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The engaging presenter part i

TheEngagingPresenterPartI
Howtoprepare
MichaelDouglasBrown

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Michael Brown

The Engaging Presenter Part I
How to prepare

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The Engaging Presenter Part I: How to prepare
1st edition
© 2013 Michael Brown & bookboon.com
ISBN 978-87-403-0388-9


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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Contents

Contents
Foreword

7



Ask the right questions

8



Introduction to the five-step ‘city’ model for preparation

11

STEP 1 Write the city-view sentence

13

STEP 2 Brainstorm

17

STEP 3 Connect your ideas
STEP 4 Organise your ideas
STEP 5 Prepare your audio-visual aids

360°
thinking


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360°
thinking

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360°
thinking

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Dis


The Engaging Presenter Part I

Contents



Expecting a difficult audience?

37



Putting it all together

38

Summary

43



In the hours before you speak

44



What now?

54

Bibliography

56

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Heads up!

Heads up!
A word of warning about PowerPoint (and other visual aids).
If you believe that presentations are about non-stop PowerPoint with you standing aside to provide the
commentary, then this preparation guide may not be for you.
But if you believe that PowerPoint can be an excellent aid to your presentation – using the screen only
when it illustrates the precise point you’re making – then you will get good value from this guide.
PowerPoint is a brilliant invention. But when it arrived, the standard of presentations around the world
plummeted, because most presenters use it to avoid being in the spotlight. They think Power-Point can
do the job for them.
They’re wrong. It’s people who persuade people, not visual displays.
So you’re about to see a preparation method that helps you organise your ideas before you allocate slide
numbers.
What? But that means turning PowerPoint off between slides! How do I do that?
Couldn’t be simpler. There’s just one button involved – we’ll get to that. What’s sobering is that in hundreds
of training sessions with thousands of presenters I have found very few who know what that button is.
The tide is turning. Long suffering, cynical, semi-hypnotised audiences (think death by PowerPoint) are
demanding less Power-Point, more presenter.
That’s you.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Foreword

Foreword
The audience, the audience, the audience
Good preparation is like assembling a bicycle. It needs both wheels if you expect to ride on it. Obvious.
So why do so many presenters produce the speech equivalent of a bicycle with a missing wheel?
Wheel number one is the message. Wheel number two is the audience. Much of your ability to connect
message to audience will be in your manner and style on the day, but a great deal of it starts with your
preparation. To get your second wheel on and pumped you’ll prepare to generate these thoughts in your
audience:
This content is relevant to me
This presenter knows how I feel about the topic.
This guide shows how to assemble your bicycle with both wheels ready to roll.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Ask the right questions

Ask the right questions
If you don’t already know the answers to these questions, you may need to find out:
Logistics
How long do I speak?
Little planning is possible if you don’t know. If you’re calling the shots, tell the organiser what you
anticipate.
Is food involved?
Imagine eating a four course dinner on the way, then discovering a five course dinner at the function,
with you sitting at the head table.
Are there any curtains?
Many a presentation has foundered at the start gun because nobody thought to check until the presenter
turned up with the data-show. Also, will the sun light up translucent blinds or curtains?
What layout do you want?
Boardroom? U-shape? The U-shape encourages interaction with your audience. For medium sized
audiences, the best all-purpose arrangement is called the ‘chevron’ after an NCO’s stripes: rows angled
about 20 degrees so everyone faces slightly inwards to the aisle. For small meetings involving paperwork,
my favourite is the plain boardroom style.
What are the alcohol arrangements?
If the audience is going to be lubricated you had better modify your speech on the link between
developments in rocket science and recent discoveries in quantum physics.
What’s the audience going to be wearing?
That’s how you find out what you’ll wear. As a general rule, dress the same or slightly better than the
audience; what’s at stake here is how the audience perceives your respect for them.
What audio-visual aids are available? Will you have technical back-up?
Will you need time to rehearse with the technician?

