One of the best articles about presentation skills I’ve seen is “How to Give a Killer Presentation,”. It appeared in the June 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review and was written by Chris Anderson. He’s the curator of TED, described as a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. TED talks started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design.
The piece is well worth reading and highly entertaining as Anderson follows each of his points with an embedded video of a TEDTalk demonstrating the point. If you’re trying to get motivated to give an upcoming presentation (or merely want relief from the dread), run, don’t walk, to this article.
A few years ago, The New Yorker magazine also ran a short profile on a gentleman who was invited to give a TEDTalk. The article described his experience preparing for his 18 minutes of fame. By the time he stood on the TED stage, he had given his presentation more than 400 times. He gave it to his wife, his colleagues, the people at his commuter train stop, his newborn baby (when he arrived), while in line at the grocery store, at the gym. He always gave the talk standing and in full voice (yes, drawing stares in many cases).
By the day of the event, this man could give the talk and be interrupted by anything – easily returning to his talk and in the right place. He could also ad lib with those watching and not lose his place. Basic message of the article?
How does one get in TEDTalk shape? The same way one used to get to Carnegie Hall… practice, practice, practice.
And practicing with a good coach or taking a presentation skills program is the best start. If you’re looking for a presentation skills program or personal coach, here is what we believe are the minimum requirements for a quality learning experience. We call them the 3 R’s: Relevance, Rigor and Respect.
In InfoPro Learning’s Experience teaching people to prepare for and give great presentations, we’ve found that participants who come to the program or coaching session with a real presentation they will be giving soon (or just gave and want to improve) are those who benefit the most. Not only do they immediately apply the skills and knowledge to relevant work, they also leave the program having edited, tweaked and strengthened their presentation – getting work done while in a training program (what a concept!) and leaving the program feeling confident and ready.
Presentation skills coaches should be nice people with good senses of humor. After all, you’re up in front of a group (possibly strangers if it’s an “open” program) and giving it your all. You need advice, objective feedback, and careful coaching. But you also need rigor – coaching that pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s the only way to learn a new skill… just like when that golf coach changes your grip on the club. Awkward at first, then with practice it pays off.
In any learning program, skills or knowledge-based, your facilitators or coaches should set and maintain an environment of respect. In presentation skills, it’s critical that the environment also be safe. The program should be seen as a lab – an environment in which you can practice, try things out, look and feel awkward, feel safe, and have fun! The job of the coach is to have you “try things on” and then, like a finely tailored suit, practice until the new skills fit you and your presentation goals. And bottom line? A good presentation skills program will capture your skills practice on video. The video allows you to be the final judge of what works for you.
As you consider renewing or refreshing your skills, we encourage you to find a program and/or coach that makes the most of your time together. And remember to have some fun doing it!