In this Article...quick links
- Back to basics
- In-person presenting checklist
- Some final tips
- Tailored and personalised presentation skills training
Have you just mastered the art of online presenting now to be faced with the somewhat daunting task of presenting in person once again?
For the past 20 months or so we’ve all been focussed on improving our online presentation skills and no doubt suffering some ‘Zoom fatigue’ along the way.
As office working becomes increasingly part of our ‘new, new’ normal, we are faced once again with the challenges of in-person presenting and going forward, managing the complexities involved with hybrid meetings (we’re not covering that here but we recently posted a blog on Hybrid Meeting Best Practise which you may want to check out).
A question that we’re being asked more and more frequently is ‘Can you remind me how to present in person again?
And, from people who started their careers during lockdown, ‘How do I present in person – I’ve never done this at work before?’
So this post will give you a checklist of valuable, and simple-to-implement, tips to help you lift your game in the in-person meeting world. We’ll give you the tools to come across as confident, comfortable and impactful ‘in the room’, and share with you how to engage and manage a face-to-face audience.
It’s worth reminding ourselves first of some of the key differences between presenting in person and presenting online. Aside from the obvious technical aspects, there are five main areas. They relate to:
- Engaging an audience using eye connection
- The impact of body language
- The role and importance of movement
- The use of presenter notes
- Handling audience questions
We’ll cover all these aspects, and more, in the following checklist. But in case you’re out of practise let’s just run through the important basics first.
Back to basics
If you’re presenting in person, you’re going to have to book a room!
Make sure it’s large enough for the number of attendees, bearing in mind any Covid mitigation measures regarding social distancing that your organisation has put in place.
If necessary, check that the appropriate AV (Audio Visual) technology is available. Note that a lot of businesses used the lockdown period as an opportunity to refurbish their offices, including their meeting rooms, so, it’s possible that the AV tech that you were used to may have been replaced.
One of the advantages of virtual meetings and presentations is that in just ‘one click’ you’re on. In person, there’s a lot more involved.
For example, if you’re using slides, you’ll need to make sure that you have all the leads and cables required to connect to the AV equipment in the room. Sounds obvious, but don’t get caught out by something so simple.
Allow plenty of time (10 minutes is a good guide) to set-up, plug-in, switch on and warm up. And don’t forget your clicker!
As well as the AV tech in the room, you may need to check lighting (adjusting light levels, window blinds etc), seating arrangements and positions of things like whiteboards and flip charts.
So now you’ve got the set-up covered what are the key things to remember?
In-person presenting checklist
1. Standing or sitting?
Are you going to present sitting down or standing up – or possibly both?
If there’s more than five people in the meeting room, and if it’s practical and appropriate, we always recommend presenting standing up. Why? Because it’s far more engaging for the audience. Plus, it helps to maintain energy levels in the room. And presenting standing up usually reduces nerves for the presenter. So, win-win-win.
Regardless, whether you’re sitting down or standing up, you then need to work out where you want to be when you’re presenting so that you can see both the audience and your slides at the same time. If standing up, you should ‘work the Attention Triangle’.
2. The Attention Triangle
The Attention Triangle consists of three key points in any meeting room. They are Point A) presenting at the head of the table. Point B) presenting whilst standing close to the screen. And Point C) presenting at the side of the room. Let’s talk about each of these positions in more detail.
When presenting from Point A at the head of the table the audience’s attention will be 100% focused on you as the presenter. This is because you’ll be physically close to them, and ‘front and centre’ in terms of their eye-line.
Presenting from Point A in the Attention Triangle is a great position for getting maximum engagement and for dialling up your presence in the room. It’s also ideal for kicking off and closing a meeting.
When you’re at Point B in the Attention Triangle i.e. presenting close to or next to the screen, the audience’s attention will be split roughly 50:50 between you and the screen/your slides. This position is very effective when you want to direct the audience’s attention to certain elements on a slide, and then to bring their attention back to you when you want to elaborate on the slide content.
This is probably where you want to spend most of the time during the presentation.
Point C in the Attention Triangle, when you’re presenting at the side of the room, will mean that the audience’s attention will be almost 100% on the screen/your slides and not on you as the presenter. This position is most useful when you’re either narrating or covering more technical/numerical information which is best explained visually.
