Presentation Skills – The 10-Second Rule

Your main job as a presenter is to ensure that throughout your presentation, you and everyone in the audience remain on the same page, even the same wavelength, every step of the way. If your slides contain more information that it takes the average listener more than 10 seconds to comprehend, you can’t possibly make this happen. People process information at different rates; faster processors will take a shorter time and the slower processors will take longer. Before you know it, you’ve got an audience working at three to five different wavelengths at the same time.

Then to make things worse, most presenters start talking, explaining the slide, at usually about the 5 second mark, and thus add one more thought-path, one more wavelength, to the whole process.

The Bell Curve

Think about it. If the amount of time it takes the average reader to ingest the info on the screen is 30 seconds, then a classic bell curve will tell you that 20% of the audience is going to read it all in 20 seconds, and 20% will take 40 seconds. Another aggregate 20 will fall into the 10 to 60 second range, and before we calculate it all, we know that we have the group broken down into at least five groups of perception time-lines. Now, let’s screw it all up and throw you into the soup, and you begin talking at some new, arbitrary point. To whom are you speaking?

Chance tells us you’re speaking to the largest group; let’s say the 40% who read at an average pace. That leaves 60%, a landslide in political terms, either way ahead or way behind the bullet point upon which he begins to expound.

Actually, it gets worse! You see, as much as a you might be totally in love with the design of a slide you may have spent hours composing, audiences rarely find your stuff as captivating. Because the presentation is important to you, it’s easy to believe that everyone will be engrossed in the action on the screen and thus giving the event their entire attention.

But tell us: have you ever sat through a colleague’s presentation and found yourself thinking about something other than the material he was sweating blood to deliver? Perhaps your plans for the upcoming weekend? The safety of your children? Whether you can let that bill slide this month?

No audience member, no matter how captivating you might believe you are, ever, ever, ever gives a presenter 100% of her attention. Human minds don’t work that way. Long before Windows, we were multi-taskers.

As lives become more complicated, and work cuts into personal time, the line between work and personal become blurred, and we compartmentalize less. Although it’s difficult to attach hard numbers here, it’s reasonable to assume that at best our audiences are tuning in to us -and us alone- more than 75% of the time.

So even if we’re directly communicating with 40% of the group, given our (at best) 75% maximum attention factor, we have no more than 30% of the audience in our camp. The rest are either struggling to catch up, or consider themselves so advanced that their minds begin to wander to unrelated topics, such as their children, the weekend, their bills; they become non-participants in the process.

Taking it to the Limit

So what does this tell us? Of course, there is only one truly viable solution, and that is to limit, by all means possible, the amount of information that is released with each click of your mouse.

First of all, the less time it takes the audience to discern the new information, the sooner they’ll get back to you and start to listen to what you really mean to “say” on the slide.

Secondly, the less time it takes the average people to figure out for themselves what’s going on, the less the width of the bell curve.

Third, and most important, is this: if your slides are designed correctly and consists of nothing but graphics and talking points, or headline-style phrases, the audience will soon realize that they are not being shown enough information to figure things out for themselves. They will conclude that the only way they can hope to be the first to know is to turn their attention quickly to you, and have it spoon fed to them. And this is exactly where you want them to be!

If you put everything you want them to know up on the screen, and if you spell it out longhand, you are training them to look to the screen for their information. Humans recognize patterns quickly, and as soon as the screen becomes the pattern, that’s where they’ll go. Problem is, they’ll be reading one thing while you’re speaking about something else!

The rule of thumb from all this? Make sure that with each passing image, it never takes longer than 10 seconds for the audience to “clear the slide”. By clearing the slide we mean removing the curiosity. Have no more than 10 seconds of material – bullet point, graphic, chart, etc. – appear at one time.

Presentation Success ROAD Map

Imagine having a simple and memorable 4-step roadmap for presentation success. Would you like to get your hands on it? I bet you would!

I was just looking at The 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report from Marketing Sherpa. (I’m not an affiliate for them or for the report, just in case you were wondering. 

But something in their email caught my eye: the acronym of ROAD. And I got to thinking.

