It’s so abrupt that it takes everybody by surprise. The presenter focuses on his message that they assume that everybody understands and knows about.
Suddenly, the whole group is silent, only one person speaks, and nobody really fathoms where the discussion is headed. Even worst, nobody interrupts the speaker to have some explanation. In some cases, one brave person will raise their hand and ask for clarification, relieving everyone.
I was that presenter on several occasions, and I always had a bitter taste in my mouth when I found out I was rushing it. I felt terrible for being inconsiderate to the people that took the time to listen to what I had to present.
What bothered me the most was not being able to think that not everybody participating in the call was on the same page as I was. I was mad at myself for going straight to the point without taking the time to present the whole picture.
This happened to me, but it could also happen to you. Let’s try to find how we could mitigate this in the future. I found five actions that can help avoid situations like the one described above.
1. Come prepared
It’s obvious. People know if someone is prepared or not. Coming not ready for a presentation will significantly impact the quality of the message and your audience’s experience. It might result in a missed sales opportunity or in a misunderstanding that will backfire. Besides, a considerate host will take the time to make sure that everybody understands everything and leave the display with all the elements it needs. Doing the opposite is a lack of manners and is not polite.
2. Assume that the audience doesn’t know anything
Someone in the audience may hear for the first time about the product that you are presenting. It’s also possible that this person is the one that will decide to spend money on it or not. It would be a shame to overlook him and miss an opportunity. That’s why summarizing the situation at the beginning is essential. It also gives the panel members a chance to ask questions and clarify points that may not be clear.
3. Ask questions at the beginning
Depending on the situation, it may be possible to ask the people attending the presentation to know the subject. This will help the rest of the presentation. It will then be possible to add or remove certain elements depending on the expertise of the audience. It goes without saying that being prepared is paramount. It isn't easy to adapt a presentation that is not organized.
4. Giving extra details is not a problem
Giving extra details is a great way to make sure that everybody is on the same page. Some people might have missed an element, and they might understand something better with those details. It’s a tricky game tho. You don’t want to put the people you speak with to sleep by giving too much detail or spending too much time on trivial matters. Focus on what makes sense and leave the rest aside. If you know the product, you’ll know where people might get confused, and that’s where spending a few extra seconds matters.
5. Let people interrupt you
It takes courage to interrupt someone speaking, respect that and let people halt your presentation. It’s possible that you may have skipped over some aspects of the display too quickly and that your audience may be lost. It is also possible that the question will be answered later in the presentation, indicating this to the questioner and resume. There is nothing to lose, and people will be happy to have their questions answered.
The five elements discussed don’t require a lot of effort. Most of them don’t ask anything at all. Coming to the presentation prepared is the most critical one. Here is the flow the show should follow:
Start by coming prepared, make sure that everything works. If possible, ask questions to the audience at the beginning to know what they know about your product. Let people interrupt you while you are presenting. They might help you recenter, improving the experience for the audience. Finally, give extra details, they might help someone in public, and nobody will interrupt you as long as you keep a nice rhythm.
Here are the essential elements, they aren’t a silver bullet that will ensure an excellent presentation, but they will help you not lose anyone during your display.
It’s definitely something that will support me during my future presentation, and it will prevent me from feeling bad after a presentation that went poorly.