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Ask the right questions

What else will the audience be getting?
Changes may be necessary if your post-modernist perspective on Icelandic syntax comes right after the
belly dancing. Also, what is this audience used to? Light-hearted banter or highbrow intellectualism?
Who is speaking immediately before you and what are their topics?
What’s the official title for your speech or presentation?
That’s not trivial. Suppose you’re an expert in how to stop sheep-dog viruses destroying farmers’
livelihoods – but someone has given your talk the title A discussion on farm animals and micro-organisms.
You may find no-one there to listen.
The crunch audience questions
This is where audience connection starts in earnest. The whole scope of your preparation and structure,
the tone you adopt and the language you use will be affected by the answers.
What kind of people will be there?
What professions? What interests? What mix of genders? Will the audience individuals know each
other? Are they all members of the same group? The answers can tell you a lot about the atmosphere
you can expect.
What do they know about the topic already?
Are they all armed with the latest knowledge? Do they know nothing about it? Is there a mixture? Very
often there’s a mixture of expertise and you’ll have to take that into account, so as not to risk insulting
one part of your audience and boring another. You need to know what level of jargon is acceptable. The
fine details of printed circuit boards may be fascinating to electronics engineers, but would cause an
audience of electronics salesmen to pop anxiety pills.
Will there be experts in the audience?
How many are likely to know more about the topic, or parts of it, than you?
Why will the audience be there; what do they expect from you?
Are they there willingly? Do they have a passing level of interest already or will they be there under orders?
And above all, this.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Ask the right questions

What do they feel about the topic already?
Yes, the word is ‘feel’, not ‘know’. Even if you were to leave out every other question, don’t ignore this
one. Not knowing the answer can lead to nightmarish speaking disasters. Knowing it will lead you into
one of the most powerful components of persuasion: Pre-empting objections and concerns (see page 18).
Ask these subsidiary questions. How strong are the feelings involved? Are they entrenched? Is the audience
divided? If so, what proportion feel one way? What proportion the other? How many are undecided?
Why do they have the feelings they do? If you’re asking someone else for these answers, take nothing as
gospel. For hot issues, it’s possible that no one can give you an unbiased picture.
And what questions are they likely to ask you? What are the worst questions they could ask you? What
emotions could they throw at you? Toughest of all – what questions and concerns could be on the mind
of an audience too polite to interrupt? If you don’t know, those unacknowledged concerns may silently
sabotage your presentation.
Suppose, for example, you’re planning to tell a well-behaved audience (too polite to interrupt) about a
wonderful new computer system. What you don’t know is that last time they got lumbered with a new
computer system, half of them were treated for paranoia and the rest applied for early retirement. Do
you think knowing that in advance might affect your preparation?
Be informed about, open to, and comfortable with audience feelings about your topic. Ignore them at
your peril.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Introduction to the five-step
‘city’ model for preparation

Introduction to the five-step
‘city’ model for preparation
Mark Twain said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
Nice humour. But the reality is that good preparation can be swift and easy, as long as you follow a few
simple rules. And the process should be reassuring, because feeling good about a presentation starts with
feeling well prepared. The city model method will handle virtually all types of presentation.
What you’ll need: an ordinary black pen and a packet of coloured felt pens, a blank sheet of paper (to
be your brainstorm page), a copy of the presentation notes form (you can photocopy the blank form at
the end of this guide), and research sources for factual content.
Here are the terms we’ll use:

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Introduction to the five-step
‘city’ model for preparation

Fig 2. Preparation model

Been here

Going there
A signpost shows where
you are in your presentation

Fig 3. Signpost

You’ll see that the order of preparation is not the same as the order of delivery to the audience. To put
the whole preparation method in perspective, you might like to glance ahead at the summary on page 38.
Now, the five steps.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Write the city-view sentence

