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Presentations

How to improve your presentations using the rules of  UX – ‘digital user experience’ 

By Dan Magill, Toastmasters International 

Over the last 10 years we’ve seen increasing investment by companies in their Digital UX. This is the experience users have when they interact with businesses in the digital world. 

A company’s website, mobile site, app and social network platforms are all examples of places where customers or other users interact digitally with the business.

You may be wondering how this is relevant to public speaking and presentations!  Well, it turns out that the way an audience feels about a presentation or speech is very similar to their feelings about an online interaction. 

Consider a recent online interaction you had that went well. It might have been with a bank or travel agent transaction. Was it a success from your point of view?

If it was, this was most likely to be because you were able quickly and simply to get done what you needed get done:

  • You weren’t led down any blind alleys
  • You didn’t find any of the language difficult to understand 
  • Everything was clear, intuitive and linear
  • You felt the business with was trying to help you – not simply getting you to do what they wanted

Now think about a presentation or speech you heard and enjoyed. Your enjoyment was probably based on many of the same reasons. 

So, what can we learn from the rules of digital UX when we’re writing a presentation? 

Most experts will say that when it comes to delivering a presentation, there is nothing more important than the audience.  I completely agree with this.

However, we all give presentations or speeches for specific reasons. This means that before we start giving all our attention to the experience of our audience, we need to be a little selfish and decide exactly what it is that we want to achieve first.

An online business might focus all their attention on creating a world-class customer experience, but you can bet they’ll have worked out what the required outcome is for themselves first.

So, before you start writing, think about what you want the outcome of your presentation to be.

  • Do you want your audience to purchase a product or service off the back of your presentation?
  • Do you want them to buy into an idea or movement?
  • Do you simply want to entertain them, maybe get some laughs and have them leave the room thinking what a fantastic speaker you are?
  • Maybe you want them to be inspired into making a change in themselves after hearing your presentation?

Whatever your desired outcome, be sure to know it, refine it and be laser-focussed on it – before you start writing.

Once you’ve done this, everything else you do should be done with the audience experience at heart. Let’s call it, AX; audience experience. 

Now, think again about some of the best features of an online journey and understand how these can be adopted when writing a presentation or speech:

You weren’t led down any blind alleys

Now that you have a clear focus on what you want to achieve, you need to ensure that every word in your presentation is geared toward that target. 

When you’ve finished writing, go back through and identify any areas which feel like they go off on a tangent or don’t contribute to taking the audience exactly where you want them to go. 

This doesn’t mean taking out humorous asides or anecdotes which you feel enhance your presentation. But if there’s anything in there that could lead the audience down a blind alley and confuse them, remove it.

You didn’t find any of the language difficult to understand

When you’re writing a presentation, it can be easy to start using elaborate language, long fancy words and complicated sentence structures. Imagine how intelligent it will make you look.

Unfortunately, your audience probably isn’t too interested in you making yourself look intelligent and they would far rather listen to a presentation filled with simple language and short sentences.

This isn’t a case of ‘dumbing down’. It’s simply that the clearer the language we use, the more like an everyday conversation your presentationwill be. And, that’s what audiences find most engaging. 

You audience wants to feel like you’re having a conversation with them, not reading a chapter from War and Peace. 

Everything was clear, intuitive and linear

Of course, most audiences love to be surprised, but successfully pulling off a surprise or plot twist is difficult to do if your audience feels completely lost.

When writing your presesentation, or at least when editing it later, be sure always to put yourself in the position of an average audience member.

Think about how they’ll be feeling at every point of their journey. Are there any points at which they could become confused with what you’re saying? If you take something out at the start, could that have a knock-on effect on something you still have in at the end of the presentation?

Keep a tight focus on the clarity, comprehension and chronology of your presentation. 

During the entire process, you felt like the organisation you were dealing with was trying to help you – not simply trying to get you to do what they wanted

You’ve identified what you want to achieve from your presentation or speech but now you must place the entire focus on how you can best serve the audience, whilst remaining in pursuit of your desired outcome.

If you’re selling a product, service, idea or experience, the audience doesn’t want just to sit and listen to you telling them how great it is, how much you love it or how it has changed your life – they want to know what it can do for them. 

Of course, you may want to relate a personal story or experience in a presentation and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you must remember always to come back to how this will benefit your audience members.

Imagine if you went online to book a business trip and the website said things like:

“Book this flight to help ensure we meet our annual business targets.”

“Stay at this hotel chain as we put a lot of business its way.”

“When you reserve your next trip with us, we’ll make sure you do exactly what we recommend and take all elements of choice out of your experience.”

Your audience members want to feel that you are thinking about them. They want to know you care about their experience as they listen to you.  They certainly don’t want to feel that you are trying to force them to adopt your point of view.  

By using the rules of UX you will put audience at the heart of your presentation or speech and create the perfect Audience Experience or AX.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Magill is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org