You could use similar categories to develop a ROAD Map for your business or sales presentation. These basic buckets work for any type of presentation. Social media. Face-to-face client pitches. Sales presentations.

The four categories spelling ROAD, as outlined by Marketing Sherpa are:

Research

Objectives

Actions

Devices

Here’s my spin on the ROAD Map for presenting. I often use the concept of a roadmap to describe why presentation storyboarding is so powerful. A storyboard is essentially a roadmap of your presentation.

There are many ways to look at the big picture, milestones, and details. Working with a storyboard is the fastest way to see where you are going – and how you want to get there. 

Let’s look at how each of these areas can help you get focused and get results.

R = Research

Focus on your target audience. Find out about their roles, responsibilities, needs and history. As you investigate, be sure to also take note of specific language, issues and problems your audience is facing. When you do this, you can use what you’re finding for this audience to get a head start on presenting to similar audiences.

O = Objectives

What is your objective in presenting? Do you want to get your foot in the door? Are you hoping to seal a deal? Do you want to target decision makers or influence influencers?

In every presentation, you’ll want to refine your objectives. The clearer you are going into your talk or speech, the better you can focus the outcomes.

Similarly, it’s essential to understand why your audience is attending. Are they interested in information gathering? Are they coming with an urgent need? By understanding objectives from both perspectives, you can tailor your presentation to match the situation.

A = Actions

A clear and specific plan of action will help you prepare and give an exceptional presentation. This includes a plan of action about actions. Know what you want your audience to do – before you ever enter the room.

This is a lot like goal setting. If you know where you want to go, and what action you want your audience to take, you can organize your entire presentation to ignite this action.

D = Deadlines

I adapted the “D” from Devices to Deadlines.

Nothing inspires action like a deadline! This is true to get that old procrastination habit out of the way. If you’ve been stalling on preparing your presentation, set a tighter deadline. You know what I’m talking about.

There’s nothing, and I mean nothing, like the creativity that comes at the 11th hour.

The same is true for your clients and prospects. If you create deadlines for action, you will ignite decisive action.

If you are looking for a proven ROAD Map for your presentation, this is an easy way to sketch out the milestones to success.

Social Anxiety Disorder Cure – Public Presentations and Speeches

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a problem that many people suffer. It can vary a lot, some people have only minor symptoms, but for many people it is a huge problem, that makes many things difficult for them. For these people it is very hard to work around people or even going to mall, because they constantly feel like people are watching and judging them. This will make them feel very uncomfortable – they feel that they’re going to do something wrong, say something wrong or start blushing. Because of that sufferers choose to stay at home where they feel safe and comfortable, but inside they feel sad and depressed because actually they would like to be able to relax around people, find friends and live like people who don’t suffer it.

If you suffer SAD you know what it feels like to do public presentations in school or at work. No matter how hard you practice, before going in front of public it feels like you’re going to do or say something wrong, but actually you shouldn’t think like that, negative thoughts are one of the main symptoms that trigger SAD. It is hard not to think about negative thoughts when you’re about to perform but just try to analyze your thoughts, think why do you think that you are going to say something wrong.

Another symptom that SAD sufferers have in front of people is shaky voice and fear of it, being afraid of getting shaky voice before going in front of people can actually trigger it and make it worse. There is really not a perfect solution, what you need to try to do is to calm down, which is very hard for social anxious people. You can actually try to use same method that you I wrote about negative thoughts, because shaky voice is often a result of negative thoughts.

Third major problem for SAD sufferers who are doing a live speech or presentation is blushing. It may happen while talking when you notice having a shaky voice or when you notice you said something wrong, but main situation that triggers it is when someone comments your speech or behavior. This can make SAD sufferer very nervous and he or she tries to hold blushing back, but usually it just gets worse, only cure for that is to try relax and forget about that comment.

Sometimes while being in front public and it seems everything goes wrong, you’re blushing, feeling very nervous, you don’t know what do to with your hands and you have a urge to escape – but try to hold on, don’t ever leave situations like this, this will make your SAD just worse.