This might sound like a simple question, with an obvious answer. But is it? What is presentation training?!
Businesses come to us almost every day and say ‘We would like to book some presentation training for our team. Can you help?’ The obvious answer, being business presentation skills experts, is ‘Yes, we can, and we’d love to help!’. But do businesses really know what they’re asking?
When we drill down and ask them to elaborate they often find it difficult to articulate details around why their people want/need the training. Other than perhaps to say something relatively vague like ‘Our people need to be more confident when they’re presenting’ or ‘Our team needs to deliver better presentations’.
So, we thought it might be useful to share with the broader L&D community, and indeed anyone in business, what presentation training is.
We know from our many years’ of experience coaching exclusively in business presentation skills that both confidence, and delivering better presentations, come by getting all the key elements of what makes a good presenter and presentation sorted. Rather than by confidence being instilled as a thing in itself, or by people being given some ‘acting’ tips for standing up in front of an audience.
So, what are these key elements? We believe there are 6 of them; 6 key pillars of successful presentation training.
The 6 pillars of presentation training
1. Audience analysis
It doesn’t matter how amazing the content is, or how confident the presenter is, if the information for the presentation isn’t tailored specifically for the audience it will fall flat.
This first step in presenting is absolutely crucial, regardless of whether you’re a CEO presenting downwards or outwards, or a Graduate presenting upwards or across. The most successful presenters are those that place themselves firmly in the shoes of their audience (i.e. by recognising their audience’s level of knowledge, their feelings about the subject, their concerns about what’s being proposed, the level of detail they prefer, and so on) even before they begin putting together any of their content. They then use these insights to carefully target their message in the most meaningful and relevant way possible to the people they are presenting to.
2. Presentation structure
Most people know about the importance of presentation structure but many will admit that whilst they have the basics right, their narrative still doesn’t flow as well as it could, their message isn’t as effectively crystalised as it should be and the key takeaways aren’t as clearly emphasised as they need to be.
If you like, presentation structure is the engine of a car. In our view most people are using presentation structures from 20 or 30 years ago. That might be fine – but who wants to be driving a car with an engine that’s 25 years old when there is a far smarter, more efficient and effective engine that could be used instead?
At SecondNature we have developed a Presentation MapperTM methodology that transforms people’s message clarity, impact and persuasiveness. Even seasoned presenters say our MapperTM approach has taken their effectiveness as communicators to a whole new level.
3. Presentation delivery
Training in how to deliver a presentation is what many people mean when they use the words ‘presentation training’. Many businesses’ focus is for training to help their people deliver better. They want their people to become confident, open, relaxed, inspiring and authoritative presenters, with gravitas, charisma and presence.
Developing people’s delivery skills (face-to-face or online) is certainly important. But presentation training should not just be about how to deliver a presentation at the expense of learning how to create and structure relevant, impactful persuasive presentations. At the end of the day, effective presenters are those that combine style and substance!
Delivery skills are about the ‘style’ part. And this is where presentation training can use techniques to affect how well a presenter comes across and is received by their audience – like how to use pausing, use their voice and how to communicate using body language, gestures, eye connection, movement and so on.
At SecondNature we believe in helping people develop their own unique, powerful and authentic delivery style. A style that they are comfortable with, so they can influence, even inspire, an audience.
Always remember that delivery (style) is only one part of a great presentation!
4. Audience engagement
Very few people enjoy sitting in a presentation and being talked at. Instead they prefer to be communicated with. Fully engaging an audience and making them feel part of the journey or story, even if they aren’t able to actually participate (e.g. when there are hundreds of people in the audience or on a VC call) is a skill every good presenter needs to master.
The good news is that audience engagement skills are not hard to learn. The bad news is that most people don’t make this a priority. We think that’s a mistake. It’s a mistake because presenters lose out on the opportunity to fully connect with their listeners. And also because the more audience engagement there is the more both the audience and the presenter enjoy the experience. So, learning effective audience engagement techniques is a win-win for the presenter and those they are presenting to.
5. Visual aids
Everyone knows the difference between slides that engage and excite them versus those that send them to sleep. Becoming a skilled slide designer is a craft that can take years to learn. None-the-less all of us should know the essential principles behind effective slide design. If you like, the crucial Dos and the Do Not’s. You don’t need to be a Mac whizz to put these simple principles into practise. And why wouldn’t you? Bad slides can destroy a great presentation and completely undermine a great presenter. So, understanding the principles of good slide deck design should always be a part of any presentation training.
6. Managing nerves
Let’s be clear. Nerves are not a bad thing. In fact, nerves show we care (versus being complacent or arrogant). And nervous energy can have many benefits. They can make us sharper, more focussed, disciplined and on ‘on point’. The issue is when our negative nervous energy overtakes our positive nervous energy. That’s where coaching can help to calm nerves. Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet to managing negative nervous energy. That’s because the causes, and the solutions, vary from person to person.
Examples of why people are excessively and negatively nervous can include that presenting is a new thing for them; or that they’re under-prepared, or don’t feel their content is going to be relevant. Or that they’ve had a bad experience in the past, or they’re worried about the tech falling over (very common these days with online presenting). Or they’re concerned they’ll be asked a challenging question that they won’t know the answer to. Or that they think they’ll get tongue tied, or will have a brain freeze. Or simply that they’re scared the audience won’t like them.
All these causes are valid. And all of these causes, with the right coaching, can be overcome. But you can see that a blanket approach won’t work – because everyone is different. Hence why, even in a group presentation skills training workshop, everyone needs to have plenty of individual practise time, as well as detailed and personalised feedback guidance and coaching.
So, what is presentation training?
In summary, expert presentation training isn’t just about instilling confidence, or developing narrow skills in one ‘pillar’. Instead presentation training is really an umbrella term that covers a wide range of intermeshing skills. Skills that fall into the above 6 pillars, and skills that with practise can add immeasurably to an individual’s career success and to the achievements of a business or organisation.
Today, learning all these skills is just as important, if not more so, for all of us presenting online.
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For nearly 20 years we have been Australia’s Business Presentation Skills Experts, training & coaching thousands of people in an A-Z of global blue-chip organisations. All our programs incorporate personalised feedback, advice and guidance to take business presenters further. To find out more, click on one of the buttons below:
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Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the founder and managing director of secondnature. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
She believes in a training approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
Belinda is currently helping to transform the presentation skills of people in organisations such as BBC Worldwide, DHL, ESRI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Pfizer, Roche, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.