How to be a dynamic presenter, it’s easier than you think

Being Dynamic

Being dynamic is a relative term. We don’t all have to present like Anthony Robbins or Bill from marketing who blows everyone away each year at the annual conference. But we do have to present to our full ability and tailor that to each of our audiences. For example if you take the communication model from Bolton and Bolton we have four styles, expressive, amiable, analytical and driver. We are a combination of all four styles, but one is more dominant than others. Here are some rules to follow:

  1. Know your style
  2. Know when you overdo your style.  Analyticals become too detailed, Amiables become too modest and seen as weak, Drivers are too pushy and Expressives skip all the detail
  3. Know the style of your key audience members.  This is not always easy, but if you do some research you should be able to get some insight.
  4. Make sure you know what the other styles feel like.  For example if you are highly analytical, know how your extroverted self-behaves. You may not use that style very often, so you may need to let it out of the box before you use it.

If you try and utilise your different styles, your audience will recognise that you are being authentic and your version of dynamic.

So here are some practical things you can do.

  • Play to your strengths – have a look at Hans Rosling’s presentation – a great example of how to be passionate about analytical data.
  • Engage with you audience by asking a direct question or two, don’t make them too hard and make sure you give them fore warning. For example you might say “Bill I’d be interested in your views on this topic in a minute”  then ask a question after you have covered the material you wanted to discuss.
  • Do an activity. For example Kelly McGonigal asks her audience to count backwards under pressure to demonstrate how a study was conducted.
  • Make eye contact with everyone and don’t forget to hold it for about three seconds (see the separate post on eye contact)
  • Practice using a more conversational style, as if you were having a friendly one on one conversation with someone for the first time.
  • Use gestures. Sticking your arms out to the side and saying welcome isn’t hard.  Something else happens when you do this – you voice and face change. This is because the emotion typically follows the action (psychologist/philosopher William James). For example you place you hand below your knee and reach as high as you can to describe the extreme’s of a stock market.
  • The same goes for movement. For example, you might start on the left of the room and say 10 years ago we started here (and explain the situation) then continue to take two steps at a time pausing after each and explaining along the way your journey until you reach your destination.  By which time you will be on the right side of the room.

So remember in order to be dynamic, be yourself and stretch yourself to your limits, after you have rehearsed them of course.

Problems Presenters Face #5

Using Notes

It’s not whether you use notes, it’s how well you use them.

Whether you are asked to do a presentation at the last minute or you’ve had a month to prepare you can apply the following principles. We are going to assume here that the presentation is important.

Have a set of notes prepared that are typed up, double spacing and a large font such that if you glanced down to your notes at desk height you could read them. You can either type these up word for word or just have key messages that you elaborate on.

It’s useful to have a script so that at a later date you can review exactly what you coverd. However you would never read the script word for word whilst presenting. Instead you would highlight key words or phrases and link them together.  This way it sounds more natural and engaging.    This also means that you only have to remember the key words or phrases and not the whole thing.

Cue cards are ok, however they are typically a technique  taught at school, so if you decided to use cue cards then be aware of the impression  you are creating.  Having said that, I have seen speakers at TED talks use cue cards.

If you are using notes laid out on a desk or a lectern follow these steps.

  • Have the pages numbered, typed up, single sided, not stapled and using the formatting outlined above.
  • As you finish one page slide it across the desk or lectern so that you have a two-page spread – you can then see at a glance where you are going and where you have been.  This is the technique news readers use for their backup notes in case the auto cue stops working.
  • When presenting, firstly look down, take the key message in look up without speaking, make eye contact with someone and then speak.  After you have covered off that message, look down without speaking take the next message in, look up, make eye contact and speak.

This technique can also be used for cue cards however you are only going to have key messages written on the cards and of course you would move the cards from the front of the deck to the back.

Now this method sounds very clunky and robotic, but with practice you will be able to make it your own by smoothing out the technique so that it looks natural and you look comfortable. If you spoke whilst reading your notes a few times in a presentation would it matter? – probably not.  Our goal here is not to lose our connection and nonverbal feedback from the audience.

Problems Presenters Face #4

Eye Contact

Eye contact is one of the most powerful communication tools we can use, and when used well demonstrates friendliness, openness and trust

The key to using eye contact well is it’s not about having a staring test with your audience, it’s about control.

