That crucial moment is here. You are about to deliver a key presentation for your career. Starting now, time can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. You have just a few seconds to attract your audience. Eight seconds, to be more accurate, if you are dealing with a younger crowd.
This was what a research carried out last March by WGSN Mindset found out after studying Generation Z (the demographic cohort that includes individuals born between the late 1990’s and 2010). And, as you can probably imagine, social networks and smartphones carry most of the blame since they divert attention from the speaker. Now more than ever, people, especially youngsters, want to be connected to everything, which kills their focus. If the presenter fails to leverage the first few seconds, he runs the risk of being sidetracked by some WhatsApp discussion regarding the next happy hour.
A decision clocked by the second
How to win this battle, then? The secret is to give special attention to the first few minutes of your speech and surprise the audience right at the beginning. In what way? By studying your audience, the attendees, prior to the presentation. Find out their interests, what triggers their curiosity and what jokes amuse them.
Gathering previous knowledge will set the tone for the next step towards victory: showing promptly what is in it for them. Picture yourself in a meeting where you want to suggest a partnership. You might begin by saying the other company would benefit from the partnership since it would increase their profit in a department it is not doing so well. Additionally, if you are delivering a speech concerning people management, what about sharing a remarkable story most of the audience can relate to before getting into more technical details of that matter?
Show them straight away the advantages they might get from your proposal, or even unveil a piece of information that shows your speech is different from anything they have heard so far.
Emotion and Focus walk hand in hand
As time goes by, you must establish an emotional bond. After getting everyone’s attention with your first information or story, it is time to arouse empathy. Once you set up this connection, your listener will be more willing to concentrate on rational arguments you will present later, such as figures and statistics.
Storytelling is a great technique that helps bonding. Organize a narrative for your presentation and make it clear from the start. A story that gives rise to emotions is much more effective than some numbers on a screen.
You should also be aware of non-verbal communication. The moment you set foot on stage, smile, make eye contact and stand in neutral positions. Avoid arching your back, starring at the floor or being hard-faced. No one pays attention at someone who seems in distress. The body is loquacious and hence must be your ally.
When everybody knows your name
When meeting with or presenting for an acquainted audience, it is possible they might have some information regarding your talk. So, try to get to the point. The most technical information can be revealed swiftly. Change the order: offer your conclusion at the beginning of your presentation and, then, proceed with your arguments.
Bottom line: make the effort to always have your listener or audience in mind and work on your presentation focusing on their interests rather than only on yours. If you follow these tips, the fight for an audience’s attention will certainly be a less scary one.
Consider the following: you must deliver a speech to an audience from a different state hence you carefully choose the references that, in your opinion, will be appealing to them. However, your choice must reflect your perception.
Imagine if, on the day of your presentation, instead of a lively and engaged audience, you see nothing but yawns. Or even worse: you see displeased faces due to a possible preconceived opinion you might have passed on.
This happens quite often.
Some speakers disrespect the profile of their audience, consequently, the risk of sounding too technical, giving wrong or repeated information, increases. Like that, it is totally comprehensible that their attendees will focus on everything rather than on what is being presented.
The importance of empathy
Know the audience’s profile represents the best tool to connect the speaker with the audience.
It is impossible to establish this relationship without empathy, which means understanding the feelings and opinions of others.
It is not about feeling the same or always agreeing with them, but to respect and understand what they think, talk and feel.
There are very different types of audiences. Indeed, there are. Throughout the experience, we have realized that there are some reoccurring behaviors, which define certain audience’s profiles. To help you approach them, establishing an empathic relationship, we put together the list below.
Pessimists tend to believe what you are saying does not apply to their reality and, therefore, probably, it will not work. Dealing with this profile requires, just like the others, empathy and a gentle voice’s tone.
If you come across pessimists during your presentation, let them know such attitude will not help them leave their comfort zone or be informed of new solutions. Convince them that before passing a judgment on anything, they must give it a try.
Not knowing what the audience is thinking is, possibly, one of the major obstacles to be faced in a corporate presentation. Even when people are not saying what they are thinking, it is possible to deduce theories from their facial expressions, gestures, and attitudes.
