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Set the Stage

Lesson 10 from: How to Create and Deliver an Impactful Presentation

Matt Stevenson

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Lesson Info

10. Set the Stage

Next Lesson: Showtime Tips

Lesson Info

Set the Stage

In our previous segments, we talked about how to prepare your content in three different levels: a red presentation, a yellow presentation and a green presentation. Red being, of course, the one that's the most high risk and high pressure. Then, we talked about how to produce that content. So, how to take everything you've prepared and actually make it into an outline, a deck, and a set of notes that can be used for any of those levels of presentation. And we also gave you some interesting design tips in order to elevate the level of design of your deck, while still making it really efficient to create. In this last segment, we're gonna top things off by talking about the actual presentation itself. This is everything from the drive over to being in the room to saying goodbye and thank you to your audience. Now, this is something that most of the techniques here are gonna cross all of the different levels. You can use them from red to green because when you're actually in the room, you...

're gonna be tapping into everything that you've prepared and everything that you've produced in that limited timeframe. So, you're gonna be relying on all the resources that you've gathered up until now in order to give an awesome presentation. So, one of the first things that I wanted to talk about when we present is the idea of the pre-arrival. And then we're also gonna talk about the setting the stage and actually doing some tips for when you're talking to an audience. How to change some minds, how to present things appropriately, and also timing and pace, which you've already setup in your previous two phases of your presentation. And then the last thing that we're gonna talk about are what I call some Jedi mind tricks. These are some great techniques that are on the fly. They are habits that you should develop for every presentation, as you're talking to an audience, as you're responding to them and interacting, in order to make sure that even though you did a high level of preparation for this really tight timeline presentation, you still come across great and you're prepared for any of those sticky moments that you might get into because you may have only had a couple hours to prepare this talk. So, the first part of our present segment is gonna be about setting the stage. This is the preparation that you're gonna do right before you walk into the room. And the first thing you're gonna do is rehearse. I know it sounds like I shouldn't have to be telling you this, but the more you rehearse, the better it's going to be, especially if you have a red level presentation. Sometimes I'll have maybe eight hours to go from the time a presentation is instigated to the time I have to give it. During those eight hours, I'm gonna spend maybe half of that actually running through the deck and presenting. And the reason why you wanna do this is because even though you may be making passes through your deck in a visual sense, or you may be doing that distraction triage where you're finding those nails that are sticking out and you wanna hammer them back in, or you're doing a spellcheck pass, you'll also wanna be doing actual passes where you're talking through the content. And this is because there are things that are gonna crop up that only happen when your brain is actually saying the things that are happening in the presentation. Sometimes you'll look at your deck and you'll be like this is in great shape, this is great, this section's great, but unless you're saying it out loud, your brain is not gonna be working the way your audience's brain does. Remember, you're looking at the deck in a big picture sense when you're preparing and you're producing it. But you're not looking at it the way your audience is looking at it. So, when we have our yellow and red level presentation decks, it's super important to look through your audience's eyes, actually say the words that you're gonna be saying, and get that timing down pat. You can do it multiple times, and if you're going through and you realize you need to change something or you need to re-order, stop. Go make that change. Make sure everyone's aware of the change that you're making. And then do a pass right from the beginning. Now this means that you wanna address the stuff later in your presentation just as much as you do in the front, so if you need to start halfway through, that's great. Just keep a note of the time, how long it takes to get through a section, and then record it so that you have a complete picture of what your presentation is going to feel like. This is also important to rehearse what's being said and what's being shown because you're gonna see the transitions from element to element in your slide deck. And if there's any pauses or if there's any places where you need more content or less content, now is the time to fix that. So again, rehearsing, not just going through the deck. Sometimes when we're in those red level presentations and we don't have a lot of time and we're rushing to get to where we need to be, we're like, yeah it looks great, looks great, looks great. No, stop, even if you're in a taxi. Just go ahead and read through it and say the parts out loud that you're going to say. You'll be very surprised how differently your brain is reacting to the content because you need to say it out loud verbally. The next thing that I'm gonna want you to do as you're presenting your yellow and red level decks, and you can even do this in green too, is always bring with you a sticky pad or a big notepad. This is gonna go in a bundle of things that you should just have on hand as your presentation bag. It's your bag of tricks, if you will. So, you're gonna have these notes, if you wanna do it on a big whiteboard, something that you can take with you, some markers for that, whatever it is. You're gonna wanna bring something physical with you. And this is gonna come into play later on as you're talking to the audience, and we're gonna use it for some of our Jedi mind tricks. Other than that, it's good