Friday, July 03, 2009

Synopsis: Presentation Zen (Be with your audience)

Presentation Zen (PZ) finishes up with some simple advice for actually delivering your presentation.

First: practice. The aim is to know your material so well that you can present it without referring to any notes. As PZ mentions earlier, the act of developing your story is going to help you develop this mastery of the material.

Second: be fully present when you give your presentation. Focus just on this moment; don't allow yourself to be distracted by thoughts of what happened before you arrived, or what you need to do afterwards.

This advice goes even further - it suggests focusing entirely on the act of presenting, and not on how your presentation is being perceived.

Garr Reynolds, the author of PZ, suggests a few things here:
  • "Don't ask 'Will I be appreciated?' or 'Will I win them over?' Ask 'How can I contribute?'
  • Think of mistakes as fascinating. Think of mistakes as opportunities to learn (to grow). Let the mistakes go and move on; dwelling on the mistakes will disconnect you from your audience.
Reynolds says, "Once you begin to judge yourself, or wonder how you're being judged, you stop being mindful."

This quality of 'mindfulness' is, I think, a way of delivering the best possible presentation. You're focusing on conveying the material, which (hopefully) leads to a stronger connection with the audience as they see that it's not about you, it's about what they're learning.

Third: Aim to be as interested in your material as you hope your audience will be. Again, mindfulness helps you share your passion for the material in your presentation with your audience.


How to connect with an audience

Reynolds points out that people's concentration tends to flag after about 15 to 20 minutes. Keeping your presentation as short as it can be is an excellent goal, as is trying to finish before your time runs out.

He also suggests reducing the number of barriers between you and the audience:
  • Don't use a lectern
  • Don't sit at the back of the room by the projector
  • Don't sit behind a desk
  • Keep lights on, so people can see you.
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