If you meet someone like this, do not give up. Sometimes, that person, the one showing no expression, is taking in 100% of what you are saying. As the saying goes: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Usually happens, at school, when a student cuts in the teacher to prove how smart or funny he/she is. Well, there could also be a know-it-all among your audience. It is that kind of person that challenges you constantly, disagrees with almost everything you say and dares you while interrupting your speech.
People who do that like to be in the spotlight; so, give them what they want and befriend them. Always use them as role models, talk to them, ask them if they agree with you and why. Cherish their ego, just like they want you to, and let them be the center of attention.
Often, people who belong to this profile just want to show service to someone superior to them who is also attending the presentation. Then, they just end up making questions at wrong times.
Of course, questions are always welcome during the lectures but only with moderation.
Try to be as objective as possible in your answers. Otherwise, he/she may end up disrespecting the time of others.
That is that person who cannot stop talking with other attendees, causing others, and consequently the speaker, to lose focus. The best solution to address this personality is drawing his or her attention to the presentation.
A good tip would be to approach that person when interacting with the audience by calling him/her by the name. Try to make it clear the reason you are there and move just on.
The tutor is usually the person who hired you. In general terms, he or she tries to tell you what to do all the time, fearing something might not go well during the event.
The best way to deal with this type of person is to calm him/her down.
Show empathy by saying you understand his/her apprehension, but you are skillful.
Do your “homework” and say you have researched the company. Then make your presentation in accordance with the subject and profile agreed upon.
The smartphone addicted
It use to be the prevailing profile. People who are attached to their smartphones sending messages, play games and even interact in the social networks during your talk.
Calling by the name might also work for those who cannot look away from the screen. You could also, when walking around the audience, stand in front of or near that person. Therefore, he/she will feel embarrassed about being distracted thus refraining from picking up the phone.
This is also a very common profile in presentations. When you least expect, they fall asleep, taking your concentration along with them.
For the snooze types, the same strategies suggested for the smartphone-addicted apply. With one difference: you must be sensitive. After all, the sleepiness might be due to some problems that prevented that person from sleeping the night before.
The art of speaking is the key to charming your audience during a presentation. We constantly insist on this matter here on SOAP’s blog. However, the visual part has a huge influence too. Brilliant speech and script are almost worthless if the slides are shoddy.
In a corporative presentation is undeniable that you must represent your company identity in all aspects. It’s essential to pass out professionalism and organization to your target.
But how to deal with the visual identity? The tips below will help you imprint more personality and coherence to your support material.
1. Color palette
Before settling on the colors for your presentation, make sure they are in line with your company’s brand and are suitable for the matter in discussion. The shades you choose should also be familiar to the audience. Therefore, you will have a more befitting layout to the context. For instance, you must not design a presentation with shadows of orange for a bank whose main competitor uses such a palette.
The focus here should be “readability”, i.e., whether it is possible to read the slide. Use at least a size 18 font for continuous texts. This will also stop you from overfilling the presentation with unnecessary texts, which may spoil the slide.
Now, the utmost importance tip: always use system fonts, i.e., the standard fonts that come with Windows operational system, such as Arial. If you use a font downloaded from the internet and your file is read on a computer where it is not available, the system will automatically replace it for other fonts. And the layout you so carefully designed might just go down the drain.
Most people underestimate lines, but they can be extremely useful. You may use them to organize the content, establish necessary spaces, and set the tone for the presentation, giving the audience a feeling of organization.
When two or more lines meet, for instance, it is possible to observe sharp angles and tips, evoking technology and formality. Curved and soft lines bring forth lightness and sensitiveness; consecutive vertical lines, on the other hand, reveal organization and rigorousness.
4. Graphic elements
Graphic elements are objects that shape the visual messages on the slide – photos, icons, drawings, and shapes.
When using photos, bear in mind the moment an image gets to someone’s eyes, it automatically triggers memories and feelings, which might be either positive or negative. Therefore, the best option is to always seek for illustrations more likely to create positive connections with the audience. Images also help listeners understand and take in the message – especially in the case of short presentations.
Icons, diversely, are simplified and universal images – such as traffic signs – and they represent a fine alternative to illustrations. Drawings, both handmade and graphically created, are also great to ease the learning process. Such tool enables the apprehension of situations used as examples and makes the explanation more didactic.
