I went to a concert recently and as I thought about it afterwards it reminded me of many things I talk to presenters about. At the time, I was caught in the moment, just relishing the experience of a truly excellent gig. I really like Explosions in the Sky and they did not disappoint. As any good gig should be, it was better than listening to the albums. The energy, passion and commitment of the band was tangible. The lighting was dramatic and fit the music perfectly. The music was dynamic, sonically varied, layered, powerful, at times so quiet and at times so very very loud.
That concert will stick with me, just like a good presentation should. So, what can we learn about delivering a presentation from a rock band?
- Be better than listening to the album – In presentation terms that means that what you offer has to add more value than what is in the presentation deck. Otherwise you might just as well send an email. How are you going to add value? What insight are you going to provide? Remember, someone has asked you to present because they value your opinion.
- Perform with some passion – One of your jobs as a presenter is to get your audience to care enough about the topic to take action. Why should they care if you don’t look like you do? Sometimes people tell me they are just delivering data, or just delivering a report. The ‘just’ is a problem here. In any presentation you need to work out what is interesting about it, what your audience should be concerned about, what strikes you as curious, dangerous, fantastic. And that is what you need to get across.
- Make the lighting fit the music – Get your visuals right. Make sure that the slides support and compliment your message. If you have a lot of text on the slides and you just read off what is there, again, you might as well have sent an email. If you have text or graphics on the slides and then don’t refer to them directly, then that is really confusing for the audience. It’s like you are playing two different tunes. And it’s about timing too. The lights change when the music changes. Your slides should reveal a point when you want to talk about it.
- Have a dynamic sound – Make best use of your voice. There will be quieter moments, louder moments, faster sections, slower sections, emphatic words and statements. All of this helps your audience understand how you feel about what you are saying and keeps the delivery interesting. There are very few people who want to listen to truly monotonous music and probably even fewer that want to listen to a monotonous presenter.
Next time you have a presentation to do, think about a great concert you've been to and what you can learn from those performers.
And if you are curious, check out Explosions in the Sky