Using An Exhibit For Maximum Presentation Impact
In the Dale Carnegie program, I’ve had the opportunity to coach many individuals on improving their presentation performance for maximum impact. One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen them wrestle with in their presentations is how to handle physical exhibits.
If you’ve seen any of the yearly awards ceremonies, like the Oscars or the Emmy Awards, then you’ve probably seen examples of this because every year at least two people always mishandle the award during their acceptance speech. They will hold it like a teddy bear, they will look at it lovingly, they will continue talking while looking at the award…
I’m sure receiving one of these awards is a humbling experience. However, as a recipient, you are still responsible for engaging the real-live people in your audience who showed up to see you.
Now most of us probably won’t get on TV and receive an award of this magnitude. But we can still practice good presentation skills when we use exhibits in our routines.
5 Guidelines For Using An Exhibit
Here are 5 guidelines we coach Dale Carnegie participants to follow when they use a physical object as a presentation exhibit:
- Pick up your exhibit only when you are ready to use it. I’ve seen many novice speakers hold their exhibit in their hand while they are presenting their ideas and they wave it around like a conductor leading an orchestra. When you are speaking, you want your hands free. Keep your exhibit out of sight, and keep your pens on the table, or in your pocket.
- Hold your exhibit high enough so that everyone can see it. You want everyone in the room to see what you are showing. If you are presenting to a large audience, then you want to hold your exhibit up like the Marvel Avenger Thor raising his hammer, Mjolnir, just before he brings down the thunder. However, if you are presenting to a smaller, more intimate audience, then you can get away with holding it chest level and moving about the room. Keep your actions appropriate to the audience, but you want everyone to see what you are referencing.
- Hold your exhibit so that it doesn’t hide your face. Remember that your presentation is a conversation with a group of people. You don’t want anything between you and your audience disrupting your connection. Avoid putting your exhibit in front of your face. Maintain eye contact with your audience.
- Talk to your audience, not the exhibit. Again, you are having a conversation with your audience. That means you are looking at them, not at your exhibit.
- When you are finished with your exhibit, put it away. Your exhibit is there to augment your presentation. You have it there to underscore a point in your talk. When you have moved on to a new point that doesn’t involve your exhibit, put your exhibit away and out of sight.
Now you may be asking, “How does this apply to me? This looks like it’s only for professional speakers or maybe someone in a Toastmasters club.”
Here’s the deal. Sales reps and sales engineers use exhibits all the time when they demo their product in front of a group. Tech support reps, trainers, and educators use exhibits all the time when they show their customers how to use the company’s products. And if you are in marketing and sales, you will have many opportunities to educate and demonstrate your company’s products and services using exhibits. This includes using a PowerPoint type slide deck.
PowerPoint Presentation Tips
“Wait a minute. We use PowerPoint for our presentations. How does this apply to us” you might ask.
These same guidelines apply to PowerPoint presentations with a few adjustments:
- Pick up your exhibit only when you are going to use it. Your laptop has the ability to blank the screen when you aren’t talking about a particular slide in your PowerPoint slide deck. If you don’t need it, blank it out and let the audience focus on you.
- Hold your exhibit high enough so that everyone can see it. When you project your slide deck, make sure to project it high enough on the screen so that everyone in the room can easily see it.
- Hold your exhibit so that it doesn’t hide your face. Here, you want to stand off to the side of the projection path. Too often I’ve seen presenters act like they’re on one of those high-tech sci-fi movies where the computer screen projects complex equations on the actor’s face. In professional speaking parlance, that’s called a distraction. You don’t want that. You want to remain the center of your audience’s attention. Project your presentation on the screen, not your face.
- Talk to your audience, not the exhibit. A common mistake I’ve seen novice presenters make involves filling their slides with lots of words. Then they read those words back to their audience. First, your slides should be visually oriented. After all, these are visual devices you are using. However, regardless if you have your slides filled with words or pictures, you do not want to spend the time you share with your audience reading text or looking at pictures on the screen. Remember, always have a conversation with your audience. Let the images on the slide, and the words if any, support your message. Keep your eyes on your audience, not on the screen.
- When you are finished with your exhibit, put it away. As mentioned before, when you are finished making your point, put your exhibit aside. Blank your computer screen or move on to the next slide. Keep the audience’s attention on you and your message.
As I pointed out in the Speaking Mastery email course, you are the message. Everything else, from the clothes you wear to the exhibits you use, needs to support that message, not compete with it. Use these guidelines in your next presentation to leverage all your resources and you will make a real impact on your audience.
Until next time, speak well!
If you are looking to enhance your presentation skills in preparation for a Youtube video, a speaking gig for a small group, or a webinar, download my latest ebook, Maximum Impact and pick up some communication tactics to enhance your presentation.