Deliver Like A Pro On Your Next Zoom Presentation
Do this one thing - and get what you want.
The presenting flow state.
Yes, it’s real.
So real that it doesn’t even seem fair to not know about it.
Guiding the audience, connecting with them, taking them to a better place. To cause real and meaningful movement — actually feeling in control.
You’ve probably seen it.
Imagine the best presenters you’ve seen on Zoom. The pros.
The picture you see in your mind is their flow state. Which doesn’t randomly hit them; it’s purpose driven — and that purpose is to persuade.
Pros aren’t narrating and hoping for the best. They’re doing something. On purpose. For everybody’s own good.
Because amateurs participate. Pros play to win.
Here’s what they understand, the two challenges they overcome, and the structure they use to take control — to get what they want.
What The Pros Know
Whether we present a new idea, sales pitch, marketing plan, event review, inform, training session or anything else — decisions are made.
Like or dislike. Buy or not. Good or bad. Fund or Pivot.
One decision or group of decisions may not result in anything that day. Some do, but usually it’s the sum of the decisions that matter. The direction.
Our presentations either gets us closer to our goals or they don’t.
Even though pros know this, it doesn’t mean they stress about being judged. It just means they see the opportunity. A golden opportunity of attention.
When we hit the join button to start a presentation, our bosses, prospects, learners, teams, peers are on the other end of the camera. Real people waiting for us to give them a real reason to support what we’re saying. To be moved. To benefit from being there.
Pros are grateful for, and take advantage of that opportunity by making that movement happen.
And they do that by operating outside of two mental constraints.
Overcoming Two Challenges
What’s the worst thing imaginable our minds can show us before a virtual presentation?
Probably some version of being so terrible we have a huge setback. Something that puts a dent in our career.
And what’s the easiest way to shelter ourselves? By not doing anything that can be criticized. To try and find some way to feel like we’re in control.
It seems like the best way to avoid criticism would be a list of impressive numbers and bullet points. Carefully picked charts and pictures.
That would be true — if facts were the only things that mattered. Hard research matters but it doesn’t do the moving.
Fear of criticism turns presentations into a monologue. Reading words on a slide. The same words the audience reads while they ignore the presenter.
There’s another reason we fall back on slide reading. Habit.
How many people end up narrating slide bullets because they learned from bosses that did? That number keeps growing exponentially.
In doesn’t matter why. Having fear or the wrong corporate example both lead to the same result. Playing not to lose. Reading slides.
The pros aren’t born immune. They just know each presentation won’t be their best ever — and, more importantly, it doesn’t have to be.
Remember, they see opportunity and take it. The opportunity to persuade and boost their odds. Which is worth it to move closer to our goals.
To wipe out the fear or break free from the habit they use the formula that entertains us in every other part of our lives.
What The Pros Do
"In a narrative or creative writing, a plot is the sequence of events that make up a story, whether it’s told, written, filmed, or sung. The plot is the story, and more specifically, how the story develops, unfolds, and moves in time."
I used to think the gold standard for presentations combined an awesome opening story with a well rehearsed script. My first hits in sales taught me it wasn’t. Quickly.
A story is just an anecdote, and a script doesn’t grab attention any better than reading slides. It just takes longer.
The real magic, the one thing that the pros do and nobody else does is create a plot.
Remember, from Literature or English class?
A plot gives the audience a direction and a destination, allowing us to bring them along. It’s the cause and effect that answers “so what” for the facts or info we have.
It creates a sequence of events designed to focus the attention exactly when and where we want it. And give our points importance. Clear meaning.
Everything grows out of it. Arranging events to develop an idea.
Without a plot, words and images on a slide are cluttered facts. Tiny blips that’ll be drowned out by the rest of the day’s noise. And facts don’t persuade by themselves.
Here’s the formula and the main ingredients — the best and most efficient hour spent preparing for a presentation.
Keeping The Plot
50 minutes to build the plot. 10 minutes to build visuals.
Exposition/Introduction (prep time: 15 minutes)
Create a single, specific, clear point. Let’s call it the killer point. The one thing we’d want the listeners to know or do if we had five seconds before our computer crashed. What they showed up for.
The killer point sets the stage.
Introduce the sequence that creates the map. Our minds like the structure and direction.
That grabs attention, leveraging the benefits of an open and unfinished task in the minds of the listeners.
Write a mystery question. And a statement that commits to solving it later in the presentation.
Example: “I’ll explain three main reasons why the Nimbus 2001 exceeded business plan in the first half of the year. After that, I’ll also explain something the research and numbers haven’t told us about what’s driving adoption — and why we’ll have to revise our expectations up for the second half.”
Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action (prep time: 30 minutes)
Develop 3 headlines. Reasons to believe the killer point, support it or take action on it. Headlines are gold.
Give clues to the mystery while closing the first and second headline. A reward that benefits the audience to continue following, which keeps the open task conscious, and increases the pull of the mystery.
Solve the mystery at the end of the third headline; and create a statement that ties it back to the original mystery question in the intro.
The rising action also builds in our headlines — teasing what comes next. Making what we just said important and holding attention to the next headline.
Create transition phrases. THE most valuable ingredient.
Using transitions, alone, puts any presentation in the top 50% — and that’s being conservative. Not using them leaves the audience lost.
They move us smoothly through headlines (and when moving forward to each slide or visual), holding all the pieces together.
Trust and connection also build each time we complete more of the sequence that was promised in the intro.
Resolution (5 minutes)
Write a statement to close any unresolved issues and summarize the headlines with a reminder of the killer point. Connect the “so whats” to something big such as the company mission, community cause, yearly goals or product strategy. Developing this message elevates the importance and clears the way to smoothly explain what happens next.
Build and design slides to support the plot last. Always. (10 minutes)
Photo by Sebastian Ervi on Unsplash
It doesn’t matter what our work situation is right now. We’ll find ourselves more dependent on virtual presentations.
Which means they’ll either boost our success or set us back.
There’s no shortage of ways to incrementally improve: voice inflection, emotion, pacing, hand gestures, visual design, body language, background. They help. And they’re all worth learning.
But those are the small steps in the long path to become a Jedi master. We can’t possibly put every single tip to work in our next presentation.
What we can do, though, is be a pro. Create and deliver a plot that elevates boring and forgettable — the plot that makes our content the story.
When our plot becomes the story, we grab and channel attention to exactly the the right points. The next opportunity is probably already on the calendar. And this time, instead of waiting for the presentation to end, everyone will be waiting for what’s next.
And we’ll be watching for the connection and their anticipation; leading them through the plot — clear signs of being in the flow state.