Of our five senses, we rely predominantly on our eyes for information – in fact research reveals that the eyes give us as much as 87% of our information. It follows then that the visual information we give out has an overriding impact on the success of any presentation. This is why practice is never complete until a presentation is fully rehearsed in front of a mirror – and it’s a good idea to do this more than once. An alternative preferred by some is to use a camcorder so that you can play it back and evaluate yourself.
Your audience will judge you on your slides – particularly if they are poor, but far more significantly, they will be looking at you – your movements, confidence and mannerisms. A rehearsal in front of a mirror lets you see how you’re doing in real time, and it doesn’t lie. By video taping yourself (good idea to mount your camcorder on a tripod) you can play the recording back, even rewind if necessary and correct the irritators that could turn your audience off. Using these aids you can experiment by mixing your gestures and then see how they come across and what works best.
It is worth noting that although people come to absorb your content which has to be good, decisions are instinctively influenced by visually sourced information. In fact, no matter how good your content, visual information can make or break the decision – particularly if the content was not totally convincing.
In research conducted by Time magazine during the 1984 Democratic nomination race for the US Presidency between Gary Hart and Walter Mondale, I read some interesting statistics. Of over 700 democratic voters polled all but 11% could clearly identify their preferred candidate. When asked to identify just one issue that separated the two candidates, only 9% could do so. I’ve often thought about this, and how much the same principle applied to subsequent Presidential contests – and indeed business presentations.
Clearly image is a significant factor in decision making. Your attire and style should be appropriate for the context of the event and the audience you’ll be addressing. Your movements, or lack of them will either draw people towards you, or repel them. It is best therefore to allocate enough time for rehearsing the body language aspect of your presentation – especially since the visual element plays such a relevant role in influencing decisions.
Lastly, it’s better to have no slides than substandard ones. In essence, if you’re going to use slides, learn how to make good ones!