So I set the scene with this fairly bland post about public speaking. Today I’m going to drill down on the broader topic of public speaking and into one of the most common elements of public speaking for young lawyers – how to give a good a presentation.
Notice the point here – not just “how to give a presentation” because that would be easy – you get up an talk for around an hour, then you stop. No, the question is how to give a GOOD presentation, not just one that happens.
What’s a Good Presentation?
In talking about how to give a good presentation, we do need to consider our definitions a little. A good presentation has a few major components:
- It’s memorable – If your audience walks out with no idea what they just heard, then you have failed to give a good presentation.
- It’s engaging – much like social media, you need to have your audience actually paying attention and participating if at all possible. Obviously with some forms of delivery (online seminars for example) that’s going to be difficult, but if you’re speaking to an in-person audience, then a good presentation is one which has them as participants, not passengers.
- It adds value to their personal or professional lives. Really this is the crux of it – what do they leave with after your presentation that they didn’t have at the start, and how is it going to help them?
How to Give a Good Presentation – In 5 steps
This is the process I use to develop a presentation, and generally (not always – I’ve had a few flops in my time, I assure you) they have a tendency to be well received.
Starting from the beginning:
- Figure out, from the start, what benefit your audience is going to get. That’s your starting point and it’s the yard stick by which all of your decisions are going to be based, so spend time properly thinking about it. Knowing who your audience is would help here, but that isn’t always possible – if you can get a list of who is attending and where they are from, that will assist you. Once you have the benefit you are offering your audience firmly in mind, you can then (and only then) go to the next step.
- Put a lose framework about your benefit. What are the big categories that you need to cover in order to get that benefit across. Don’t go overboard here, just put enough detail in that you know roughly what shape your presentation is going to take (including how you are going to engage your audience). At this point also figure out the format – is it a lecture (boring, by the way, but sometimes unavoidable), is it a case study, a Q&A, an interactive quiz, a skit/play or something else entirely? This is where you decide how you’re going to communicate the message to the audience. IMPORTANT – if something does not directly assist you in getting the benefit from step 1 across, then LEAVE IT OUT. Presentations full of fluff are useless to everybody. Only say and do what needs to be said and done in order to get the benefit across.
- Once you’ve got your framework in place you can learn you content, and learn it well. I heartily endorse knowing a topic inside out before giving a presentation on it, which is why you did steps 1 and 2 properly, so that you know exactly what you need to research or figure out before you get to this step. A lot of time can be wasted here if you don’t watch out.
- Next it’s time to flesh out your details. With the content you now know, you should be able to do this with the necessary references. As you go, always be referring to your conclusions in step 1 – is the content you are filling in helping that goal or not. If it’s not – take it out. Presentations are simply not a good way to share 100 different thoughts, because in the process nobody will learn anything.
- Finally – prepare your visuals. Don’t write out PowerPoint slides, don’t write out your speech. Just do slides which will prompt the memory of the people listening, and allow them to get some benefit from looking at them later. Remember YOU are the presenter, not your slides nor Microsoft PowerPoint. So do yourself justice and make sure you are the center of attention. Your own notes should be enough to guide you, but the preparation you did in step 3 should allow you to give the presentation simply by reference to the headings and sub-headings in your framework.
That’s it. It seems pretty basic spelling it out like that, but I promise you if you do these things you will be giving a better presentation than many, many of your colleagues, and it will do wonders for your public speaking.
Have fun, sound in the knowledge that now you know how to give a good presentation.