Why No One Wants to Go to Your Meeting

By following a few, simple and effective PowerPoint tricks, you can overcome your fear of public speaking and make an even dry topic worth remembering. #Powerpoint #meetings #presentations #business

Reviewing The Challenges.

So many of you didn’t want to be in this position, but the meeting is a core function of any business, and cannot be avoided. This is an opportunity for you to shine. This may also be an opportunity for you to discover where your strengths aren’t. The latter is not necessarily a bad thing. If time is indeed money in a capitalist society, then making yourself aware of areas for improvement and making the best of said time can only be a win-win when executed properly.

75% of people have glossophobia.

Rosemary Black, for Psycom.net

Part of this is due to glossophobia, which is the fear of public speaking. If you are already anxious about leading a meeting, know that this is a very common disorder, affecting up to 75% of the population. Also understand your presentation materials will also be similarly impacted, and not positively. You may wish to bury your nervousness with a bunch of data and charts in the hope that no one notices that you are incredibly uncomfortable the entire time. Your meetings end up being confusing in parts and end up to seemingly drag on endlessly.

Regardless of your fear of speaking in public, your job may entail you disseminating important legal requirements to your fellow employees.

Why This Is Important.

That public speaking course you took in college was like all of your other coursework: it is meant as only a foundation and starting point, not the be-all, end- all. You might be working on something truly important either because it impacts the bottom line or is required by a local, state or federal statute.

Guess what? You literally don’t have to be a rocket scientist to speak about Radiation Safety.

In today’s example, here are five things you can do to not only improve your meeting, maintain maximum retention, allow others to learn more outside the meeting, free your time to perform other work and do the seemingly impossible: create the well-paced, high impact and short business meeting. We are using a PowerPoint presentation about a seemingly dry topic, Radiation Safety training. Mind you, my degree is in Mass Communications with a minor in Visual Communications, not in a scientific discipline. The previous training from the vendor on this subject ran over an hour. Mine took less than 30 minutes.

Tip #1: PowerPoint is a Visual Medium.

This may seem like a no brainer, correct? In fact, for any generation after the Baby Boomers, these people, for better or for worse, have always had some type of visual information in their lives: films, television, computers, cellular phones, etc. So why on Earth would ANYONE want to load the slide with so much information that it looks like a a dictionary threw up onscreen?

In this example, I had to discuss the different types of radiation, a legal requirement. This topic alone could fill several books, but I chose to keep the text to a minimum and use a visual aide to relate this very technical part of the presentation.

There is an old saying in communication: Use the K.I.S.S. method. It means “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. Sadly, because it is rarely discussed anymore, I can’t call anyone stupid for something they didn’t know. What you can do in lieu of an overly-wordy presentation slide: use handouts, particularly meeting notes, which you can generate in PowerPoint with ease. This will give attendees an opportunity for later research when time better allows.

Meeting notes can be distributed to your attendees before or after the meeting to allow them a more in-depth review of your presentation.

Tip #2: Ease Eye Strain and Use Artwork Effectively.

In this presentation, I chose to use a blue background. Why? It is not as glaring a white or a brighter color. It also allowed me to keep the lights on to an acceptable level, since there was an open book test with this presentation.

Another slide that could have been a whole book. By using complimentary colors and simple images on the right to reinforce the text on the left gave this slide more retention.

There are few things worse that attempting to read a chart onscreen where all the text is too small for legibility and cause the attendee to lose focus of what you are speaking about.

Tip #3: Practice And Structure Your Presentation.

Isn’t it always obvious when someone who seemingly appears to be an expert at a given subject is somehow at a loss to keep information organized? It isn’t just awkward, it casts doubt on ability and credibility.

What seems like a no-brainer again gives weight to the attendees that you actually spent time and effort on this, and that it is worth their time.

After my initial completion of some long and seemingly never-ending certification on Radiation Safety, I knew I didn’t want anyone else to be subjected to what I had to go through, especially given that it would have used too much valuable production time.

Simple things made a difference. As I was going through the slides, I actually pointed out that we were entering new sections by the changing of the icon in the upper-right hand corner. Helping me along were actual state and federal regulations on what I had to cover, so I mentioned what they were here and tailored my presentation to fall within those parameters.

As I went into each section, I laid out, in order, what was to be covered. This went through several transformations for flow.

Tip #4: Know Your Subject and Be Honest When You Don’t.

As I mentioned prior, I actually had to learn and relearn a great deal of what I had forgotten from college chemistry and biology. I am not going to lie to you, some of it was a dull as all get out. I did remember to take notes on potential questions the attendees might ask, and one was “What does rate of decay mean?” I knew this attendee was being snarky and hoping to trip me up, as I have seen him do in other meetings. (Don’t we all love these kinds of co-workers?)

I was able to use a digital board to answer and illustrate the question “What is the rate of decay?”

Response: “This is commonly called half-life. Using the first quadrant of the Cartesian plane, since we are only talking about three-dimensional, real world objects, the X-axis represents the amount of material and the Y-axis represents time. This was first theorized by British physicist Rutherford in 1907, and is often, at its most simple, represented by the equation t1/2.”

There were no more questions on the subject. It pays to be prepared.

Tip #5: Lighten Up.

Even with heavy subject material, there is always an opportunity for everyone to breathe once in a while, and sometimes appropriately laugh. This doesn’t mean that every presentation has to be Saturday Night Live, but it doesn’t have to be Criminal Minds, either.

Radiation Safety training, by and large, is a terribly dry subject, even to people like myself who have always been fascinated with science and its applications. So, when I was discussing what I was working on with those associates who would be attending, I decided to have a little fun.

This presentation, to the best of my knowledge, is the only one is of its type in history to use flying bats as an example.

“Hey! I am working on the new in-house Radiation Safety training. You’ll be there, right?”
“Yes. By the way, how’s it going?”
“Oh, it’s going to be epic. There are even X-Ray flying laser bats.”
“Didn’t they have that in the previous training?”
“Uh, no, but that sounds cool!”
“Bats are inherently cool.”

The after pic. I could have used any animal, I gather, but bats are inherently cool.

Your Takeaway.

This simple post of course can’t cover everything I know in detail gleaned from decades of experience. However, if you are stuck in a rut or in a bind on how to proceed to make your next presentation sparkle, use this as a starting point.

Bonus Tip: Bribe the Attendees.

For anyone who knows me, you know I love to bake and cook. I will often bribe the attendees with home made goodies or offer a home cooked meal for lunch. Trust me, people love home cooked food, and often, I find that vibe is much more pleasant when using a positive conditioned response. Some people might call this cheating, but I do what it takes to get the job done as long as nobody gets hurt.

No shame in this game: vanilla muffins, with dried cherries and pecans.

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr.

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