To conclude, forms are used, basically, to establish spaces and highlight objects and information. Circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles may be employed to make a design more appealing. They might also come in handy if you need to organize or separate elements, represent an idea or lead your listeners’ sight to some direction.
5. Page background
The slide background must never be the dominant element, but an accessory tool in the presentation. Therefore, it cannot fight with the content for attention. They complement each other.
The blander the background? The easier way is to develop the layout of your presentation.
Regarding colors? A good choice is to use corresponding ones for backgrounds.
Another crucial advice is to avoid templates. This apparently harmless tool can kill creativity considerably. Some are so flashy they interfere with the layout or upstaging messages. Ideally, and whenever possible, you should design each slide from scratch; no restraints.
When the German-born illustrator and designer Christoph Niemann decides to talk about the creation of images, you must stop to listen. Not only for being a highly respected illustrator, but also for being one of the few who understands the power of visuals. Niemann knows how a drawing, no matter how simple, can deeply move the person looking at it.
The designer also understands simplicity, a concept we, here at SOAP, cherish. His work embraces minimalism in an impressive way, using few lines and colors. His uniqueness, as you can see from this TED Talk he gave, is the interaction between drawings and “real” objects, which make his illustrations striking and amusing. They say a lot with few resources.
The power of visual language
According to Niemann, what makes visual language powerful is the possibility of passing on a complex idea in a simple and efficient form, which is something we also endorse for presentations. Most importantly, images can trigger emotions. He uses the Wi-Fi symbol as an example: when we get to a new and unknown place and bump into this symbol, we feel happy, relieved.
When something is deeply engraved in our consciousness, we need fewer details to develop an emotion towards that. By using quite illustrative examples, the designer shows that happens because we are very good at “filling in the blanks”; images are drawn in our minds. Besides, images are excellent tools to start off the audience’s memory, since they are usually easier to take in than the written content of the slides.
Therefore, how much information we need to lead to audience’s comprehension, emotion and memorization? Niemann says his purpose as an artist is to use “the smallest amount as possible”. “As a designer, is absolutely key to have a good understanding of the visual and cultural vocabulary of your audience”, he says. If you read SOAP’S blog, you probably know we always insist on that matter. For a good communication, we must take into consideration the onlookers’ knowledge and references, whether it is one person, or an auditorium filled to capacity.
Niemann also says most people underestimate others’ capacity to interpret images, that’s why we see so many clichés out there. “They won’t understand this new approach, we should go for something more familiar.”
Here at SOAP, we often go through that. It is customary to have our suggestion to use metaphors denied by a client who is insecure and would rather use a most obvious strategy. However, when we make an unexpected association, we trigger the audience’s brain, enabling them to take in the message for longer. This is our job: not just to illustrate, but to develop a visual symbol that will enhance the comprehension of the message.
And Niemann reminds us we should not undervalue people when we create these symbols. After all, they are “fluent” when considering visual language (even if they are unaware of that), a fact to be considered when designing the layout of presentations.
The “Wow!” moment
Niemann considers himself successful when his illustrations have the “Aha!” effect on people. But he highlights it does not mean he had had an eureka moment when he came up with the image. “I need a presentation that has the ‘Wow!’ effect” – that is the reason why most of our clients come to us, because that is our strong suit.
Nevertheless, both SOAP’s and Niemann’s creative process is not “unsexy” at all, since it requires a number of small designing decisions that might lead to an idea. Like in poetry, the designer declares, we might unearth images that have been inside the audience’s mind all along, but they had no idea they were there to begin with.
Niemann concludes by stating what he considers to be an artist’s main feature, or skill: empathy; something we strongly subscribe to here at SOAP and in the projects we develop. Creativity is important, so is methodology, but we need to take a step back and look at the layout through the eyes of the listeners, which are the people to whom that piece of communication was developed. Once we achieved that, magic happens neither on paper nor on stage: it happens inside your audience’s mind.
The visual support of a presentation – the well-known slides – is an important tool to get people’s attention and explain complex concepts graphically.
