We’ve all seen the million and one ‘tips for the ultimate presentation’ tosh that is floating around the internet, right? It’s not tips we’re short of, as presenters… it’s, well it’s lots of things but I’m going to stick to just one for this blog. (Google says there are 579million pages you could look at – although as the very first on (on my search) contains a factual error, there’s a problem with taking presentation tips at face value!)
What we’re missing isn’t “presentation tips” it’s a structure for those tips. We need a way to look at our presentations and see which tips we need to take notice of.
Introducing the simple (yet brilliant!) MAT model for making presentations. It’s about as simple as you can get.
What things does an effective presentation need?
Better presentations tend to have elements that makes them have three features. The features of a better presentation is that its content and delivery is:
Let’s take them one at a time, for a bit of simplicity.
Let’s start with the obvious! Your audience can’t act on your presentation unless they can remember the contents. The question is how to deliver your presentations in such as way as to fix them in your audience’s heads. (It’s a topic I’ve touched on in lots of places, but particularly here, when I talk about compromising on how slick your presentation looks to make it more memorable.)
There are a number of ways to do this, of course, but there are a few of the most obvious and easy to implement:
- use patterns for your content whenever you can. Don’t just give a list but give people a list that makes and acronym, for example. It’s cheesy but it works. Audience remember patterns more than random facts
- create an emotional engagement. People can’t remember what they don’t care about. You need to give them a reason to be interested – and you need to do that at the start of your presentation so they know to pay attention rather than at the end when they suddenly realise they should have paid attention
- repeat things. Repetition might be boring and it might look uncool but it helps fix things in your audience’s heads.
There are more, of course, but I’m not trying to show you the ‘tips’ in this post, just to give you the MATs framework.
Actionable here, means that your audience can take action based on what you’ve told them in your presentation. Pretty obvious, right?
Of course, defining the actions you want from your presentation isn’t as easy as it sounds but the truth of the matter is that most presenters simple try and make a presentation ‘about’ something with no thought at all to what actions should follow from it – and if they do, they don’t consider the things they can do to make their audience more likely to apply the presentation’s contents… in other words, to make it easy to act on.
Here are a few of the most simple and obvious:
- Keep it simple. Unlike the saying “too much is not enough” the truth is that too much is too much. Even a medium amount is often too much. The less information your presentation has, the better your chances that your audience will remember it. In particular you need (not should, need!) cut out all the extraneous content that’s included just to make you look good (but see Trustworthy)
- use smaller chunks of information. As an expert you’re used to handling the information in your presentation but as it’s all new to the audience giving them instructions in big chunks means they get overwhelmed and don’t do any of your actions.
- C2A. Have a simple, clear, blatant and obvious Call To Action at the end of your presentation. The last slide or so (or whatever) should tell people what they should do next. Don’t be subtle. If your presentation has been good enough so far this will tip them over the edge into taking action
This is the big one in some ways and it splits into two parts:
- the moral question of whether what you’re saying should be trusted – that’s things like whether or not your presentation is true; if you’ve checked your facts; if you’re sneaking in your opinion without realising you’re stating it as a fact; even if you’re just downright mistaken in your content!
- the practical question of how to make your presentation be more trusted by your audience – these are more technical questions.
The first bit is something I’ve looked at elsewhere (in part), so here I’ll just concentrate on the tools. Here are a few of the most obvious and easy to think about…
- speaker slower than you think you need to. In the jargon, you want a ‘rooted’ voice. Rooted voices are based in your chest and gut, not your head or throat and sound like you at your most relaxed and sincere.
- move less. Sure, moving around the stage helps keep the energy of your presentation high, but it makes you look less authoritative.
I’ve looked a bit more gaining authority by moving less; and also about the scale of being liked vs being authoritative in your presentations.
The MAT presentation model in full
So here it is, in full colour glory… the MAT presentation model.
It’s not perfect but it’s a fantastic framework for getting better presentations – that is, presentations which actually work, because they’re Memorable, Actionable and Trustworthy.
How can you use the MAT model in your presentations?
Off the top of my head I can think of two ways.
Planning your presentation
Good presentations are made in the planning stage. Bad delivery can screw things up, but good delivery can’t save bad planning and content. So the MAT model is the obvious way forward here.
Before you start, ask yourself what you want your audience’s action(s) to be at the end of your presentation. Without that you’re just driving along a road to nowhere.
- how can you make sure you and your content are as trustworthy as possible? Are you sure your content is worth trusting? (All of us say ‘yes’ but how many of us check?!)
- what can you do to make your presentation more memorable? Stories? Patterns? Handouts?
- how can you make it easier for your audience to act on your content when your presentation is over?
Reviewing your presentation
When you look back at your presentation after you’ve delivered it, you’re bound to feel it didn’t go as well as it could. No presentation ever does, it’s just a fact of life.
So what do you do? Using the MAT model what you’d do is ask yourself a series of questions in a semi-structured way.
- was it how memorable my presentation was that let it down? If so, how can I beef up what audiences remember?
- did people remember the presentation but not act on it? If that’s the case, what can I do to make it easier for audiences to take action?
- was I (as the presenter) not trustworthy? Or was my content not trustworthy? Either way, how can I improve for the next presentation?
It’s not difficult, you just need to sit down and think about it.
You might notice that the two columns are almost the same! That’s not a co-incidence. Better presentations are a result of iteratively asking yourself the same things and making an improvement each time. It’s not rocket science. (Of course, you might want to consider asking a pro for some help if it’s not working as fast as you want…)