7 Visual-Support Tips for Executive Presenters

Success brings with it many challenges, not the least of which is public speaking. Your audience may be customers, your internal team, or … the most daunting … your peers.

If it’s only you and your thoughts, then your approach is clear; engage the audience, shift your focus from individual to individual, and know what you want to say.  Easier said than done,

However, many Executive Presenters require visual support that helps communicate their ideas.  Interacting with this support is fraught with peril; it often causes the speaker to lose focus, slow their pacing, and appear less than prepared … or professional.

Here are 7 tips that Executive Presenters can use to maximize how they interact with visual support.

  • Talk to your audience, not your visuals. Many presenters make the mistake of talking to their slides and losing their connection with the audience. KNOW YOUR SLIDES so that you only need a glance to stay on track. And if you’re using a comfort monitor, don’t stare at that either,
  • Speak to the ideas, don’t read the text. The audience doesn’t need you to read aloud what they can plainly read for themselves. An exception is a lengthy quotation … audiences expect this to be read in full. Reading text from the visuals verbatim makes you appear overly dependent on your slides and undermines your authority on the subject. Talk to the ideas the slide references, rather than the text word for word. A sparse use of text in your visuals will help you accomplish this.
  • Avoid fillers. The next time you’re watching a presentation, notice how many times the presenter transitions to each slide with “Okay” or “So.” Such words are known as “fillers” because they enable the presenter to fill a silence as she gathers her thoughts for what’s next. Fillers quickly become bad habits for presenters and annoying for listeners. Instead of using a filler, simply pause. A pause shows poise, control, and professionalism. Finish your last sentence, take a breath, and set up the next slide. You’ll feel and sound more confident.
  • Set ‘em up. Rather than allow the slide to remind you of your next thought, preview the slide before you show it. For example, “In the next slide you’ll see how we’re going to solve the challenge I’ve just described” or “How did the market respond? Let’s take a look …”. Preparing the audience for what they’re about to see creates anticipation, and makes YOU the authority, not the person you put together the deck. It also provides the audience with context so the slide illustrates your narrative, not the other way around.
  • Interpret. Never assume the audience understands the meaning of your charts and graphs. Neither should you assume they will ask questions when confused … many professionals are wary of asking questions that may cause them to look slow or uniformed. YOU must act as interpreter. “ The blue line means x, the green line is y, and the triangles represent z. Therefore …”.
  • Go to black. When you’re finished discussing a slide, bring the screen to black, or a neutral color. A content-filled screen (that is no longer relevant to your current talking point) can pull audience attention away from you. Remain in control of their attention. As an alternative to black or a neutral color, consider using a neutral placeholder such as a theme graphic or logo.
  • Use flipcharts or white boards strategically. Flipcharts or white boards are good ways to physically draw pictures that capture the audience’s attention, and perhaps, record audience input. Colored pens make visual distinctions between the ideas plain. (Avoid red—it’s difficult to read from a distance). Talk as you write to avoid “dead air;” or if you’re being quiet, make that silence purposeful by punctuating the moment when you’re done writing/drawing. Have an assistant tape each page to the wall as you complete it (for future reference). NOTE: The use of flipcharts or whiteboards have a “roll up our sleeves” feeling to them; it’s better to write quickly than eat up time making it look pretty.

These 7 tactics will enable you to use visual support during your presentations more strategically, and will enable your audience to better connect with you and your ideas. They also position YOU as the gatekeeper of the information you’re delivering … not just the “reader of slides.”