To help you achieve a state-of-the-art layout, just like the SOAP’s ones, we have gathered tips from the biggest experts we know: our art directors! They are responsible for developing our clients’ visual identities and coordinating their presentations. Now, they have agreed on sharing their knowledge.
Check out seven valuable steps to frame more interesting and appealing slides, and hence a more convincing presentation.
Write a good script
If you thought you would come here just for visual tips, you were wrong. A truly impressive layout must be related to a good script.
The script and the layout work together, and they must be in tune. A well-built script allows us to perceive the main subjects to be discussed and where our focus should be on. With that in hand, it is easier to create slides to elucidate and add to the speech – rather than repeating the speaker. Besides, a precise script trims excesses, especially regarding the number of texts.
Decide on a visual identity
Creating a visual identity is elemental, whether it is intended as a product, an event or a brand. Just as we have explained here, colors, typeface, shapes, and symbols you choose are means to make your audience recognize your business, as well as granting a sense of wholeness to your presentation.
In addition, a visual identity conveys the values and essence of your project. Good news is: you only need to work on it once. Then you just apply the same pattern to further presentations – considering you are dealing with similar purpose, context, and audience.
For an example: if an IT professional gives a talk, about strategy, during a sales convention, the visual identity must be more distinctive, and make use of metaphors and animation effects to draw attention and connect the audience. However, if the same presentation is addressed to the Board of Directors, the visual must be different.
Divide the content into categories
It never gets old: in a good presentation, there is neither too much text nor illustrations on the same slide. Besides mangling the presentation, the overflow of information has a contrary effect: it compromises rather than helping comprehension.
So, opt for dividing the most complex projections into two or three slides, thereby offering a more clarifying material that will not confuse listeners. It would be dreadful if someone could not follow your line of thought because is trying to read the small letters or the 15 bullet points you have chosen.
One tip: divide the information of your presentation by messages, and use tools, such as ‘Click’, which inserts image or text on the slide, it makes the presentation more dynamic and visually enjoyable.
Contrast (of colors, sizes, and shapes) is an excellent tool to make a presentation more interesting and draw audience’s attention. The technique can be applied in different ways. So, be bold! You might create different sizes and typefaces for your texts, use contrasting colors to display information, and even vary the dimensions of your pictures. Such strategies increase the chances of your audience looking precisely at the information you want.
Choose illustrations carefully
Deciding on certain images and tone colors makes all the difference for your visual presentation. It is worth applying the psychology of colors: each tonality triggers a different feeling in people. Calmness, mental strain, and even hunger can be set off by specific colors, hence the reason to find images with tone colors suitable for the subject matter being discussed.
We must also always make sure to choose illustrations that make sense in the context of the keynote. Avoid old or low-quality images and try to follow a pattern. Do not put together in the same presentation pictures, drawings or other types of illustrations.
The way you arrange objects on the slide imparts organization and clarity (or else!). Therefore, for the layout of your presentation, make good use of tools, such as contrast, pay attention to the text alignment and page margin. Organize your information in a way that is both delightful and meaningful.
You may find different examples of layout in newspapers and magazines. So, if you are out of ideas on how to design your presentation, just grab the first publication near you.
Search for references
A good technique to help you take in so many tips is to search for examples to study. On our website download page, you find the e-books developed by the same team that has shared these tips.
However, if you still need some help, we are here for you.
When you go to a restaurant, even before placing your order, you judge the quality of the place by its decoration and cleanliness. Savoring a good dish and getting an efficient waiter service will obviously be the main reasons to decide whether you liked the place, however, a cozy environment also influences your final impression. The same thing happens in presentations where a well-trained speaker and a good message are the core of the talk, but when added to well-framed slides and a professional layout, they provide a lot more reliability.
A sales team, for an example, may lose a client with an amateur layout. When a salesperson presents to a prospect a product/service portfolio, or even a specific solution, he/she wants to make an impact. The goal is to convince the other person to close the deal. Ugly, disorganized slides, with low-quality pictures and a typeface difficult to read make a terrible first impression. By the end of the meeting, you may even convince your prospect due to the quality of the speech, but, sometimes, the first impression is what matters.
A speech will make a smaller or bigger impact depending on the presentation design. A thoughtful presentation aligned with the visual identity of the company reveals there were preparation and investment for the meeting.
