Engaging presentations

Business presentation 'Presentations should be prepared from an audience's perspective and not from the would-be presenters'. This was the first bit of advice Alex Hayward, from Momentum Consultants shared with his audience at a recent YPG SkillCentre event. YPG member Lin Guo reports.

The event, held at the BCS London office on 19 November 2007, attracted a wide range of IT professionals from analysts to project managers, all keen to find out more about how to produce compelling presentations.

After a warm welcome from Abdullah Hiyatt, vice-chairman on the executive committee, the speaker introduced himself and shared his own career path. See end of report.

SkillCentre - Engaging Presentations

Alex started the presentation by stating that the three most common mistakes with presentations that people make are:

  • Presentation prepared from the presenter's perspective not the audience's;
  • PowerPoint is used as a script for the presenter not a visual aid for the audience;
  • Too much detail is crammed into the presentation, crowding out the key messages that are relevant to the audience.

He emphasised that during any preparation it is important to identify your audience and to consider their roles and experience. By doing so, you can avoid the majority of mistakes with presentations.

Alex then introduced the four types of personalities identified by Kolb. These are Why? What? How? and What If? According to Kolb, everyone relates to one of these groups and by tailoring your presentation to cover these four questions, Hayward believes that your presentation will appeal to everyone.

  • People that fall under the 'Why?' category are interested in listening to information that they consider relevant to themselves, fundamentally a problem of motivation.
  • 'How?' people are interested in practical steps and examples.
  • 'What?' covers those that are interested in scope, key numbers and facts, fundamentally clarity and understanding.
  • 'What If?' people are interested in the potential risks or improvements and identifying a better way of doing things; fundamentally a question of buy-in.

Some fundamental principles

The floor was opened to questions and the audience benefited from practising Alex's tips in small groups following the presentation. Alex stressed the situations where you might be trying to get people excited about an idea you have, or where you are involved in sales pitches to potential new clients, or where you are required to give business updates to a team that you are managing. Whatever the situation is, being able to present effectively is one of those essential skills required in business today.

Alex mentioned that whatever your current situation, it is useful to be able to handle nerves well and deliver your presentations in a confident and engaging manner. While there is nothing that beats practise in developing this skill, having a strong foundation with a clear structure, presented in an engaging way, goes a long way to injecting people with confidence. You should always speak out if the situation is appropriate - you may well be right!

About the speaker

Alex Hayward started his career at British Airways where he had various technical and commercial roles over a 15 year period. This included a number of sales management roles where he was involved in multi-million pound negotiations as well as being recognised for his skill in coaching and developing the sales teams that worked for him.

Alex is a skilled trainer, having had extensive development at Momentum Consultants and further training in coaching, psychotherapy and natural language processing (NLP). Alex provides an insight into why people behave the way they do and has a practical approach to training, which enables people to accelerate their development.

Since 2003 Alex has been a consultant working in organisations such as IBM, Norwich Union and Transport Research Laboratories, where he has been coaching graduates to senior managers in influencing skills, negotiating and managing people effectively.

December 2007