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074 | How to get better at presenting & feel more confident about it
Episode 743rd March 2023 • HR Coffee Time • Fay Wallis
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Whether you feel nervous about presenting, or are just on the lookout for tips on how to get better at it, this episode of HR Coffee Time is here to help. Career Coach, Fay Wallis, shares 7 key tips to improve your presentation skills and feel more confident.

Key Points From This Episode

[01:10] Fay explains that last week’s episode focused on overcoming the physical response you may get to feeling nervous about public speaking - episode 73: 5 ways to feel more confident in your next interview, meeting, or presentation


[02:45] The first tip – remember that it is normal to feel nervous


[04:04] The second tip – to feel more confident and overcome nerves is to practise


[06:11] Alternative ways to improve how you deliver presentations - Toastmasters


[07:05] Fay recommends reading Everything I Know about Life I Learned from PowerPoint by Russell Davies to help plan your presentation


(Disclosure: this book link is an affiliate link which means Fay will earn a small commission from Amazon if you choose to purchase the book using it)


[09:39] The third tip – planning your presentation using rectangles in a notebook


[10:17] The fourth tip – the importance of explaining any data and diagrams within your

presentation


[14:30] The fifth tip – Making your presentation accessible


[17:33] The sixth tip – Ensuring your timings are accurate


[18:41] The seventh tip - how using props can make things more interesting and impactful


[19:53] Fay recommends reading Switch by Chip and Dan Heath


(Disclosure: this book link is an affiliate link which means Fay will earn a small

commission from Amazon if you choose to purchase the book using it)



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If you're kind enough to leave a review, please do let Fay know so she can say thank you. You can always reach her at: fay@brightskycareercoaching.co.uk.


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Mentioned in this episode:

Inspiring HR June 2024

Learn more about Inspiring HR and sign up on this page of the Bright Sky Career Coaching website; https://brightskycareercoaching.co.uk/group-coaching-hr-professionals/

Transcripts

Fay Wallis:

Welcome to this episode of HR Coffee Time. It's wonderful to have you here. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, career coach and the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching, where our mission is to help HR and People professionals have successful and fulfilling careers without working themselves into the ground.

Fay Wallis:

Throughout your career, you are going to have to deliver presentations - presentations in small meetings, big meetings, large groups, and even perhaps the entire organisation that you work for. And as public speaking is one of the biggest fears held by people around the world, I'm guessing that you might not jump for joy at the idea of delivering presentations, or that you might worry that your presentations aren't as impactful and effective as they could be. Or, perhaps you're already pretty good at and pretty confident about presenting but you're always on the lookout for some more tips. No matter how you feel about it, I hope you enjoy today's episode, which is called "How to get better at presenting and feel more confident about it".

Fay Wallis:

If you've listened to last week's episode, you'll know that I used to be terrified about public speaking, the idea of having to present to a large group used to absolutely fill me with dread. So, I've done lots and lots of work over the years to overcome my fears about it and to make sure that when I do present anything, I'm confident I'm going to do a good enough job.

Fay Wallis:

To tackle the physical response to the nerves that you might get about public speaking, I created last week's episode for you, which was called, "5 ways to feel more confident in your next interview, meeting or presentation". This looked at how you can overcome getting things like a dry mouth, blushing or heating up, the shakes, your voice changing so that it's shaking, squeaky, croaky, or completely disappears. And finally, it also had ideas to help you if you start having racing thoughts that make you feel anxious about what's going to happen.

Fay Wallis:

This week's episode is a little bit different. Although it has got a couple of tips about tackling any nerves that you have, it mainly focuses on how to get better at presenting so that everyone listening is engaged and enjoying it, instead of finding their minds wandering and wishing that they were somewhere else.

Fay Wallis:

All of the suggestions that I'm going to share with you are ones that I've picked up over the years, through trying things out for myself, learning from other people or reading books about presenting. They've really helped me and I hope they're going to help you too.