To maintain energy levels in the room you should consider utilising all three points on the Attention Triangle at different times during your presentation. However, your transition between these points should be smooth, purposeful, and relevant to your slide content.
Move around too much and it will be distracting for the audience. Check out our blog for some top tips on why you need to move when presenting.
Something to remember is that you don’t have to be standing all the time. It may well be appropriate to sit down at various times during a presentation e.g. when you want to open the meeting up for discussion or when you’re answering more detailed questions.
3. Eye Connection
This is where you possibly need to unlearn some of your new habits formed whilst you’ve been presenting online. As you probably know by now, in order to connect with an online audience, you need to look at your camera when you’re speaking in order to look at them, not at their image on your screen.
But when you’re presenting in person, you need to look at them when you’re speaking – that may seem obvious, but what we mean, more specifically, is that you need to be looking into their eyes.
This doesn’t mean staring them out! Instead, your eye connection should be warm, meaningful and engaging.
A really good way of knowing if your eye connection is strong enough to be effective is if it’s just long enough for you to be able to register the colour of people’s eyes. Test it out the next time you meet someone. You’ll be amazed at the difference this can make in helping you feel genuinely connected to them.
4. Presenter Notes
Another common question we’re getting asked at the moment is ‘How do I present without notes when I’m presenting in person?’
Let’s face it, when we’re presenting online it’s all too easy to simply read from the notes page on the screen in front of us (as it’s not so obvious to our audience we’re doing it, and therefore our credibility isn’t so compromised).
Sometimes though, new habits die hard. Whilst it might be very tempting to refer to your notes on your laptop when you’re presenting in-person, our recommendation is that you don’t.
The reason is that you’ll spend more time looking at your laptop than your audience and this is a sure-fire way to disengage with them. Not only that, but if you’re reading from your notes, you won’t appear knowledgeable on the subject, you’ll come across as under-prepared and your credibility and authority will be undermined.
The trick is to create your slides in such a way that they remove the need for any notes in the first place. And, no, that doesn’t mean dumping every word from your notes onto your slides! Instead, we always advise that presenters create their slides so that they tell the story clearly, logically, and in an easy to follow way…
Our proprietary Presentation MapperTM methodology helps presenters do just that. In essence, you want to create a storyline that has an intuitive flow so that information builds in a way that is easy to remember.
Within the slides use as many images and graphics as you can, because as we all know, a picture paints a thousand words. It’s much easier to remember what you want to talk about if you can visualise it in a meaningful way.
If you are using bullet points on slides, remember the 5 x 5 rule of thumb i.e. ideally no more than five bullet points per slide and ideally no more than five words per bullet point.
The advantage of this approach is that the audience won’t be tempted to read ahead – because, in essence, there isn’t anything really to read. But, those few words should be just enough information for you to be able to remember the point that you want to make and give you scope to talk around it. This will help you come across as confident, knowledgeable, prepared and credible.
Finally, and importantly, always make sure that you start your presentation with a strong WIIFT (What’s In It For Them). This will ensure that the audience is ‘leaning in’ as you start your talk. You can also use Attention Grabs to achieve this.
Also, make sure that you’ve got a strong closing sentence that includes a call to action. In other words, tell the audience what you want them to either think, feel or do as a result of your presentation.
One of the advantages of presenting in person is that it’s super easy to make it multimedia. That doesn’t necessarily mean embedding videos within your slides (though of course this is an option).
What we’re talking about here is using other media that is likely to be in the room, like flipcharts and whiteboards. As a presenter, when we switch from using slides to using kit like this, it helps us to come across as very confident and comfortable. It also adds an element of spontaneity to the presentation. The other fantastic thing about flipcharts and whiteboards is that they’re great collaboration tools and are a brilliant way of involving the audience along the way.
As the saying goes ‘Variety is the spice of life’. So, the more you mix up the media, the more engaging it will be for the audience.
6. Managing questions
Speaking of involving the audience, you’ll probably find that when you present in-person, people will be more inclined to ask questions and possibly even challenge you, your thought process and your recommendations during your presentation.
