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10 tips on how to use humour in a presentation

If you've read my article Whole-Brain Presenting, you'll know one of the best ways to engage the right-half of your audience's brains is by using humour. However, may presenters are uncomfortable about doing this, seeing it as being 'unprofessional.' The secret is using it effectively without coming across as a second-rate cabaret act. So here's TEN TIPS to help you do it.

1. Give the audience permission to laugh

Many of your audience might never have seen you before, and won't know what to expect. If you don't signal your humorous intentions early in your presentation, they will have no idea whether you are going to be serious or fun. Then, when you eventually do deliver a humorous line, they will think to themselves, “Was that a joke?” or “Was I supposed to laugh at that?”

Even if they are pretty sure it was funny, they may feel uncomfortable about laughing in case they are the only one who does. Ever been the only person who clapped at something and felt as if someone was going to throw you a fish? People feel the same way about laughing alone.

So introduce something that is obviously humorous early on so the audience knows your speech isn't going to be dull and boring. Once they've been ‘granted permission', they'll know it's OK to laugh. Read the rest of the article

Adrenalin rush

Adrenaline attack! What happens to your body in a stressful situation like giving a presentation

EVERYONE feels nervous from time to time when they present or speak in public. It's the most natural thing in the world. In fact if you don't at least feel butterflies in your stomach, I think you are doing your audience a disservice: you are taking their approval for granted.

It still happens to me. Only I use that feeling to pump adrenaline into my system to hype myself up for a great, show-stopping performance.

Nervousness, fear and anxiety are all caused by a flood of the hormone adrenaline into your system at 100 mph, and an understanding of the mechanics of how and why this happens is the first step to bringing them under control. Read the rest of the article

Objections

How to handle objetions during a presentation

No matter how thoroughly you've prepared your presentation and how logically you've stated your case, there's normally someone, somewhere, who'll object to something. Which means 'overcoming objections' is a necessary skill for all presenters, not just salespeople. Let's assume you're proposing a course of action that will cost your company $25,000.

The first thing you should do takes place before the presentation's even begun, i.e. decide in advance what the possible objections could be. I'm amazed at the number of people who are so 'into' their proposal and so confident it'll be accepted/approved that they don't even contemplate opposition to it.

Say to yourself, "I know you think this is the best thing since sliced bread and that no sane or rational person could possibly say 'no' to it, but if they did . . . what would they objecting to?" Occasionally somebody will come up with an objection that was completely unanticipated, but if you do this mental exercise beforehand, this should happen very rarely. Read th rest of the article

 

Data overload

Analysis Paralysis: how too much information can hinder decision-making

Most people think that business decisions are always taken based on rational analysis of the facts and a thorough examination of all available options before selecting the one with the optimal balance of pros and cons. And because of this, there is often a tendency to think that the more information someone has, the better the eventual decision. More data is seen almost as an unqualified good.

This is especially true with predominantly left-brained people, who are logical and thorough and who like data, facts and information. So facts and figures and data and graphs and pie charts are thrown on to PowerPoint slides 'just in case'. You never know what questions you'll be asked, so it's always useful to have every bit of information that could possibly be needed at hand. The result is usually a set of overly-complex, detailed, crammed-to-bursting slides that only serve to impede decision making instead of facilitating it.

Because as neuroscience comes to understand decision-making better, it is becoming increasingly clear to experts that too much information can lead to poorer decisions being made.

When neuroscientists scanned the brains of volunteers trying to analyze complex problems, they found that the area of the brain responsible for decision making and controlling emotions (it's just behind the forehead and for the medical/Latin buffs amongst you, is called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) 'lit up' as the information load was increased. But they also discovered that after a certain point, activity in this area suddenly switched off, almost as if there had been a short-circuit.

It simply stopped working. Read the rest of the article

 

Threat movie poster

How to deliberately create a threat in order to effect change

I've explained elsewhere how your audience can look at your presentation completely differently from you, and how they can feel threatened by it in ways you hadn't considered (if you haven't read them, see Identifying Perceived Threats To The Audience and Getting Past The Audience's Lizard Brain before continuing).