STEP 1Write the city-view
sentence
It’s a statement of your intent. The audience needs to hear it from your lips even if they already know.
It’s the most crucial part of the preparation. It’s the core of your presentation. It’s where you get to the
point. It’s where you come right out with it. It’s where you tell them why you’re really there.
And, believe it or not, most presenters do not tell their audiences why they’re really there. Here’s how
to avoid that mistake. Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve with this audience? What do I want them
to think, feel or do as a result of this presentation?
Then use THE CITY-VIEW GENERATOR






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A. The words ‘I want’ acknowledge that it’s you on the line, not your topic. You can say, “I’m going to…”
but be careful. If you follow it with “…convince you…” then you had better have a twinkle in your
eye or the audience will take you as arrogant.
B. If the topic is suitable, then the word ‘that’, gives you a high authority statement of intent that puts
you and your opinions on the front line. I want to show you that the new schedule will reduce our costs.
Likewise, the word ‘convince’ increases your impact. It takes nerve to use them both, but when you
do, you’ll get a sentence which makes people sit up and give you serious intention. I want to convince
you that if we don’t lower our rates we will lose our best customers. Which brings me to the main point.
Powerful presenters take a position, adopt a stance.
They do not try to be (or pretend to be) objective.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Write the city-view sentence

Of course many topics just don’t suit high impact statements. For example, it’s often important to convey
facts without your opinion, in which case you would not use either ‘that’ or ‘convince’. I want to outline
the new structure of the HR department. Or, I want to outline the facts so you can make up your own
minds where to go from here. However, be careful. Many presenters – wanting to play safe and avoid
criticism – tell themselves that objectivity is a virtue and eliminate their own opinions when that is
exactly what the audience needs.

Fig 4. Phrases to avoid

Have you noticed that the city-view generator doesn’t contain the word ‘about’? That’s because “I want
to talk about…” tells the audience that you’re going to have a safe, detached discussion in which you
personally are not on the line. Even worse is the stuffy phrase, “My topic is…” That one is like administering
a powerful sedative to your audience.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Write the city-view sentence

C. The reason you’re there. Only you will know that, but consider this:
Where possible, lock the topic to the audience with the word ‘you’.

Example: I want to show you how higher taxes benefit you in the long run works much better than I
want to show you that higher taxes is a good thing. However it isn’t always possible or appropriate.
Many audiences – especially technical, scientific and medical – are there only to increase their general
knowledge and you would not expect them to think, feel or do anything as a result of your presentation.
So that’s the city-view sentence. Your intent. Telling the audience why you’re really there.
There’s a lot in that word ‘really’. I was once asked to help a few scientists with a practice run for a national
seminar that would include politicians and fund managers in the audience. To call the seminar important
would be an understatement. For the practice session one scientist stood up front and I sat with half a
dozen of his fellow specialists. I’ll call him Dave. On a highly controversial subject, guaranteed to rouse
passions, he started like this (and notice the use of the word ‘about…’).
“Good morning everyone. I want to talk about 1080 poison and the residual effects in animal
cells.”
You might say that was fair enough – a clear description of the topic. And Dave was certainly articulate
and skilled with visual aids. Even so, after 10 minutes I was lost, and the expressions of his fellow
specialists indicated that they were struggling too.
“Are you wanting to convince us of anything?” I asked.
“Well, yes,” Dave said, surprised. He flapped his hand at the data as if it was self-explanatory.
“I want to convince you that 1080 poison is still the only viable option.”
Ahah. Did you pick the word ‘that’? The expressions on the faces of his colleagues cleared and they
nodded. Now he was coming right out with it. Now they knew why he was really there. Now he was up
front about his real intention.
NOTE: in fact there were two major mistakes in that opening of his. On this hot topic he ignored the
passions that politicians and fund managers would bring into the room. If you like, glance ahead to
Acknowledge the predominant mood, page 27; but for now I’m going to stay strictly with the order of
preparation – different from the order of delivery.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

WU\WKLV«

Write the city-view sentence

Find a city-view sentence for your own topic. Using your black pen and the cityview generator, write your own sentence in the centre of your blank sheet of paper
(which now becomes the brainstorm page).