We may want to use less than the other person, the same or more.  How much we use will depend on our situation. This involves the distance from the audience, cultural differences, the type of material we are presenting to name a few.

Interestingly, Chen et al. 2013, found “that the common efforts to look into the eyes of a persuasion target and demand that this person return gaze may be counterproductive to changing hearts and minds.”

Eye contact of course is two way, if someone asks a question you need to hold eye contact for about 70% of that interaction

So here are some do’s and donts

Don’t

  • Avoid picturing your audience naked as it takes your focus off what you are meant to be doing. (and it’s just weird)
  • Don’t fix your gaze at the back of the room. You want to connect with the audience, not the wall.
  • Don’t look between people’s eyes.  Eyes can give you feedback, noses don’t.
  • Don’t Stare. Holding eye contact for an entire thought (unless it’s about 3 seconds) could feel like it lasts forever.
  • Don’t make eye contact with people who are obviously uncomfortable receiving it.

Do’s

  • Hold eye contact for about 3 seconds.  If they are at the back of the room you can increase that to 5 to 6.
  • Connect with people, make them feel like you are having a conversation with them.
  • Plan your eye contact, give more attention to the decision makers.
  • If you are finishing a sentence, thought or idea hold eye for another couple of seconds before dashing back to your notes or launching into your next point.
  • Start using the appropriate amount of eye contact from the beginning.

If you find yourself struggling to use eye contact, then practice.  Ask someone you know to give you a score on how often you use eye contact well. Then build on it, one presentation at a time.

Chen, F, Minson, J, Schöne, M & Heinrichs, M 2013, ‘In the Eye of the Beholder: Eye Contact Increases Resistance to Persuasion’, Psychological Science, vol. 24, no. 11, p. 2254.

Problems Presenters Face #2

Venue and Technology Problems

Venue and Technology issues will never go away, no matter how hard we try.  So here are some ways to prevent a disaster.

Have a backup. Have your presentation on your pc, in the cloud and on an external device. If it’s not backed up three times, it’s not backed up.

Have a spare laptop with the presentation loaded.

If you are using a computer at the venue check whether the venue runs Mac or PC.  This is usually not a problem, however sometimes if a conference is run at a University different break out rooms may have different technology.

Do a quick run through preferably the day before your presentation making sure everything works. For major presentations do a full run through at the venue.

Be aware of the difference between standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 PowerPoint templates. The Presentation Company explain it like this:

A standard template is almost square, with a 4:3 aspect ratio. If you’re showing a PowerPoint presentation on an older projector, iPad, or tablet, you’ll need a Standard template. For all others projection types, including laptops, TV monitors, or modern projectors, you’ll need a Widescreen 16:9 template.

If you are worried about the technology, then make sure you have access to a technical resource either by phone or on site.

Have a technology check list.

Always be early even if you rehearsed the day before to ensure all systems are working.

A final thought on venues and technology. Given that your presentation is important and you have put in the hard work, don’t let things or people get in your way.

Where possible:

  • If office furniture is in the way – move it.
  • If you don’t want to use a lectern – ask for a lapel mic.
  • Make it clear that you will not be compromised on time because someone else ran over – negotiate if you must.
  • Make sure you can see the eyes of everyone in your audience so you can connect with them.

Finally, never assume things will be “right on the night” always check and double check. Even some of the best presenters get it wrong – just Google Steve Jobs bloopers.

Problems Presenters Face #1

Understanding the Audience.


Presenters have many perceived issues with their audience which need to be overcome for them to be successful. Here are some of the issues and how to avoid them.


They don’t like me. Unless you are harming them in some way, this is probably highly unlikely. What is more likely is they don’t like the position you have taken on an issue or proposal. Separate the two and focus on understanding their position and what their rational and emotional drivers are. As far as possible, address these before, during and after the presentation.


There are too many people in my audience. Find out who the most important people are and just focus on them.

They just won’t get it, they don’t understand. If the topic is complex break it down and deliver your presentation in different formats. For example; provide pre-reading, allow time for questions, understand your topic better than anyone else – because as Albert Einstein said if you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough! Don’t present, instead turn it into a workshop.

