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Friday, May 27, 2011

Leave Room for Spontaneity

Tonight I'm taking my wife to a nice hotel in downtown Portland. Yesterday we had no plans for this weekend. This morning I found a good deal and this afternoon we'll be out the door. Spontaneity is a lot of fun, but it can only happen well in the right environment. I know that she has the day off tomorrow. I know that we have some extra money for this. Otherwise this would be a bad expression of spontaneity.

You can do the same thing in your presentations. If you prepare for spontaneous thoughts they can flow naturally in a way that makes your overall presentation better. But if you don't prepare well things will be awkward and you will end up detracting from the presentation.

Tips for setting yourself up for spontaneity:

  • Don't make your slides too specific. Leave room for different points that you might make. So if you have a picture and a caption, use a general topic rather than a hyper specific illustration.
  • Use slides for your main points, but leave space for the sub-points. Sometimes even blank slides (white or black depending on your projection situation) are good so that the focus comes back to you instead of the slides on the screen. 
  • Speak without notes (or minimal notes) so that you aren't trying to find where you left off if you bring in a spontaneous thought. It takes more time to rehearse your presentation to the point where you don't need notes, but it's going to allow you to connect with your audience better and leave room for you to change things on the fly. 
  • Know you topic. The better you know what you're presenting the more able you'll be to adjust in the midst of presenting. If you don't know things well you'd better stick to the script otherwise the audience will find out that you aren't an expert in what you're sharing.
  • Connect with your audience. Look at people and see how they're reacting to what you are saying. If you see people leaning forward and making eye contact, that's a sign that they're interested in what you're saying. Maybe you need to expand more on that topic. If people are leaning back and not looking at you, they're bored. Move on to the next point sooner than you planned. 
What other tips do you have for being able to be spontaneous when you speak?

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