Fig 5. City-view sentence (intention statement)

CHECK: Does your city-view sentence tell the audience why you’re really there? Does it openly convey
your intent? Does it (where possible) tell the audience how you want them to think, feel or act as a result
of your presentation? And does it (where possible) indicate the relevance of your topic to the audience?
If so, you now have the core of your presentation. The rest will be fleshed out around it – starting with
the brainstorm.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Brainstorm

STEP 2 Brainstorm
Here’s a suggestion: read right through Step 2 before you do anything.
Brainstorming (some call it mind-mapping) is a crucial few minutes in the development of a presentation
or speech. Many neglect it and start writing or structuring immediately – a mistake, because it ignores
the value of lateral thinking. In step two, deliberately avoid structuring. Also, if you can, avoid lists, sets
and subsets. Just let the ideas pour out and edit later.
A typical brainstorm page looks like the diagram on page 21: single words or short phrases – just enough
to remind you of the idea. As you jot things down, remember the second wheel of the bicycle: relate
your content to the audience.
Prepare to broadcast on WIIFM
You haven’t heard of this radio station? But every single member of your audience is an avid listener,
because they’re tuned in to What’s In It For Me? Prepare to make your content specifically relevant to
the audience in a way that talks directly to them. Very often that will mean using the word ‘you’. “Your
computer will handle it, but you’ll find it pretty sluggish”. Audiences hearing the word ‘you’ do not doze off.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Brainstorm

So as you jot things down, keep these questions in mind: What can I add to make my material relevant
to this audience? Also, What can I add to take into account what the audience feels about the topic?
Which brings me to a device that will guarantee you a huge advantage. The device is not well known,
but once you discover its brilliance, you’ll always use it. It’s called pre-empting objections.
Pre-empt objections and concerns
Do yourself a huge favour.
Prepare to take audience concerns to them
before they take their concerns to you.

Dealing with objections and concerns before they are raised by your audience is arguably the most
successful of all ways to convince and persuade. It’s excellent psychology because even the most sceptical
audience says to itself, This presenter understands where I’m coming from. It’s also a wonderful way to
take much of the steam out of a difficult audience.
• Think of all the objections, concerns and related feelings the audience might have about
your topic. Mentally, become the audience.
• For each item, ask yourself, How could this objection or concern be wrong? If it’s wrong, jot
down (on the brainstorm page) a reminder of your reply. If it’s not wrong, jot down an
acknowledgement – it’s still good psychology to bring it up yourself. It’s not a defeat. It just
says that you’ve considered the whole picture.
Note: the word ‘wrong’ refers to an apparent fact or conclusion that arises from a feeling. Argue facts and
conclusions assertively, but never judge the feeling itself. More of that in The Engaging Presenter Part II.
Then you may need to make the following choice about the answers.
EITHER:
Prepare to verbalize it directly. For example, if you anticipate the objection This has got nothing to do
with me, you might jot down relevance, and in the speech itself say, “You may be wondering what this has
to do with you…” Or, if you anticipate a cost objection, you might jot down cost and say, “Some of you
are concerned about the cost. Yes, this will be expensive. And it will be worth it because….” Notice how
the word ‘you’ is used? Talking directly to the audience about their concerns is a tool used by effective
and respected leaders.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Brainstorm