Cheapest is dearest. Bellow, we list some common problems with amateur layouts that might harm presentation outcomes and, therefore, lead your company to opportunity losses:
Too much information results in confusion
One slide, 15 different bullet points and a speaker who just reads the information from the screen. The consequence is an unclear central message – whether it is because the speaker could not attach great importance to the content, or the audience, disoriented, did not know where to focus their attention on. It is impossible to generate engagement like this. The information on the screen should just add to what the speaker is saying, rather than be his/her exact words. Professionals who develop accomplished presentations can help presenters to choose between what goes on the slides and what must be spoken.
People do not understand (or cannot see) the numbers on the screen
A common mistake in presentations that use numbers, like result meetings, is to simply copy data from Excel and paste it into PowerPoint. Usually, charts and tables have lots of numbers and use small letters. The audience is forced to make an unnecessary effort to read what is on the screen, therefore overlooking what the speaker has to say. Even worse, they are utterly confused and their ability to decide is harmed. Those trained to design professional presentations are also able to choose numbers, tell the story behind them and highlight them in a way that the audience understands.
Too much time wasted assembling presentations
Usually, people in charge of assembling corporate presentations are not experts in design. Consequently, they will have to put a lot of time and effort to produce a visually acceptable material. However, it would be more efficient to have those professionals focusing their energy on their area of expertise, therefore producing results for the company, and outsource the presentation-making process. Wasting working hours of trained professionals in a struggle against the PowerPoint is a questionable use of their time, which could be used for so many other relevant tasks regarding the company.
If your company needs to plan and develop presentations with a professional layout, you can rely on SOAP to help you!
Elon Musk is one of the most talked about entrepreneurs of the moment. He is the CEO of SpaceX, which built Falcon Heavy, a high capacity rocket launched into space in February 2018 carrying an unlikely passenger: a Tesla Motors car, company that he also runs. Musk’s trademark is innovation, hence the reason why many experts of the industry believe he might be the next Steve Jobs of the entrepreneurial world.
Behind his fame, of course, there are hard work and a unique way of leadership. One of Tesla’s goals, for instance, is to become the world’s safest car factory. Between 2014 and 2015, however, reports showed that the number of accidents involving employees was high. It was of central importance for Musk to make an announcement in such a decisive moment. At the time, one of his emails concerning the statistics leaked out. His message still reverberates as a lesson on how to manage a crisis.
EMPATHY IS THE KEY
‘No words can express how much I care about your safety and well-being. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful. Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet with every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform. This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we manage from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.’
The email’s great achievement is empathy. Musk expresses himself respectfully and analyzes the matter from someone else’s perspective, not only from his own’s. He puts himself in the position of those who suffered the accident, and, at the same time, he communicates with other employees who are afraid of being in one. Here at SOAP we believe this is the great lesson Musk teaches us regarding that situation.
We have decided to make a deep analysis of his email, so you too may be more empathetic in strategic and decisive situations such as that one:
– The first part sounds like “we are all human beings, and we respect each other”. He is a leader driven by emotions, and not only by the reasoning of a company owner, who positions himself above others.
– After expressing his feelings, he takes action. He makes decisions, begins to take preventive measures, and not just corrective ones. Musk literally gets down to work, he wants to understand the process to prevent new problems from happening again.
– Lastly, he makes it clear he is facing the problem and truly wants to know every detail of the situation. He emphasizes it is indeed part of the company’s culture: not to lead from a distance, sitting on a chair, watching from above.
– By using the pronoun “we” at the end of the email, Musk arouses emotional connection. He proves no to be either above or below anyone, but on the same level.
When the CEO’s words reached employees’ inbox, they triggered a positive feeling. First, they meant he was making a stand. It is not rare to see leaders who exempt themselves from problems they are facing. Lack of communication. They seem to believe people will stop talking about it if they just quieten declarations. What really happens, nevertheless, is that the lack of accurate information only increases gossips and the feeling of insecurity. Moreover, it encourages lack of accountability. People feel neither accountable for nor committed to anything. After all, it is all kept in a safe box by the one person who can solve everything alone.
