Prior to 2012, the only presentations I had done were at school and university, and these hadn’t all gone to plan. At school I had got by on a loose understanding of the topic and an exceptional ability to utterly bewilder everyone present with graphics, transitions and music which wouldn’t be out of place at a London DJ set. When you posses this level of talent, the accuracy of content becomes almost irrelevant until you reach the point where you don’t need any content at all, and can simply dramatise your way through 20 title slides.
At university where points are no longer awarded for spelling the presenters names correctly, content becomes key and more often than not, this lead to my downfall. My presentations gradually worsened through university, firstly through a lack of complete understanding (which is critical for good presentations), and secondly though the lack of excitement. The drill would usually be a regimented case of spending the night before the presentation feeling a touch of sickness, followed the next morning by a stomach churning breakfast and further sickness. This would be amplified when sitting in the lecture hall for an hour waiting for other presentations to end, and then finally, the stage would be mine and I would have to recite for an hour on the wonders of supraspinal fatigue. The absence of excitement was clear to see, as transitions from slide to slide were no longer accompanied by the classic “fly-in” and suitably chosen entrance music, but instead, silence as I waited for the next slide to load, hoping this next slide wouldn’t be the one where the lecturer delivered a credibility ending question.
In slight desperation, I attended a lecture (a rare event), on giving lectures. This was a clear paradox given the dull content of the lecture, but the lecturer did a good job of putting across the information. And so it was around this time that I realised why I had begun to struggle with presenting. The reason for my poor performances were that the key rules of presenting were broken each time. These rules are simple: firstly a complete knowledge of content, and secondly (and most importantly) an interest for the topic with an excitement to deliver to others.
If you’re not a lecturer or a regular public speaker, the opportunity of speaking to others should be relished because in all reality, it isn’t all that often that you are presented with an audience who have all, or at least some, of their attention directed to you and what you are about to say. So it helps if you enjoy the process.
To do this, you need to enjoy the topic, and when you find a topic you are really passionate about, you will find you could talk and talk for hours, effortlessly, in front of any audience who would give you the time.
And so with this in mind, I started delivering presentations after my Everest expedition, and each time, I have satisfied both rules. I am passionate about what I am talking about, and I know my content – clearly there is no one better to talk about one’s own experiences than the person whom has lived through them.
I started off in 2012 giving a presentation to the board of directors at Yell Group/hibu, and subsequently at the Royal Society of Arts in London. These were all great learning curves, and each time I found I could speak endlessly about a thousand nuances of Everest and the Himalayas. All of a sudden however in early 2014, I upped it a couple of notches as I flew out to Prague to deliver a presentation to SES, one of the world’s biggest satellite companies, for their European Customer Conference. Clearly this was a prestigious event, and the planning of my talk alone took the best part of 4 months to get right. And this single presentation has now set the precedent for me and how I deliver my talks, which combine my experiences from the Himalayas and crucially my current experience in pioneering technology within the oil and gas industry; something which sets them apart from the standard motivational speeches of some guy up a mountain hoping to inspire the next generation of KwikFitters through the loose metaphor of the Everest Yaks not needing Michelin tyres but still a regular service.
One of my most recent presentations helped me to fulfil a dream I have had ever since I created those animated masterpiece presentations for my Geography GCSE back in 2006. This was to present at the Royal Geographical Society in London which I had the privilege of doing for Digital Doughnut and Communitize at the end of 2014. It was a huge privilege and honour to present on the same stage where many of the world’s most famous achievers have previously delivered stunning tales of ambition, success and failure.
This was such a departure from the rigid lecture-like presentation which used to haunt me every quarter through my university years, and it has now become something of a pleasure rather than a chore, which I hope serves as some comfort to those who have struggled and continue to struggle through mundane presentations with the single desire to end what will be 45 minutes of suffering for everyone involved as soon as humanly practical. With this in mind, find great content, don’t be afraid to ‘jazz it up’, and truly enjoy what you do. You’ll then be the one being dragged off the stage when you’ve gone overtime, rather than looking for the highest part of the stage to jump off to end the misery.
I now have a small team at Pro-Motivate looking after me and my presentations and helping me to ‘jazz them up’, and so if you or your team are looking for some metaphorical and literal motivation at an event of your choosing, be sure to head to the contact page to let us know!