Fay Wallis:

The first tip I'm going to share is to remember that it is totally normal to feel nervous. I don't know why but when I first found myself having to deliver presentations at work, I assumed everyone else around me was far more confident than I was. I went to see a voice coach for some help to help me get over my nerves and help me to improve.

Fay Wallis:

It was years and years ago. So, unfortunately, I forgotten her name, or I'd let you know who it was because she was really good. And one of the most helpful things she told me was to watch closely when other people were presenting, as this would show me that I was wrong, and that most other people are nervous too.

Fay Wallis:

Well, she was absolutely right. Instead of just assuming that everyone else was brimming with confidence, when they had to stand up and start talking through a PowerPoint deck, I suddenly noticed little indicators that they weren't. Maybe they cleared their throat, or started fiddling with their pen, or their voice just went a bit higher pitched than normal. And there was something really reassuring about this. It gave me more of a feeling of "oh, we're all in this together, let's support each other and be kind", Instead of thinking I was completely alone in my fear and that there was something wrong with me to feel as nervous as I did.

Fay Wallis:

And my next tip for this episode that is specifically about feeling confident and getting rid of nerves is to practise. So, this means practising delivering presentations and speaking in public as much as you can, and practising any presentations that you need to deliver in advance.

Fay Wallis:

Now, depending how you feel about this, you might think, "Well, that's pretty obvious Fay, let's skip along to your next tip". Or, you might think, "I'm not going to practice a particular presentation in advance, because I won't seem natural and authentic. And I'll come across like a robot". Or, you might think, "Well, I'm never going to feel good about this; I'm just going to carry on avoiding presentations as long as possible, and just do them when I absolutely have to".

Fay Wallis:

If you think that the advice that I've just given you to practise is obvious and you always practice your presentations, that is brilliant to hear and keep up the good work.

Fay Wallis:

But if one of the other two answers resonated with you and you think practising is a waste of time, or you don't always give yourself time to do it, I'm going to ask you to reconsider. Because as humans, we get good at skills by practising them. There won't be a single skill you have, that you can't get better at with a bit of practice.

Fay Wallis:

You didn't learn to drive a car by drawing a picture of a car or reading a manual about how to drive. You learned by putting the key in the ignition, putting the car into gear, and using the accelerator. You probably stalled the car to begin with a few times. But after a while, after a lot of practise, you mastered the skill of driving.

Fay Wallis:

It's exactly the same for public speaking and delivering presentations. The more you practice, the better you'll get. And that does mean practising out loud, instead of just reading through your slides in your head, which is where I used to fall down.

Fay Wallis:

The chances are that 99% of the best talks and presentations you've been to that seem effortless, have actually been really well rehearsed. With a bit of practise, yours will seem brilliant and effortless too, which will also make you feel a lot more confident.

Fay Wallis:

And if you're really serious about getting better about delivering presentations, you might want to think about joining your local Toastmasters group. I haven't joined one myself, but I have met lots of people who are members, and they are all gushing about how much the group has helped them improve and how much they enjoy going.

Fay Wallis:

If you haven't heard of Toastmasters before, it's not for profit organisation. There are local clubs all around the world, including all over the UK, where you get to go along one evening a week to practice your public speaking with a group of other Toastmaster members. You're all there to help each other improve and just get that all-important practice in.

Fay Wallis:

I'll pop a link in the show notes to the Toastmaster website in case you'd like to learn more about it and find your local club. I've got two that are about 10 minutes away from me, so I'm spoilt for choice and hopefully you would be as well.

Fay Wallis:

Now let's take a moment to focus on planning your presentation. I realise I'm going to sound like a bit of a geek when I say this, but one of my favourite books I've read so far this year is all about PowerPoint. The book is called, "Everything I know about life I learned from PowerPoint", and it's written by someone called Russell Davies. And I promise it's a brilliant read. It is absolutely crammed packed full of fantastic advice about using PowerPoint and it's written in a really engaging way. It's not just about PowerPoint, there is more to it than that - it really is about how to deliver a presentation well as well.