Musk’s attitude has no degree of paternalism either. It is very common, during a crisis, for some leaders to say everything is fine in the intention of calming everyone down; they just say it is going to be fine and there is no need for panic, but they explain nothing and take no action.
Companies that open their numbers, information and strategies are transparent. In addition, Musk revealed his human side as a leader, which inspired trustworthiness and admiration. You encourage people, instead of demotivating or frightening them. What remains is the feeling everyone may and should act the same way. During a period of crisis, a leader must, above all, evoke the team’s desire to overcome a bad situation.
It is most likely that Musk’s choices are on the right track, since Tesla’s total recordable incident rate (TRIR) at the Fremont California factory improved 25% in 2017 in comparison with 2016, as shown on this blog posted by the company – https://www.tesla.com/blog/becoming-safest-car-factory-world .
Well done, Musk!
While making a presentation, communicating with each and every one like if you were talking to them individually allows you to create a unique bond with the audience. This is the kind of result that those able to control empathy achieve.
But what does empathy mean? Empathy is when you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, trying to understand their opinions and emotions. It’s not about feeling the same way or agreeing with the other person but respecting and understanding their ideas, feelings and speech.
Empathy can be described by the idea of rapport, a concept of psychology that represents harmonic bonds among people. This synergy enables interaction and exchange of information. It leads to respectful and healthy relationships.
Empathy during presentations
While preparing a presentation and during the process of creating the script, you must think about content but also about the way your audience wants to receive the information. Knowing the audience is the best way to develop a bond between the presenter and the public.
Try to find out what your audience already knows about the subject, what they don’t, what messages are they supposed to register and to what cultural environment they belong. Is it a formal or informal audience? Would they appreciate numbers or stories? These are some ways to get closer to your audience and create an empathetic bond.
If you feel you are not being empathetic, don’t worry, we’ve good news for you. This is a skill that can be developed.
- The first advice is to call people by their names
Human beings seek individual connection. When answering a question to the audience ask their names and call them by their first name. When it comes to interaction with the audience, ask rhetorical questions which do not really need to be answered. In doing so, you make the audience think and feel like you are establishing a direct connection.
- Always smile
Scientific studies verified that we have a group of cells called mirror neurons and that by simply observing other people’s action, activates the same areas in the observer’s brain. So, if you express joy it will help your listeners to feel the same way you do.
- Match the rhythm
Pay close attention to your listeners: do they speak fast? Do they speak slowly or move a lot? Try to interact with the listeners the way they interact with you. By doing so the audience will understand better the message you want to deliver. Vary your tone of voice and the rhythm to reach a larger number of people while speaking.
- Don’t be judgmental
An attitude that destroys empathy is judgment.
“That guy is so boring! When will he stop asking questions?”. In order to not be judgmental, you must break through your “reality dome” built by your experiences, jump into the other person’s realm and understand the world through their eyes taking their perspective, emotions and behavior. People see the world based on who they are. When using only personal references and beliefs, you build a wall to empathy. Remember: respect and understanding. “Yes, he really asks too many questions but that is probably because he wants to understand and know better the subject”.
A communicator can’t judge the audience. Instead, he should understand their needs.
With these advices you can start establishing empathy in your presentations and ace on your next one.
What your first slide needs to DO
A presentation needs to convey much more than may be obvious. Just by the way it looks, for example, your audience will be drawing conclusions about you and your business even before you start to describe what you have to offer.
And it all starts with the slide being displayed as people are coming into the meeting room. Do they see a desktop full of shortcuts that says nothing about you?
Or a PowerPoint interface to the slides of your presentation that says nothing about you?
Do they see open files displaying proposals or cost calculations that say nothing about the total you?
What your first slide needs to BE
Before you design a PowerPoint presentation, it’s crucial to develop a first slide that will generate interest and excitement in everything you’re about to say. A visual that features key aspects of your brand along with the key concept of your presentation. A visual that makes people curious, maybe even intrigued. After all, this is a fantastic opportunity to promote your company, so why waste it again advertising Microsoft PowerPoint’s main interface?
As people come in the room and see that first slide, they need to want to be interested in your company.
It’s that first slide that can provide the spark that will make your audience want to know you better and hear what you have to say.