Presenters often worry about audience questions, but they shouldn’t – if people are asking questions, it proves that they’re listening and interested. The trick is to know how to manage questions effectively. Here’s 5 steps for answering questions:
- Before you rush to answer the question take a pause. This will give you time to think about your reply and make you look as though you are giving the question due consideration.
- Make sure you understand the question. If in doubt, paraphrase it back to them or ask them to repeat it.
- If appropriate, agree with the questioner. For example, Lisa (who is in the audience) says to Tom (the presenter) “Tom, the roll-out plan has some tough deadlines and I’m worried we aren’t going to make those timings.”
Tom might reply “You’re right, the deadlines are certainly tough (he’s agreeing with Lisa) but I think that if we put an extra shift on the project, we’ll be OK.”
- Where possible, acknowledge the worth of the question. Here are some examples: “I’m glad you’ve asked that question.” “That’s a question a lot of people have asked recently.” That’s an issue we’ve discussed at length internally.” “That’s an interesting perspective, I haven’t thought of that before.”
- Always check-in, verbally or non-verbally to make sure you have answered the question to the questioner’s satisfaction.
Of course, it goes without saying that the best presenters think in advance about the questions that they are likely to be asked and either pre-empt these within their presentation or have the answers to hand to make sure that they come across as poised and prepared.
For more tips on managing questions, check out our Handling Questions blog.
7. Body Language
Body language is obviously a much bigger consideration when you’re presenting in person than when you’re presenting online. Whether you’re presenting standing up or sitting down, it’s important that you use your body language to help magnify your presence and gravitas.
If you’re sitting down, make sure your hands are always visible above the table and that your elbows are positioned slightly wider than your shoulders. This will help you to ‘own your space’ and increase the sense that you believe you have permission to have a seat at the table. You certainly don’t want to be sitting with your hands on your lap as this will make your shoulders hunch over – the end result is that you’ll look timid and small.
If you’re presenting standing up be aware of your hands and their ‘neutral position’. This is where your hands go when they are not gesturing – either to bring your message to life or to direct the audience to look at a certain area on a slide.
Your neutral position should be such that your hands are at waist level or slightly above. This will automatically bring your elbows out and force your shoulders slightly back – enhancing your physical presence, personal impact and sense of authority and assertiveness.
Note that the exact neutral position for each presenter is different. So, experiment in front of a mirror to work out what looks best and feels the most comfortable for you – remembering that you will only be in this neutral position for a few seconds at any one time. So don’t hold this position for too long or it will begin to feel unnatural.
8. Establish your Presence
Establish your presence and hone your ability to be noticed in the room. Working the Attention Triangle and being aware of your neutral position will help to elevate your presence and personal impact.
In addition, if you are somebody that is not naturally gifted with a huge amount of presence then consider presenting as close to your audience as appropriate, as this will help you appear larger in the room and your voice louder to the audience.
Finally, learn how to effectively incorporate movement into your presenting style as it’s a great way to increase your presence in the room and the engagement of the audience. For more details on how to ‘move with purpose’ check out the blog we referenced above in #2.
Some final tips
To look the part, dress the part. So, it goes without saying that you’re going to have to ditch the joggers when you’re presenting in person. But hey, what better excuse to give your office wardrobe a shake-up?!
Speaking of shaking – to shake hands or not? Or elbow bump! There may be a company policy on this. Or perhaps consider your own personal preference. Whatever the protocol most people attending a meeting will appreciate having hand sanitiser in the room to help keep everybody reassured.
Similarly, if there’s catering provided some people may be anxious sharing bowls and the like. So just think ahead to make sure everybody feels as comfortable as possible.
When all is said and done, reconnecting and re-engaging with people via in-person meetings and presentations is a welcome relief after so many months of almost all interactions being done remotely, so try and enjoy!
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Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SecondNature International. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training both In-Person and Online, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
Belinda believes that people don’t have to change who they are to be the presenter they want to be. So she developed a coaching approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
She has helped to transform the presentation skills of people around the world in an A-Z of organisations including Amazon, BBC, Brother, BT, CocaCola, DHL, EE, ESRI, IpsosMORI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Moonpig, Nationwide, Pfizer, Publicis Groupe, Roche, Savills, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.