Fay Wallis:

So, I'm recording this episode a week before I'll be giving a talk at my local CIPD branch. And I planned out my slides for the talk after being inspired by Russell Davies fab book. All I did was I drew a series of rectangles on two pages of my notebook. Each rectangle represents one slide of my presentation. And I then just jotted inside each of those rectangles, the high level info that was going to go on each of the slides.

Fay Wallis:

It was such a helpful way of being able to pretty quickly plot out the entire presentation. Because it can be easy to go wrong when you're doing your planning by just starting by opening up PowerPoint and then having a blank screen in front of you and thinking, "Oh my gosh, what am I even going to write?" or by starting without fully knowing how it's going to end. Whereas this way, I could just super quickly plan out everything. I had the beginning, I had every single slide in there and I had the end, which then meant that when I did fire up PowerPoint on my computer, it was so much quicker to actually pull the whole presentation together.

Fay Wallis:

It was also really easy to visualise where some slides would work better if they were reordered. Of course, you can do your planning in other ways as well. I have tried using index cards before, but I found that they were a bit big. Russell Davies talks about using blank playing cards and I can see that would be quite good because they're smaller than index cards.

Fay Wallis:

Unfortunately, I can't put any visuals into the show notes. So I can't show you a photo of my two pages that I used to plan out the presentation. But if you want to see it if it would be helpful then just drop me an email or message me on LinkedIn and I'll be happy to share. You can always find my email in the show notes and hopefully I'm fairly easy to find on LinkedIn - just look me up as Fay Wallis.

Fay Wallis:

In his book, Russell Davies - gosh, how many times have I just said his name? Let's hope I'm pronouncing it right. He shares the fact that Moleskin make a notebook designed for screenwriters and storyboarders. And that notebook has got the blank rectangles on the pages for you. So, you don't even have to draw the rectangles yourself. So, you can always take a look at one of those as well, if you like this idea. It was reading about the Moleskin notebooks that made me decide to just try drawing them out for myself.

Fay Wallis:

The next tip comes from the same book. In fact, the book is so good, I feel like I should probably have invited him onto the show to ask him to do this episode for me.

Fay Wallis:

One of the big takeaways that I took from reading the book was how important it is to explain any data and diagrams that you're including in your presentation. Don't just put up a slide with a graph on it, or statistics and expect everyone to understand what the message or learning is that you're trying to portray with this graph. Instead, add in arrows and add in text to point out what the key information, the data or diagram shows. We've all sat through presentations when graphs and data have appeared on the screen and we've had no idea what they mean.

Fay Wallis:

The problem is that when you're the one who's really involved with the data, when you're the one who's responsible for the employee engagement strategy, and you're taking everyone through the results, it's easy to forget that other people haven't already stared at the data for as long as you have, or they haven't dug into it, or they haven't spent hours thinking about what to do next, now that you have the results.

Fay Wallis:

So, you need to make it easier for people to understand and buy into what you want them to take away from your presentation. I have a good example of this for myself. I was recently in talks with a potential sponsor for this show. And they asked me to send them all my podcast statistics. So I gathered everything together and sent it across, including a line graph that shows the number of downloads, and it showed that the number of downloads climbed steadily every month. So every month, I'd have more downloads than I had the month before, which was great to see. But there was one blip in the downloads in December, the line in the line graph didn't climb up. Instead, it dropped down dramatically before it climbed up again in January.

Fay Wallis:

So I made sure that when I sent over this visual this line graph that I also explained in a paragraph above it, so I sent some text as well, this wasn't a presentation, but it's a similar concept. So I'm sure you'll see where I'm going with this. I sent over some wording to explain that the drop had happened because I took two weeks off from the podcast in December over Christmas. So that meant there were two less episodes for people to download that month, which is why it looks really bad; like I have a huge drop in listeners.