OR:
Prepare to deal with it indirectly. If you anticipate the usually unspoken concern, Can I trust this person?
(meaning you), you might jot down contract safeguards and outline those without using the word trust.
Prepare specific metaphors, examples, word pictures and anecdotes
Why? Because this is how core messages really sink in. However worthy, an unsupported general
statement has little inherent impact; it’s your code for what’s important to you and audiences don’t feel
the importance just by listening to your code. Attach something specific.
Not just “This model is structurally sound”, but also, “We laid a concrete slab on it – 642kg – and
there was no damage” and also, “You could run an elephant over it”. (So on your brainstorm
page you might jot down Concrete, 642kg, Elephant.)
Of course making your general statement with passion does help, but you still need the illustrations.
Don’t hesitate to use specific names, times, dates, colours, textures.
Not just “We need to change procedures at reception” but also, “Just last week a young woman
with a baby and a toddler had to wait 20 minutes in a reception queue to make a complaint
about the length of our queues.” (Jot down Customer 20 mins.)
One part of us never grows up. We love stories. The moment you start telling a story, you’ll see an
approving shift in the expressions in your audience. The more specific and detailed the better. Paint
pictures with your words.
Not just “Cutting prices now would send the wrong signal to our established customers” but
also, “It will be like getting down on our knees and begging.” (Jot down Wrong signal, On knees)
“Imagine my problem. There I was in an old fashioned stairwell, carved banister, red carpet,
moth holes, and I was just…” (Jot down Stairwell)
Prepare to surprise them
Be unpredictable. Not just in your material, but in the way your express it.
Don’t tell them what they know already. Instead, jot down ideas which acknowledge what they know,
and tell them what they don’t.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Brainstorm

“As you may know, the schedule is about to change. Be careful with Day Two.” (Jot down Know
change, careful day 2)
Prepare contrasts, which stimulate feelings in the audience.
“This is not a drain on our resources, but an investment in the long term vitality of this firm.”
(Jot down Not drain)
Do your factual research
Why is this last in the brainstorm? Because everything up to this point has been driven by how the
audience is going to relate to the topic. Be audience-centred rather than fact-driven. That’s how you
become good at persuading and convincing.
So now do your normal research, adding to or changing your brainstorm page as you go: facts and
figures, supporting quotes, graphs and quotes.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Brainstorm

Fig 6. Brainstorm

Put STEP 2 together…

WU\WKLV«

Brainstorm your topic. Look at your city-view sentence. Tell yourself the audience
wants you to be interesting, entertaining, and memorable. Now write your ideas all
over the brainstorm page, twisting the page to a new angle for each idea. Don’t censor
or structure. Don’t pause. Your mind is never empty. Fly through as many ideas as
you can for at least five minutes. Think of yourself as an open tap for ideas.

Here’s a summary.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Brainstorm

• Jot down ways to broadcast on WIIFM (page 17). Relate content to the audience.
• Jot down ways to pre-empt objections, concerns, related questions. What are the worst
questions they could ask you? What are their likely unspoken objections – those that silently
undermine the effectiveness of your presentation?
• Jot down illustrations, metaphors and word pictures. Anecdotes? Illustrative recent events?
Something a client has said?
• Jot down things that will surprise them.
• As a final check, complete the loop. Go back to your city-view sentence. Do you now want
to modify it? Look back through your jottings and ask yourself, Is this point relevant to my
city-view? If the answer is no, be ruthless.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Connect your ideas

STEP 3 Connect your ideas
WU\WKLV«

For your topic, use children’s felt pens to connect all ideas that belong together, that
is in the same suburb. Now bring out the editor in you. Change your mind, cross
things out, allow for substitutions, deletions, and the addition of subsets or satellites.
If you see (or can think of) one detail that could be a label for all others of the same
colour, put an extra ring around it (or enter it with two rings).

Fig 7. Structure using colours. Or cut up the page and shuffle the pieces

My example has three suburbs. The human mind responds well to that number, but it could easily be
two or four, or even one for a very simple talk. If you get to larger numbers, five and up, that’s more
difficult for audiences to take in. See if you can combine some of them.
If you don’t care for colours, or dots and dashes, get a pair of scissors, isolate every detail and connect your
ideas by shuffling bits of paper into columns that look like the presentation notes form on the next page.

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The Engaging Presenter Part I

Organise your ideas

STEP 4 Organise your ideas
WU\WKLV«

Transfer all your information to the presentation notes form as opposite. Modify as
you go. Give each column of streets a suburb name. There’s a blank template at the
end of this guide you can photocopy and enlarge.

Fig 8. Presentation notes. Blank template on page 38

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