It’s game time - you’ve put months of work into your latest research project and the findings illuminate new insights about your customers and markets. More importantly, the Board is gathered and ready to hear the fruits of your labour - yes, the whole Board.But pre-presentation paralysis is kicking in. We’ve all been there - clammy palms, adrenaline pumping, and a mind wandering off in all directions without any consideration of the subject at hand.
This fear is unofficially known as THE FOG! Or the great unavoidable fog - unless you’re a seasoned speaker that delivers with the aplomb of Seth Godin giving a TEDx Talk.
Hey, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re human. But that doesn’t help the presentation at hand, or the sinking feeling when you piss pronunciate a lot of your worms (thanks to Ronnie Barker for that one).
Us mere mortals could probably do with a helping hand to supercharge our presentations to ensure that our research findings result in positive business change. This handy list of tips and resources can help you breeze through your next research presentation; head held high, ready to add some style to that substance.
#1 - Be early
This rule should apply to life in general, but showing up early for your big MRX presentation will unquestionably help you.
On-time is not enough. Early lets you compose yourself, set up and tackle those all too inevitable IT problems (Where’s the HDMI cable? What’s the WIFI password?).
We’ve all been there, but it’s far better to be having these micro-dramas 20 minutes before we face a group of impatient, time pressured execs.
Do whatever it takes to arrive on time - overestimate commute time, maybe get an early night. If you have a meeting beforehand, be strict on the finishing time. WHATEVER IT TAKES!
If you’re not one of those naturally punctual people, never fear. Psychology today has pulled together this short list to help your arrive at your next presentation early.
#2 - Learn it - don’t recite it.
The art of conversation is not reserved for social occasions in trendy coffee shops. Our presentations should be conversational too - the best ones always are.
Maintaining a calm demeanour and delivering with style may be easier said than done. However, as researchers, one thing we all do well is really know our stuff.
Avoid the tightrope of recital - memorised facts and figures don't move people, demonstrable knowledge delivered charismatically does.
Use this knowledge to your advantage and show it off by challenging your audience. Ask them questions or challenge them to dig deeper with an impromptu Q&A - this will let you demonstrate your rich understanding and keep your audience tuned in.
Stanford lecturer, Matt Abrahams, explores this last point in this short article; A Good Question Can Be the Key to a Successful Presentation.
#3 Project your voice
Sound silly? Well, yes, the thought of waxing lyrical about your latest brand tracker in front of the bathroom mirror does indeed seem silly.
While we don’t need to go full ‘Beyonce’ with a glass of honey and lemon, singing ‘mimimimimi’ pre-presentation, we could all benefit with some simple voice projection tips to help us appear confident - even if we are shaking like a leaf in the wind on the inside.
It’s time to reveal our research findings, loud and clear, with well-timed delivery and varying pitch and tone.
We could pretend to know all about voice projection, but Jeannette Nelson from the National Theatre is far more qualified to offer advice on the matter. This two-minute video from the BBC will help you sound like the seasoned presenter you want to. Its focus is for CEOs, but the principles are the same. Click here to Jump straight to 1 minute 23 seconds for Jeannette’s advice.
Prefer a text version? Vocal Coach Elspeth Morrison also offers a short list of tips that can provide a helping hand.
#4 Watch how the pros do it
If you’re a visual learner, like 65% of the world’s population, then what better way to learn how to deliver insight like a seasoned presenter, than by watching some great presenters?
The 20 most popular TED Talks of all time seems like a reasonable place to start. Simon Sinek’s talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action may even help you sway people to your way of thinking in your next research presentation.
Watch these guys and gals. Their talks are delivered with energy and charisma but also leverage many of the hints in this article.
Observe their animated body language, how they ask questions of the audience to engage them and how they utilise presentation decks to support the session with engaging visuals - not overcrowded slides of business jargon.
#5 Tell Stories - they resonate.
Regardless of the format, storytelling has the power to inspire action. They can be personal stories, the stories of our customers, or stories from other industries or walks of life.
Why stories? Because they are memorable, they’ll draw your meeting attendees in using the power of emotion. And nothing inspires action like emotion.
It's scientifically proven that emotion and stories last longer in the memory than pure facts and figures.
A strong presentation will use an array of tips and tricks to intrigue and engage an audience. Seth Godin uses emotive imagery; others use other media such as audio and video to support their presentations.
At Voxpopme, we’ve seen the emotion portrayed in video feedback deliver stories that have changed business plans and outcomes.
Our technology allows researchers to add video questions into existing online and mobile surveys, providing brands with a powerful tool to better understand customer emotions, impact employees and drive change. For us, video responses build consumer stories that people can connect with.
#6 Practice, Practice, Practice.
This one needs no introduction. As the old adage goes - practice makes perfect.
Try delivering your presentation to anyone who will listen - including friends, family, or your research colleagues. You could even make a video recording of your rehearsal. Use the tech you will use on the day and test some of the tips and tricks mentioned above.
Malcolm Gladwell’s famous theory in Outliers claims that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill takes 10,000 hours. Now, we’re not suggesting that you need this for your next research presentation, but it does demonstrate that practice does make perfect - or even geniuses.
Search out for other chances to hone your skills too. There are speaking opportunities a-plenty just a keyboard stroke away. Use Meetup to find public speaking gatherings locally, or look to organisations like Toastmasters or the Speakers Trust for something a little more formal.
Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, the demands of modern market research frequently require the delivery of presentations. We must tell stories that are memorable and impactful. Otherwise our findings get lost in the huge array of data that drips into our working lives.
Our talks won’t always be to a full auditorium, but will normally be to key stakeholders who will decide whether or not the golden insight you’ve found translates into a new action or direction for your business.
Please do use what you like from the tips above and the various links provided and remember, you’ve done the hard work already - so have confidence and your presentation will compel.
Want to see how video technology can help your next presentation drive action? Book a training session to discover how other researchers are using industry leading tools to bring customers into the boardroom.