They are going to ask difficult questions. That’s ok, it’s part of the presenting game. As much as possible, understand what the issues are before the presentation and prepare your answers. In the presentation take time to understand and clarify exactly what the issue is and then if you can, answer it. If not, then say you’ll follow up and get back to them after the presentation.

I don’t have anything interesting to say. Sometimes we have been asked to present because it’s seen as a chance to practice and we should take full advantage of this opportunity. In order to make it interesting focus on how what you are presenting solves a problem for your audience, relate it specifically to them, how will it help them.

A final thought, a participant in a program was suffering from presentation anxiety which she never experienced at university. She worked out that it was simply because she didn’t know her audience like she did at uni, so here solution was simple – research!

Video for business communication 5 keys to success

For 13 weeks each year starting in March, I teach at Swinburne University in The Media and Communications Department. Covid and teaching in lock down has meant that lectures needed to be recorded and tutorials done online in 2020 and face to face in 2021. So, what did I learn? Lots of things, but one of the most powerful tools was the use of video.

Five things to know about video

  1. Show your face.  This doesn’t mean all the time but at the beginning or end is important
  2. Make sure each video doesn’t go for any longer than 10 minutes.
  3. Be prepared to do a lot of editing the first few times through.  You’ll pick up a lot of delivery and content issues you didn’t know you had!
  4. Production quality is important.  Put time and effort into working with your camera, lighting, and sound quality – your audience will appreciate it.
  5. Write a script – if only for an opening few minutes.  If it’s important – script the whole thing.

In a corporate context, think about how any applications there may be.  Here’s  list by Shahan Zafar from Vidizmo: 10 Ways to Use Video for Your Company’s Internal Communications

  1. Conduct live CEO broadcasts and announcements
  2. Modernize and streamline corporate governance strategies
  3. Announce regulatory updates and policy changes
  4. Administer safety, health and organizational training sessions
  5. Broadcast organizational events live
  6. Take charge of corporate transition communication & change management
  7. Record and share team meetings and presentations
  8. Promote social learning, collaboration and knowledge transfer
  9. Reform your recruitment and induction strategies
  10. Manage departmental communication and realignment

But why video?

  1. Accessible – you can listen, read (subtitles) and watch anywhere at any time.
  2. Engaging.
  3. Adds life to the subject matter.
  4. Cost effective.
  5. Easy to do.
  6. Gives you clarity on the subject.

If you haven’t already – give it a go, you might surprise yourself as to its effectiveness.

How to Deliver your Presentation and Crush your Fears at the Same Time

There are three types of pauses:  silent pauses (no sound), filled pause (filled with ums ahs etc), and breath pauses. Consider consciously taking a diaphragmatic breath, so that’s its not really obvious, at key points in your presentation, such as when you change slides. In addition to giving time for your audiences to think and you time to think it can have positive effect on public speaking anxiety (Kimani, Shamekhi & Bickmore 2021). We also know that this type of breathing can be effective in helping us to think more clearly even if anxiety is not present.

Kimani, E, Shamekhi, A & Bickmore, T 2021, ‘Just breathe: Towards real-time intervention for public speaking anxiety’, Smart Health, vol. 19, 2021/03/01/, p. 100146.

How to tell an amazing story that grabs the audience by the throat

A participant on a program recently worked on a presentation that was due in two days time. He delivered the presentation and I called him the day after: “How did it go Jim?”

“Not so good Justin”

“Why was that Jim, did you achieve your objective?”

“Yes I achieved everything I wanted to, but it just turned into a conversation”

Jim was stuck in an old school mindset of presenting – the “sage on the stage”.  What happened was his presentation turned into a conversation and he started to engage the audience because he was talking about things that are important to them – he nailed it!

So, the formulae we use to get the audience involved is what Andrew Abela calls the SCoRE method which is based on the work of Henry Boettinger in his book Moving Mountains. It works by juxtaposing tension and release – the formulae for all good stories.

SCoRE stands for:

Situation – what are you there to talk about – put simply in a few words

Complication – What’s the biggest problem the audience is facing.  This creates tension and the need.

Resolution – what’s the solution to that problem.  This creates the release and satisfies the need.

Example – provide some evidence as to why your resolution will work.

Then continue on with the next CoRE (Complication Resolution Example) for as long as you need to.