Fay Wallis:

But of course, the potential sponsors did what I might well do and what lots of people would do. And they hadn't read all of the text and all of the wording that I'd sent over. Instead, they just looked at the picture. So when I spoke to them, they said, "This all looks great Fay but oh, it's a shame about December... I guess maybe that was a bit of a blip?"

Fay Wallis:

So, I explained what had happened. Thank goodness, they brought it up with me. And if I'd read Russell Davis book beforehand, I would have known to have added a big arrow to the dip in the line graph. And then a title next to it; just some wording printed on top of the line graph saying, "Dip because of two week break" or "Dip because only two episodes were released instead of four". And then they would never have had that question mark about it, it would have been explained really quickly and easily.

Fay Wallis:

So, hopefully that example helps to bring the idea to life.

Fay Wallis:

And another reason to spell things out when you're using diagrams and charts is accessibility.

Fay Wallis:

My dad is partially colourblind. So, if you show him a bar chart, or a pie chart with brown, orange and green colours on it, he'll struggle to tell the difference between them. Or, to know which one you're talking about if you ask him to refer to the green bar on the bar chart, or the brown coloured bar on the bar chart.

Fay Wallis:

Now I'm pretty sure that 99% of people who Dad has met throughout his life probably have no idea that he's colourblind, and that he would ever struggle with that, which I'm guessing is probably the case for lots of other people as well.

Fay Wallis:

So, this is another great reason to make sure that you're clearly labelling stuff and pointing out what the takeaways are that you want people to be able to take from your presentation if you're using graphs and diagrams.

Fay Wallis:

And that brings me neatly along to my next tip, which is to make your presentation accessible. This is something I've been thinking about a lot recently, and that I became far more aware of when my son was diagnosed with dyslexia. And I realised what a challenge it can be to read lots of text on a screen, or even just to have to read something that is on a bright white background.

Fay Wallis:

A lot of people with dyslexia can read more easily if there's a slightly coloured or off-white creamy background. In fact, a friend with dyslexia told me how it can look like the letters are dancing around the screen for them jumbling around, if those letters are printed on a brilliant white background.

Fay Wallis:

Then, talking about accessibility, I absolutely cringe inside to think of times in the past, when I've said, "I'll let you read what's on this slide, instead of me reading out the wording," if there are quite a few bullet points on there. Because I'd seen someone else do this. And I thought, "Oh, that's a good idea. That will make sure I don't seem boring", because I've heard people say, "Don't just read the slides, make sure you're bringing the slides to life".

Fay Wallis:

But of course, for anyone who was partially sighted or dyslexic, I would have instantly been making their experience of the presentation more challenging. So I will never do that again. I can't believe I did it now with hindsight. I think that lots of us, and I absolutely include myself in this, don't realise how inaccessible we make our presentations sometimes. If we don't find something hard to access ourselves, it can be easy to forget or not realise that it might be hard for someone else.

Fay Wallis:

Now, I'm not going to pretend that I've got this totally cracked and that I'm brilliant at it. That's definitely not the case, I'm very much still learning. And you might already be leagues ahead of me when it comes to making sure that your presentations are accessible. So, if you have any advice or resources that you think it would be useful for me to know about, that I can share with the HR Coffee Time audience, please do let me know I would love to hear about them.

Fay Wallis:

I do know that Microsoft have done a lot of work on accessibility and PowerPoint. I hadn't realised until very recently that if you're working in PowerPoint, and click on Review, in the toolbar, there is then the option to click on Check Accessibility. And you'll then be shown a list of potential accessibility issues with your presentation with recommendations on how to fix them, which I think is just absolutely brilliant. In fact, there are quite a few free resources on Microsoft's website about accessibility.

Fay Wallis:

So I'll pop a link in the show notes to their main video training about it. And I hope that you find it really interesting if you decide to look at it.

