindfully.

I’m asked often asked what Mindful Presenting is, why it’s any different to ‘normal’ presenting and if it’s so great, why everyone doesn’t do it?

The following thoughts will give you some insight, although I hasten to add that the answers lay in the experiential journey rather than a list of points.

1. Power Point or Paper?

The mediocre presenter immediately turns on the laptop and starts typing.

The laptop is the last thing that gets turned on by the Mindful Presenter as they start with their mind and paper.

2. It’s the way you tell them

The mediocre presenter tells them what they are going to tell them, tells them and then tells them what they told them.

The Mindful Presenter makes it clear from the start why they are all there and why they should care. Their audience knows quickly how the presenter can help and make a difference to their lives and what they are required to do to see the benefits.

3. Logic vs Emotion

The mediocre presenter focuses on facts and data all designed to impress their audience and show how hard they have worked. The Mindful Presenter understands that we are emotional beings and that our feelings often override logic. They deliver the facts, data and evidence but do so in a way that triggers the audience’s emotions to help them to feel and remember the facts.

4. The power of simplicity

The mediocre presenter has a habit of ‘blinding them with science’ in the belief that the more complex the message is the more knowledgeable they will appear. They use jargon, text heavy slides and their presentations are far too long.

The Mindful Presenter keeps it simple by using clear and powerful headlines, compelling images and makes sure everyone ‘gets it’.

5. Me or you?

The mediocre presenter tells their audience what they want their audience to know and hear; after all, it’s their show.

The Mindful Presenter is only interested in what the audience wants and needs to hear to be able to make a difference and help them to move forward.

6. They can read

The mediocre presenter reads the slides. That’s why they wrote so much on them; it’s their script to help them to remember what to say to their audience.

The Mindful Presenter never, ever reads slides. They know exactly what they want to say and every slide has been very carefully designed to help the audience receive the message with greater clarity and impact.

7. Content is king

The mediocre presenter believes that they can run through their presentation a couple of times beforehand and if it makes sense to them, then it will be fine for their audience.

The Mindful Presenter does everything they can to make their content a part of themselves and so they spend many hours rehearsing.

Not memorising, just rehearsing.

They know their content inside and out and leave no stone unturned in ensuring that everything they have crafted to say and the way they say it will be of significance to their audience.

8. It takes time – you can’t just turn up

The mediocre presenter believes that once they have built their slides or written their script, they can just turn up and say what they have to say. Once they have checked the audio visuals they get straight into their presentation because they just want to get it done.

The Mindful Presenter also gets to the venue early to check the AV, but they do much more. They spend time just absorbing the room. They stand for a few minutes from where they will be speaking and then take time to sit in a few of the audience’s seats to see the room from their perspective.

Once they have made friends with the AV team, they spend a few minutes meditating before the audience arrives to clear their head and create a safe place. They then meet and greet as many of the audience as they can.

9. What’s in a yawn?

Mediocre presenters will often make judgments about their audience. If someone yawns, whispers to the person sitting next to them or check their phone, they label them as bored or uninterested.

Mindful Presenters recognise their audience as human beings first and foremost.

They understand human behaviour and accept that occasionally someone may do something that may make them appear a little disinterested.

Unless the whole room are behaving in similar ways, they don’t jump to conclusions.

10. Time to think

The mediocre presenter’s perspective is that because they’ve done the work, they don’t need to think before they speak and that includes answering questions.

The Mindful Presenter thinks before they speak, especially when it comes to answering questions. They know that its best if they take a few seconds to really think about the question and how they want to answer it.

Throughout the presentation itself they take regular moments to pause, breathe and allow themselves and their audience to think.

11. As soon as it’s over

The mediocre presenter can’t wait to get straight back to work once they have finished speaking. Sometimes they will even sneak out unnoticed.

The Mindful Presenter knows it’s not finished the moment they’ve answered the last question. They make a point of spending as long as they can with the audience after the presentation to answer personal questions and clarify points.

After they have left the venue, they follow up with their audience and they always fulfill a promise quickly. In other words, if they promised to send them something, they make sure that they do.

12. What are you really like?

The mediocre presenter believes that to be an effective presenter you have to become the ‘corporate spokesperson’. When they stand to speak you may not recognise the person you have known for years or just had a coffee with.

The Mindful Presenter doesn’t try to be someone else or act their way through the presentation. They speak their truth knowing who they are with the pure intention of giving the best of themselves.

13. Habits are hard to break

The mediocre presenter spends more time in their heads than with their audience. They are creatures of habit who haven’t really taken time out to check what they are thinking and feeling and how they can best change to help their audience.

The Mindful Presenter pays attention. They acknowledge their thoughts, feelings and reactions and manage them appropriately.

14. In the moment

The mediocre presenter is focused on the ‘end game’ and result. They have worked hard; just want to be liked, get what they came for and to get out as quickly as possible.

The Mindful Presenter is even more interested in the journey than the result. They work hard to stay present moment by moment. They achieve that by breathing, remaining conscious about their words, actions, and reactions and impact each has on themselves as well as their audience.

Presenting is hard and mindfulness isn’t easy, which is why I believe we haven’t seen a great deal of it being used in business presentations over the last decade. The world is changing though and when it comes to communication, attention spans and the way we connect with fellow human beings, we are learning more each day.

For now there is a scientifically tried and tested practice that tells us beyond question that self-awareness and presence is the key to happiness and success. Given that they are the two key elements most of us continue to search for when it comes to connecting in business, mindfulness must undoubtedly be the key.

We owe it to our colleagues, customers our company and ourselves to remember that when it comes to presenting, connecting really is everything and the way to do so is through mindful presenting.

This post originally appeared on the Mindful Presenter blog. Maurice De Castro is a former corporate executive of some of the UK’s best loved brands. He’s a highly experienced leader and presentation skills coach with over 20 years of experience. Maurice is director of Mindful Presenter — a team of business professionals who design and deliver bespoke presentation skills training courses. You’ll also find Maurice on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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