to have these physical things with you for your back ups. Like we were talking about in the beginning when we were preparing everything and we were going through the logistics and we were looking at all the ways that this presentation could go wrong. The wifi could cut out or the screens just couldn't work or you run out of battery and you forget a charger or you don't bring the right thing that attaches to the screen. All of these things can be alleviated and you'll feel a lot better if you just bring something physical. And what this means is you can look your audience right in the eyes and you can say, you know what? We've prepared for this. And you can whip out your stuff and you got your notes there with you or even if it's just on your computer if you can't connect to the big screen. And then you can go through and just draw out the things that need to happen or the things that you wanna show people. You can even make it funny and add some humor in there if you try to draw something. But bringing something physical is the absolute last resort of presenting something impactful and visual without having to rely on technology that could go wrong. Again, the higher level of risk in your presentation, the more your deck is a red deck, the more you're gonna wanna bring this no matter what. And then the last thing I wanna talk about as you're getting into the room and you're getting setup is the very first thing that I often think of as I'm looking at a camera, or I'm looking at an audience, or I'm meeting and greeting the people that I'm gonna talk to is: what's the very first thing I say? This is something that can create some anxiety, especially if you're not used to presenting or if you've only had a limited time to create your deck or you are not familiar with the content, which happens again in that red level presentation. You're gonna wanna have this stuff down as a habit in order to talk to your audience. And the thing that I use as a device to remember what I wanna say when I first arrive on a stage or when I first go in front of a camera is: I think about The Voice. So, there's something about The Voice that not a lot of people, everyone sees it, but not a lot of people notice it. And that is when the judges ask a contestant. They say, hey, who are you or what are you doing here? The very first thing they say is three things. They say their name, they say sort of what they do or why they're here, and they also say where they're from. And this is important information, even though it might not be relevant at all to any of the content that you prepared in any level of the presentations. It's important because when you get used to saying something at the start or throughout your presentations, then you no longer have to worry about that initial interaction with your audience. If you notice, when I began this workshop I said, hi my name's Matt Stevenson, I'm a creative director from Washington, D.C. It's as simple as that. That's what they say on The Voice. They say: hi, my name is X, I do Y, and I am from Z. It's that simple. And once you get those habits down, then you can rely on other parts of your deck. You can rely on getting pieces of content into your deck that are... Frankly it's because you're under a lot of pressure, you need to pay more attention to that. So developing those habits at the very beginning of your presentation, knowing what you're gonna say when you first get on stage. Or again, like we talked about in the logistics section, knowing who's gonna talk first. Who's gonna be that master of ceremonies that kicks things off and then pass it on to the people they need. You'll wanna get these things down in a very habitual way, so that you can focus on other things. In addition to setting the stage when you first get there and all that preparation that you're doing, we'll also wanna talk some things that're gonna happen during the full presentation. And the way that I'm gonna illustrate this is to use a timeline, it's a very loose visual timeline of your actual presentation. And we're gonna go from start to finish. So, the start of your presentation is over here on the left, and the end of it is over here on your right. It doesn't matter how long your presentation is. It doesn't matter who's in the room. And it also doesn't matter the level of presentation, the level that you had to complete it, so your risk level, whether it was red, yellow or green. These tips are gonna apply for any presentation. So, the very first thing that we're going to want to do is not skip our introduction. This is incredibly important, and it's something that tends to happen often. Like I was talking about using the voice technique of saying your name, what you do and where you're from. Whatever it may be, you're gonna wanna set the stage. Don't just jump right into your content. We're going to want to take a minute, say why we're here, say the title of the presentation because what you're doing is, you're doing a couple things. The first thing is you're warming up the audience to your pace and your voice. These are people who are going to hear you and your colleagues for the next couple minutes, and you want them to know who you are. Of course, in that intro is the great way to do that. And the next thing that you're gonna do in the intro is you're going to tell your audience what they're looking at. And that's very important. We'll talk about it in a second. But after you do an intro, after you say why you're here and what the topic of what you're gonna talk about is the very next thing you're gonna wanna do. And I do this a lot, is you're gonna have a point where you're gonna say: are there any questions before I begin? Now, sometimes you may be in a situation where questions aren't applicable, you may be not in front of a live audience, so you wanna substitute this with something else like: okay, we're going to begin now. But what you're doing is you're making a clear delineation from your introductory to the actual pieces of content that you're gonna discuss. Why I like doing it as a question? That's one of my little Jedi mind tricks. It's because what you're doing is the audience is giving you permission, in a way, to begin. Even if you ask this question and the audience is completely dead silent, you take that as permission. So