The Power of the Presentation

With the June – August Zoox Experience Programme just a few months away, our Programmes Officer Alan provides some of his best tips for successful delivery of training and presentations.

Dress to fit the role and expectation.

As much as I hate to admit it, being the same person in each of the above photos, fromAlan.jpg an external perspective, the only person I would trust to present to government staff on environmental policy is the person wearing smart trousers and a shirt (Picture 3). But it is all about tailoring your look to the role. If you fit in with your audience they are much more likely to accept what you are saying as they already feel like they are on a social level with you. Training a dive centre’s staff in a suit is not the best way to action change just as attending a government meeting in a vest will not earn respect.

A good rule to live by is to be better dressed, than the least well-dressed person in the room. Look like you belong and you will be accepted as a peer, whatever the scenario (moustache and cravat optional!).

Give individual attention to each of the people you are speaking to.

This is especially true for smaller groups of up to 30 individuals. During a 45 minute presentation, you can give each audience member a cumulative minute of attention. By making eye contact and speaking directly to individuals they will feel much more engaged in the presentation or training and less likely to fall asleep! If it is only a small group in a classroom then get everyone to introduce themselves at the beginning, make them a part of the experience and get to know them. This way you can tailor the delivery of information to the individual. For example correct oil disposal to the compressor boy and boat captain, not throwing anchors to the boat crew and role model diving behaviour to the dive guides.

Minimise your use of notes – be guided by your tools

By remembering the verbal part of your presentation, it will allow it to flow more naturally rather than looking down at notes or cards and then losing your place, frantically searching and flipping cards, dropping them on the floor, attempting to reorder them unsuccessfully before crying and dying.

Instead be guided by your visual presentation, if using slides then “extend” your screen to the projector and keep track of what is next using the presenter mode on your laptop. This way you can guide your speech and whatever you do, never just read words off a slide!

Don’t Fidget

Usted 3e your hands to emphasise your points. Draw in your audience with body language. Keep your arms slighter wider than your body, face the palms up. While not fidgeting, don’t go the opposite way and make every move eccentric, leaping from one side of the screen to the other! Watch a couple of Ted Talks and look at how they move, how they talk and how they stand. Build this in to your presentation skills.

“Put down that clicky pen, leave the pocket fluff alone, keep your hair out of your face, and phone in your bag.”

Stick to the timing

Value other people’s time! If someone shows up to a 45-minute presentation and it takes an hour, then tdownload.jpghey will be frustrated and clock watching wanting to leave. If the presentation is shorter than scheduled, then people will not feel like you have given enough and will leave unsatisfied. Not sticking to the timing also has implications if you are speaking at a large conference. Everyone will be expected to speak within a carefully planned time slot and not sticking to the allotted time has knock effects for the rest of the program. So, make sure you are well rehearsed and don’t be tempted to add something in on the spur of the moment unless you know you can squeeze it in.

 Animations are ugly!

Boings, Lazers, Whizzes, Bouncing and Spins are best left in your high school IT classroom. No matter how fun you think they are it will make your presentation look amateurish despite all your hard work setting their timings. Making small amounts of text ‘appear’, as necessary, is the limit.

 Design it well

Comic Sans is ugly, Arial is (relatively) beautiful. Remember this!  Stick to simple fonts that are easy to read and your audience won’t be lost. Also think carefully This is in no way easy to read.jpgabout your colour scheme. Never use yellow and white together (I remember a terrible 2 hour lecture from a PhD student back when I was an undergraduate. I am sure her subject was
interesting but she has used yellow text on a white background. It was simply impossible to read) and spare a thought for the colour blind before you use red and green. Often it is best to stick to the basics. Dark blue or black on contrasting background is your safest bet. And don’t forget to include plenty of pictures. Visual stimuli are much better at capturing the attention than mountains of text which will go unread, or detract attention away from what you are saying.


But most of all relax and have fun. If you are enjoying the presentation then your audience will feel this and reciprocate. Be bright, smile lots and be safe in the knowledge that it will soon be over!

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