Fay Wallis:

My next tip is to think about your timings, so that you can work out how many slides you need. If you're presenting on a topic that you know a lot about or are passionate about, it's easy to get carried away and cram way too much into it so that you end up running out of time to cover it all. Or, you end up speeding through the last few slides at 100 miles an hour. I have done that so many times in the past.

Fay Wallis:

I know it can be hard to get timings right, even if you've practised your presentation, because often we end up going slower or faster than we think we will once we have our audience in front of us. So what I do now that I've just learned the hard way, basically, is as a very rough rule of thumb, I think it's a good idea to assume it's going to take you at least two minutes to get through each slide in your deck. So if you've planned your presentation out, look at the total number of slides you have times them by two. And you'll instantly be able to see if you have too many for the amount of time you have allocated, then strip out any of the ones that aren't essential for the message you're trying to deliver.

Fay Wallis:

That brings me to my very final tip for this episode, which is to think about using some props, or introducing other resources to help reinforce your message. Now, you won't be able to put this tip into action all of the time. But it is worth thinking about using it when you can, you can introduce props in a really simple way just to help shift the energy in the room a little bit and give people a break from looking at the screen. So you can probably tell if you've been listening to this episode, or you've been listening to the podcast for a long time that I'll often talk about books that I've read. And I like to reference the sources where I find information.

Fay Wallis:

So if I'm giving a presentation, I'll often take the books with me that I'm going to mention in the presentation and I'll I'll hold them up. When it gets to the relevant parts in the presentation. I'll also make sure that people can take a look at the books at the end of the presentation if they want to. It's just a tiny thing, but it can help make it feel a little bit more dynamic. However, you can use props in an even more exciting way than that so that you can use them to properly reinforce the message you're trying to get across.

Fay Wallis:

There is a great book. I promise, this is the last book I'm recommending today. So your book list isn't getting out of control. There's a great book about encouraging behavioural change called 'Switch' by Chip and Dan Heath. And I love an example they use in it that shows how powerful props can be. They talked about a person who needed to make a big process shift in the organisation that he worked for. But he knew he'd come up against a lot of resistance. Even though it would involve saving a lot of money for the business, it was a huge change, and most people hate big changes. He had discovered that 424 different types of gloves were being used across all of the company's factories, each factory was negotiating their own prices. So that meant that one type of glove that might cost $5, for one factory to buy, actually, a different factory was buying exactly the same glove, but spending $17 on it.

Fay Wallis:

And instead of just showing everyone a line graph, or a bar chart, or a table full of data, to explain the problem, and the cost savings, and the reasons that everyone needed to use a new process for making purchases throughout the company, not just for gloves, but for everything. Instead of doing that, he arranged to get hold of an example pair of all of the gloves that were being used. And he then made sure that price tags were put on them all so everyone could see the wildly differing prices that were being paid. He then carried those hundreds of gloves into the middle of the boardroom table and put them all on that ready for the leadership team to see, you can imagine straightaway how much more of an impact creating a glove shrine had, instead of just showing everyone a PowerPoint slide about it.

Fay Wallis:

I thought this story was just amazing. What a brilliant idea. What's a way to get a message home and get everyone bought into your idea. I'm sorry, it's not an HR specific one. If you've got a similar brilliant, HR specific story that you can share with me, I would love to hear it so that we can share it with everyone else.

Fay Wallis:

I've covered quite a lot today. So I'm going to quickly wrap up with a reminder of everything that I've talked through. I've shared seven tips with you in total. The first one is it's normal to feel nervous. The second one is to practice. The third one is to plan your presentation using little rectangles in a notebook. The fourth one is that if you use data and diagrams, explain the learnings and label them clearly. The fifth one was to make your presentation accessible. The sixth one was to think about your timings. Each slide is normally going to take you at least two minutes to get through. So cut back on cut out any slides if you think you'd have too many. And then finally, try out some props to make things more interesting or impactful. I really hope that you've enjoyed today's episode and found it helpful.

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