There is a better way- beyond just powerpoint.

Our third guest post  comes from a wonderful, humble woman Kate Granger who shares her wisdom thru’ @GrangerKate on a hourly basis and at http://theothersidestory on a weekly basis. She gives great presentations too I hear!

Over a coffee a few months ago I had a conversation with a complete stranger that totally changed how I think about presentations. The meeting had come about because I had been asked to speak to a group of 700 surgical trainees about my journey with metastatic cancer and my involvement in the media debate around the Liverpool Care Pathway. I had absolutely no idea initially of how to approach the talk and the very thought of delivering something tangible and useful to such a large audience quite literally petrified me. I needed some help…

The first revelation sounds incredibly simple but I was helped so much by thinking of my talk not as a presentation as such but as telling a story, more specifically telling my own story. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends. We learn this in English classes at school and thinking about a presentation in these terms before you go anywhere near the dreaded PowerPoint really helps to form a structure. Mind mapping the arc of the story on paper is now the first and most essential step I always undertake whenever asked to present to anyone about anything.

The next pearl of wisdom was to spend some time thinking and finding out about your audience. Who are they? Why are they there? What do they want to get out of the experience of listening to you? What is your own agenda? This is something I think about all the time when I’m preparing teaching sessions but didn’t used to so much before presentations, which sounds silly really because presentations are in essence an opportunity to teach…  

Realising that the vast majority of words on slides are just distracting for the audience and do not really add anything was also a big hurdle on the road to better presentations. I cringe when enduring presentations like this:

Being confident enough to stand up in front of a slide that just shows perhaps a photograph or an image really means you need to have practised! You need to be clear in your own mind of what you are going to say and how the story is going to flow. And this brings me onto the next eye-opener – to think about a presentation as a performance. I wouldn’t dream of playing my flute in a concert without practising so why would I stand up in front a room full of people to communicate my passion about end of life care without rehearsing?These are all very simple steps that everyone can take when presenting and I believe really enhance the quality of presentations. I will always be grateful to that stranger for the hour of his time that he spared to share this powerful knowledge…

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