This simple formula enables us to craft a story, engage the audience and achieve our objective.

Boettinger, HM 1974, Moving mountains; or, The art and craft of letting others see things your way, 1st Collier Booksedn., Collier Books, New York,.

How to give amazing eye contact on the web

Link: A methodology to improve eye contact

When we are presenting using a webcam we want to be able to replicate what we see and do live i.e. gestures, body posture, facial expression and eye contact. This is not easy. We can to a certain degree control what we do, but we can’t control what our audiences does.

A lot of the presenting we do today in VC requires us to do a whole range of different tasks while presenting. We have to manage the technology, monitor the chat room and manage our software, which requires us to to be hands on and close to the computer. We do similar things when presenting live, but we can move away from the technology when we are done.

The advice that follows is taken from research on working one on one with a client, but I think we can still take some lessons from their findings. (Grondin et al. 2020)

The context for these guidelines is that we want the audience to see as much of us as is practical and for us to maintain eye contact as best as possible. We are going to assume that we are giving a presentation that doesn’t require us to have a lot of interaction with the technology. Either we just have to load it up and click through some slides or we have someone else doing that for us.

We can easily deal with all verbal and nonverbal elements by positioning ourselves so that we have our torso and head in shot. However there is one nonverbal, eye contact, which is our biggest challenge. What follows are guidelines for setting up our webcam so that we give the impression we are making eye contact with everyone in the audience. You can click on the link here for the whole article with pictures.

  1. Use a gooseneck webcam mount to position the webcam upside down and inside the monitor frame
  2. Use the application settings to flip the image so you are the right way up.
  3. Sit 130cm away from the camera
  4. Position yourself, either sitting or standing so that you are looking very slightly down at the camera.
  5. Preferably use a headset with a microphone. Relying on the webcam microphone from 130 cm probably wont give the best results.

When I was installing my gooseneck I noticed you can have the camera (logitec C920 in my case) the right up, but it protrudes a long way out, verses having it upside down where it sits closer to the screen.

This will work perfectly when we are communicating one on one. Because in essence we have positioned the camera just above the eyes of the other person. So when we speak we have the comfort of looking at someone not the camera. However because of the position of the camera the other person feels as if we are looking at them straight in the eye.

I think it works well for groups also if the platform we are using allows us to highlight an individual. If it doesn’t then its just a little more challenging because we will be directing our thoughts to the camera only.

Until technology like Microsofts i2i is launched we are going to have to use more practical solutions like the above.

How understanding your audience will stop them attacking you

I was contacted by a PR company who was representing a psychologist. The psychologist had developed a workshop for the clients of a financial services firm. They asked me to facilitate that workshop.

The workshop was only two hours long and straight forward. It was about planning your use of time once you had retired. Even though I had many conversations with all the groups above, I didn’t investigate who was coming to the workshop.

On the evening of the workshop we were halfway through and I asked whether the workshop was making sense? One half of the room said the workshop was fantastic and the material really opened their eyes and made them think.

The other half of the room almost erupted in protest. “None of this makes sense”, “Only came here for the coffee” they yelled.  What was I going to do?

As it turned out there was nothing I could do at the time. The group who were “up in arms” had already retired, so telling them how to plan for their retirement was not very useful. The other group who were full of compliments were years off retiring so found the techniques relevant.

If I had my time over, I would have rung the financial advisers and found out more about who they were inviting. They could then have invited more of the right people!

How to not ruin your pitch, by knowing your audience intimately

A client was pitching for the construction of a government building with a high degree of complexity. There was only one engineer who had done this specific type of work before and they were based in England. My client was able to successfully engage this engineer to be part of their bid team. This was a real coup for my client.

Unfortunately, they lost the bid.  They conducted a debrief with my client and was surprised to discover that one of the reasons they were unsuccessful was because the government didn’t really believe that my client would be able to engage the key engineer.  The reason for this was because they had tried and failed!

What could we have done differently to overcome this?

In the final presentation we could have

  1. Played a recording of the engineer saying how much they were looking forward to working with the government.
  2. Done a live cross in the presentation to demonstrate commitment.
  3. Flown the engineer out to be present on the day.

So it is vital to understand what drives an audience on a rational and emotional level.

« Older Entries