(post by Andrew Thorp)
One of the most useful metaphors I’ve come across for helping people give better presentations is to think of it like a journey – a coach journey, in fact.
I’ve developed this idea a little further and hope you enjoy what follows:
Why ‘journey’ works so well
A good presentation is really about persuasion and change – the audience ends up somewhere different to where they started, like any journey. If you don’t change anything in them during your talk, you’ve not done yourself justice.
Make it enticing
Yours isn’t the only coach excursion on offer. Other drivers are competing for your audience’s attention so make your destination sound as enticing as possible. Grab their attention early on so they buy a ticket for YOUR bus.
Command your audience
Remember, you’re the driver! They need to have confidence in you – that you’re capable of driving and know where you’re going.
Map out the route in advance
Have a clear idea of the route you want to take – you don’t want to get lost. The AUDIENCE don’t need to have all this mapped out for them – leave something to their imagination.
Motorway or scenic route?
Throwing all the salient facts at the audience might seem like the most efficient way to get them to their destination – the motorway option. But the scenic route is potentially more memorable and enjoyable. However, you must keep it engaging and fast paced otherwise they’ll question this less direct path.
Then OFF WE GO!
Set the right tone
The audience is going to be with you for a while so it’s a good idea to get them relaxed and feeling warm towards you. Set the tone for the journey – perhaps a little self-deprecation to lighten the mood. But nothing that makes people doubt your skill at the wheel!
Provide a running commentary
As well as driving the bus you’ve got to multi-task and provide a commentary. It’s got to be interesting and insightful and add some real value to the experience. Make sure there’s a decent sound system and inject some energy and variety into your delivery.
Silence is golden
Keep them interested and engaged throughout, but know when to shut up. The occasional silence is needed to help people reflect on what they’ve just experienced.
Make it visual
Pictures work well – otherwise it’s like keeping the curtains drawn in the coach for the entire journey. You can paint pictures with words but if you’ve got some terrific views you might as well use them.
Stop off for the occasional break
This helps the passengers metaphorically stretch their legs – a story, an aside, an exercise, a question – it helps them sustain their interest in the journey. Otherwise, it’s just one long slog and they’ll zone out. The best coach journeys always have a sing song – a nice piece of audience engagement!
Keep them on board
If you DO stop off for a break, make sure the audience knows when it’s time to get back on board – you don’t want to lose any passengers. If you pitch your presentation just right they’ll feel connected with the journey. Too simple and they’ll race ahead. Too complicated and they’ll feel confused and left behind. In either case, they may feel they’re on the wrong bus and disembark early.
Got enough fuel?
You can’t expect the passengers to provide the fuel – that’s your job as a driver (presenter) and you achieve this with your energy and enthusiasm. However, when you really get the audience on board, it’s like they’ve stuck their legs through the floor to add some cartoon horsepower!
Reaching the destination
You’ve all enjoyed the journey together, but you’ve got to remind them that what they’ve just experienced was virtual, not real! Remind them that they’re still back at the start, but if they enjoyed that taste of the future they can buy a real ticket and get under way.
If it occasionally goes a bit wrong remember that, like all journeys, presenting has its ups and downs. You’ll hit heavy traffic, roadblocks and lose your way every so often – but the main thing is to keep travelling and learn from each experience.