go ahead and give a nod and say: okay great, then I'll go ahead and get started. And this is great because now you've done your first piece of interaction with the audience. Again, some of these red decks, you have not had a lot of time to create. There may be content here that still is a little bit new to you, and you have to present on it. So the best way to start a rapport with your audience in order to smooth over any of those bumps that may happen later in the presentation, because they will happen, is to sort of do this permission, asking, interaction. So that you're saying: I'm going to begin now. Your audience, even through their silence, can say: yes, go ahead and begin. And then you start on your way. So, the next thing you're gonna do right after you say, alright, let's begin, or you ask that permission, is you're gonna tell your audience what they're about to see. This is as simple as reviewing your outline. Even if it's just the high points of your outline, the top level notes, what you're doing is you're setting up your very distinct sections of your content. It's great because you just came off. You only had 24 hours to create this, so you just came off of reviewing this content. You know what these slides look like. You know where the dividers are. So, it's as much as remembering: okay, we're gonna talk about this, and then we're gonna talk about that, and then we're gonna end with this. However many sections there are, by telling your audience the number of sections and what they're going to feel like, you're giving them an idea of what they're gonna see. Remember, this is not like a movie or a piece of entertainment where your audience is gonna necessarily wanna be surprised at how long it is. They're gonna wanna know where they are in this talk, so they can start to make sense of the different sections. And, like we said, the more things are divided, the more your audience can comprehend it a little bit better. So it will help them to know what they're going to see throughout the presentation. After you've told them what they've seen, throughout your presentation it's a good idea to tell them what they're looking at. So, now that you've done a complete overview of these are my high level sections that I'm gonna talk about, go ahead and mark at certain places: okay, now we're switching to this section. I do the same thing when I'm talking here in this workshop where I say: now that we've stopped here, we're gonna review and then I'm gonna talk about this. And the reason is because now that you've, in the beginning when you've told them what they're going to look at, now you're gonna tell them what they're seeing, so they know where they are in the pace of your program. And then, the final thing that you're gonna do in this series of telling them what they saw, tell them what they're looking at, is you're gonna tell them... I'm sorry, telling them what they've seen, what they will see, what are they are seeing, and then what they saw. You're gonna end your presentation by reviewing what you've just gone over, and it can be just the high level notes. You'll notice at the end of each of these segments, I'm going through the high level points and saying: this is what we've looked at in review. And, that helps with retention. So, the first point is more of introductory. The second one is for attention, in order to keep people attuned to what phase you're in. And then the last one is for retention to make sure that what you're saying is gonna be retained by audiences because you've divided it into your sections. Now, speaking of division into sections. Along the way throughout your presentation while you're telling your audience what they're looking at, you're gonna wanna look for those natural pauses that you've built into the visuals of your deck. Again, we did not have very long to create this deck. So, as we're dividing it and then we're subdividing it that is gonna turn into our cues to take a pause or take a breath or to switch slides. It's okay to switch a slide and to take a glance at it because you're doing the same thing that your audience is doing. You're experiencing it the same way they are. So, it's a prompt for you and it's a spark for them to pay attention to what you're going to say. So, keep in mind where those divisions are going to be. Sometimes you may not remember where they're gonna come up, and that's why we designed our outline and our slides to do exactly that. These are now our prompts. They turn into from regular just text outline into divisions that tell us what we need to know. And like we talked about earlier because we did not have a lot of time to create these presentations, we wanna utilize and reuse elements as much as possible. And this is a great way to reuse your outline by taking those marks, those divisions, making them visual and then as you're presenting, as you're in the room, those are the times when you're going to pause. You can even use them as times to ask questions or to make sure everyone's on the board. Maybe get a couple nods. But those dividers are naturally built into your presentation from the very beginning when you started your research, which is great.

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Ratings and Reviews

Jude Temianka

Great course with lots of handy tips. I often find myself having to prepare and give presentations at short notice, and a lot of the preparatory advice that Matt gives falls by the wayside as I frantically jump straight into production mode. I often have the feeling to overwhelm my audience with too much information because I don't take the time to step back and determine what content matters most. Super tangible advice that I will be implementing!

Tomas Verver

As a presentator designer I think Matt has an interesting approach on how to create and deliver impactful presentations. Presentations are important part of you career. Presentations can change the company's future, your own future and the world. Making them impactful is very important. At the moment we have still many presentations but many can improve big time. And we have more presentations online (at) the moment.


Found this course concise and informative. Would recommend to all who have to do presentations.

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