One way to deal with this is to deliberately distract their Lizard Brains with an even bigger threat. In 7 Great Ways To Structure A Presentation I explained how when you want to persuade people of something, the best way to do it ...... the Big Beast, the 1000lb Gorilla, the Killer application ..... is Problem/Threat and Solution.

This structure essentially creates and builds a threat or problem which will be solved by your proposal. Effectively, the presentation creates a situation where there is a huge cartoon thought bubble coming from each of your audience’s heads with the words, ‘Wow! You're right; that’s a real threat we face right now/are going to face.’ Then it’s as easy as falling off a log to say, 'Let me tell you how we can avoid/solve that ......’ and present your solution.

If you’re an upbeat, positive kind of person, your natural desire may be to talk about the positive, upbeat side of your proposal.  But remember the Lizard Brain’s survival filter is arguably the most powerful part of the brain. The desire to avoid a threat is far stronger than the desire to obtain pleasure. Pain outweighs gain 90% of the time. Read the rest of the article

 

10 tips on how to use cue cards

Regular readers of my articles or those who've attended one of my seminars know that my recommendation is always to rehearse your presentation so you can deliver it without notes. BUT ......... it's easy for me to say that, I do this for a living. If presenting without notes fills you with dread in case your mind goes blank and you forget your own name, never mind the presentation topic, don't worry about it. Winston Churchill, JFK and Martin Luther King all spoke from a script, and President Obama never makes a major speech without an autocue.

But if you're not presenting or speaking from behind a lectern, holding and reading or referring to a sheaf of papers looks amateurish (plus any handshaking nervousness will be amplified). Far better is to use cue cards (e.g. standard office supply index cards) which contain pointers about what you're going to say rather than every single word.

So here are my top 10 Tips for using cue cards:

1. Number the cards in the same place on each card (e.g. the top right-hand corner).

2. Use one card for each of your PowerPoint slides.

3. Write on one side of the card only. You don't want the audience trying to read what's written on the back, and turning the cards over looks less slick than simply placing each card on the bottom of the pile when you've finished with it. If you have too much information to fit on one side, you're probably writing too much down. Simplify it. Strip it down. The less there is on each card, the less you will look at them and the more you'll look at the audience. Read the rest of the article

 

The Joker

Have them 'rolling in the aisles' not 'rolling their eyes'; how to tell jokes in a business presentation

It's said that telling a joke well is incredibly difficult. That may be true, but one thing is certain - ruining one is incredibly easy. Most people shy away from using humor during business presentations for two reasons. Either they think it will be out of place, because it's a serious presentation or topic, or because they think they'll screw it up and the audience will laugh at them, not with them.

Well those of you who understand Whole-Brain Presenting know that one of the best ways to get something to stick in an audience's mind is to engage their emotions. And one of the most effective ways to do this is to use humor. Here are 10 tips to ensure you have then 'rolling in the aisles' as opposed to 'rolling their eyes'.

1. Make sure the joke is relevant

It's a fairly safe bet you're not a stand-up comedian, so your job is not to entertain the audience per se. Never say, "I've been told a good way to open up a speech is to tell a joke, so here goes ...." Make sure the joke you're telling has some relevance to your presentation's subject matter. Even if the joke is hilarious, the audience should never have to ask themselves, "Why did she just tell that?" By linking it to humor you'll make the serious point much more memorable.

If the joke is being used to illustrate a serious point, make the point first, then tell the joke, then repeat the serious point in a different way. For example, let's say you wanted to make the serious point that you have to be careful not to misinterpret what is being said when listening to a customer. You might say:

“Even when people do speak clearly and precisely there is always the chance that what they say can be misinterpreted. Like the guy on a hunting trip who phones 911 and says ‘I need an ambulance immediately. There's been a terrible shooting accident and my friend's been killed!’ The operator says, ‘OK sir, try to stay calm. Here's what I want you to do. First, let's make sure he really is dead.’ There's a pause and she hears several footsteps and a single gunshot. Then the guy comes back and says, ‘OK, now what do I do?' (Pause for laughter) What seems clear as day to you might mean something completely different to someone else ..." Read the rest of the article

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