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Want a quick way to get tips to up your presentation skills? You could hire an executive coach, or…you could got to Twitter! By applying some Twitter best practices to your PPT presentations, you can upgrade and gain valuable public speaking skills. Yes, the quirky little blue bird can teach you a lot about being a better speaker.

So what can we learn from Twitter about presenting? Here are five Twitter best practices that most regular Tweeters follow. By incorporating variations of these best practices into your presentation bag of tricks, you can engage your audience more, be relevant to your listeners and ensure attention and retention!

Twitter Best Practices for PPT Presenters

1. Follow the140 character limit. By limiting what we say, we end up being more thoughtful when we tweet. Apply that same mindset to your PPT presentations. How many times have you heard speakers who spoke for 15 minutes but had 30 or 40 slides? No matter how long you are speaking, don’t ramble on and on with a lot of slides.  Try limiting your slides to just 5 (the PPT equivalent to Twitter’s 140 character limit). People are there to hear YOU speak, not watch you jockey through 50 slides.

2. Mark key ideas with #. As Twitter users know, the # marks relevant or key topics. When presenting, it’s a great best practice to call out the important or key ideas in your presentation. Don’t assume your audience will know what they are. Instead of a hash tag, use a phrase like “What’s really important is…” or  “This can be critical…” or  “We have to take notice of…” Any phrase or word that punctuates a main idea is the verbal equivalent of a Twitter hash tag.

3. Retweet. When we read a great tweet, we want to pass it on and acknowledge it by retweeting. Some of the best presentations and speeches also acknowledge the ideas of others. This can be citing something a prominent person has done, referring to some critical business action or explaining a best practice. Another way to retweet or acknowledge is to use a short quote. The introduction or wrap-up is a great place to quote others; it’s memorable and gets attention. Just make sure you are accurate and always cite the work of someone you are referencing.

4. Use Bitly to condense a long url.  Very often when we want to tweet an idea referenced on a long url, we’ll go to bitly and condense it to a smaller, more manageable link. In a presentation, is there a way to cut ideas down to make them more manageable for the listener? Think of all the technical jargon that we might use. Is there a way to shorten it so it makes sense to the average listener?  Why would you want to say,  “A user can associate their NIC with only one SSID, and does not seem to be receiving an IP address from the DHCP server?” No one will understand you! Shorten your technical jargon to a few words the average listener “gets.”  BTW, the above technobabble means, “The user can only connect to one network and even then doesn’t have Web or Storage.”

5. Reply @.  Experienced Tweeters know that this is how you engage in conversation. It’s  how you reply to someone’s tweet. In a presentation, isn’t that what it’s all about: a conversation? You an insert a reply@ in your presentation by asking a few questions placed throughout your talk: “Are there any questions?” or “Has anyone else had a similar experience?”  “Do you need a few more examples?” Anything you can do to engage the audience is a step in the right direction.

In the end, Twitter can teach us a lot of communication best practices, not just for Twitter talk, but for our conversations, public speaking AND presentations.


The Eyes Have It!

Where to Look

Whether presenting in a small meeting room or on a large stage, many presenters are not sure where to look.

It can be a bit intimidating when you know that all eyes are looking at you. What to do?  First, let's look at what NOT to do.

I've heard some pretty bad advice over the years: "Look over their heads..." or, "Find a spot in the back of the room and focus on it," or, "Scan the crowd." Please ignore any advice you've heard that disconnects you from your listeners. The key is to connect with them; see them as people you are having a conversation with, not potential enemies you are afraid of.

You certainly can't look back at each and every audience member but you can make contact with the group as a whole. One easy to follow suggestion is to segment your audience into 3 or 4 smaller groups, now chose one person in each of these groups and deliver a few seconds of your material directly to that person. Look them square in the eye, and have a mini conversation with them. 

Then slowly and naturally, as you move to another topic, chose another member and have another mini conversation for a few seconds.

By connecting and having eye contact with that one individual, you're really connecting with the whole group. They'll feel more comfortable and so will you!


Do You Have a Plan B?

You've prepped and rehearsed for your presentation. Feeling really good about it.

You've got a great, interactive opening, things are looking really good.

Then, disaster strikes.  You lose the audience.  Feet shuffle, bodies squirm, eyes look at watches, and the worst, the Blackberries come out.  Now what?


It happens to the best presenters, but the ones who recover are the ones who planned for it. 

As you're outlining your presentation, at the brainstorming phase, build in an alternative.  Ask yourself at each major section of your speech, "what if I lose them here?"  What alternate idea can you turn to? How can you engage with the audience and pull them back in? How will you shift gears but still remain true to your theme?

All it takes is a small bit of pre-planning to avoid presentation disasters.



Pop quiz: can you explain quantum mechanics, aortic stenosis or pentimento?

If you can, take a bow.  Most people would be hard pressed to define these technical terms unless they are physicists, cardiologists or artists.

Yet, we'll hear technical terms and jargon  all the time in presentations.  For an non-technical audience, using these terms is not the best tactic.

The exception, obviously, is if you are speaking to a highly technical group who live and breath acronyms. They'll get your APIs and BAPIs.  But for the rest of us, why would you want to alienate listeners?


The best tip is to avoid using the technical jargon at all, but if you feel compelled, add a parenthetical definition.  As soon as you say, "BAPI," right away define it.  "That's an interface we use to let our engineers bring in third party applications."

But...why even bring in the technical term, unless you're with techies?

Wouldn't it be just as easy for the audience to hear : "Our engineers are always adapting and bringing in new applications to our software to make it more user friendly." It all comes back to think like your audience!



Psychographics.   No, it's not a JPEG on Prozac.

It is a heavy sounding word, and it's a word seasoned presenters think about before every presentation. 

Every audience has a psychographic profile.  Exactly what is that?  Imagine crawling around in your audience's collective head.

What makes them tick? What's their lifestyle, their likes, dislikes, their values and attitudes?

In general, what do you think they are interested in?  What are their
concerns, their pain points? That combined picture is a psychographic profile.


As you are brainstorming and collecting ideas for your presentation, keep  your audience's psychographic profile top of mind. 

By aligning your ideas to that profile, you'll be thinking like your audience and increasing your chances of having a very relevant conversation!



When talking to clients about their presentation goals, I'm always surprised to hear some of them say,
"I want to talk about..." or  "My messages are..." or  "I want to open with..."

Hmmm.  Sounds like it's all me, me and me.

But presentations should not just be about what you want to say. Presentations should be dialogues WITH, not monologues TO your listeners.

TIP: Think Like the Audience

When designing your presentation ideas, don't start with the mindset of,  "I want to say..."

Start by asking yourself: what does this audience need to hear; what would this audience like to hear; and what would be relevant to this audience? Put their concerns first in your presentation brainstorming process.

Then you can design around what you want to say.  Pronoun order is: "them" first, "me" second. That's  a great recipe for collaboration!


More Tips for Opening a Presentation

It's a First Date. No matter how you open your presentation, it's important to remember this is an opportunity to make an impression. Get the audience to really like you as a person.

It's your first date with this audience and you want to make sure you keep them engaged and interested.  One of the best ways to do that is to keep opening remarks brief.

Tip: Think in Soundbites. In an age of Twitter and texting, long-winded presentation openings just don't cut it. Think about ways to limit what you say in the intro, perhaps three to five minutes to set up a half-hour presentation.

In addition to the total length, think about the length of your sentences. Shorter sentences are easier to remember, so think SSR (Short Sentences Rule!).