Presenting at the Wisconsin Salesforce User Group

How to Give the Best Presentation Ever!

Andy Schmiechen
Aug 8, 2017 · 6 min read

With Dreamforce 17 speakers just announced, now is a great time to talk about how to deliver audience grabbing presentations.

As a Solution Engineer for Salesforce, I spend a lot of time presenting to customers. Capturing the customer’s imagination and holding their attention are the goals for each delivery. This year, I have the unique joy of coaching Dreamforce presenters.

Public speaking is always one of the top ranked fears for adults. But it doesn’t have to be. Rid yourself of the fear and anxiety by reading through these tips for giving your best presentation ever.

The Valley of Despair

Studies have shown that we humans give somewhere around 85% of our attention to the first 5 minutes of a presentation. From there, our attention span drops pretty dramatically. Our attention peaks near 100% during the last five minutes. The space in between those peaks, we call the Valley of Despair. The goal of a presenter is to stay out of the valley, keeping the audience interest level up. Here are my tips for doing that.

Tell a Story

Have you ever seen a presentation from Salesforce? You probably noticed that we love to tell stories. Public speaking is a huge part of what we do, we even created a badge for it on Trailhead. Stories are excellent ways to capture your audience’s attention and make a memorable impression. People relate to stories, internalize the information, and remember your message.

Creating a compelling story:

  1. Compose your story with four parts: the subject (your hero), the problem/challenge they face, the solution and the victory.
  2. Make your story personal. It’s a good story if it’s about a co-worker or customer, and it’s a great story if it’s about you.
  3. Use props, funny hats, costumes, and other visuals. Really. The more visual the story, the more likely someone will remember it. Salesforce MVP, Kelly Leslie, once dressed up as a skunk in a kick off meeting to highlight how bad a current implementation was and how she was going to make it so much better. Parker Harris even dresses as Lightning Man.
Salesforce Co-Founder & CTO, Parker Harris dressed as Lightning Man in the Dreamforce 15 Keynote

Slides are Boring

Before PowerPoint, presenters used something called Visual Aids, key word being aids. When PowerPoint came along, suddenly presenters started writing out word for word what they want to say. Don’t do that.

Here are my PowerPoint tips that keep the audience engaged:

  1. Use slides to provide a visual impact on what you are saying. Words on the screen are distracting to your verbal message; use a singular image that emphasis your talk track.
  2. Leave space in the bottom-third of the screen. Don’t put any important information down there because nobody in the back can see it.
  3. Skip putting Excel sheets in your slides. Instead, use big impactful numbers to highlight data points. If you need to pour through data in your presentation, like a breakdown of last year’s sales, use printed handouts for detailed discussion.
  4. Use blank, black screens to focus the audience’s attention back to you as the speaker.
Big impactful graphics & numbers; nothing important lower third of the slide.

Go Analog — Whiteboard

Capture your audience’s attention by dropping out of the slides and going back to hand drawing. “BUT I CAN’T DRAW!”, you say. Bull. Everyone can make lines, triangles, circles and squares. Combine them to make simple figures. Don’t worry about being Picasso.

My amazing yet simple shape drawings

Here are some other tips for a smashing white board session:

  1. Stop speaking while drawing to draw attention to you. Don’t pause longer than 8 seconds, though, or someone in your audience is bound to starting checking their Twitter feed.
  2. Face the audience when speaking, whiteboards don’t have ears. Stand to the side and point as you explain your drawing.
  3. Use multiple colors. Red is often associated with bad. Green associated with money/good. Blue tends to stand out well.
  4. Make use of drawing tools on your laptop or tablet when presenting to a big audience, like at Dreamforce, where a whiteboard could be too small, or when presenting remotely.

Go Interactive

Entice your audience through direct engagement with your presentation. Even when only a few people are involved, the whole audience tends to listen up; thinking they could be next to participate. Here are some of my favorite ways to do involve the audience.

  1. Ask a few attendees their expectations for the session. List these on a whiteboard. Hit the expectations as part of your talk track, and use it to review as part of your conclusion. If you didn’t cover something, no problem. Just say you’d love to connect afterward to talk more.
  2. Select a few members of the audience to act out your story. Benjamin Bolopue did an amazing job with this in his Dreamforce 16 presentation “Requirements Drive Processes. Processes Drive Solutions.” Five people on stage, helped drive home the message to the audience.
  3. Gamify your message making it a competition for prizes and swag! One of my favorite apps to use is Kahoot! This app allows you to create a multiple choice question game. Turning your message into a game solidifies key points in your audience’s memory.
Presenting Spring17 as a Kahoot Game

Get to the Demo

Nothing is going to draw your audience in like going to the demo; showing the Salesforce interface, declarative development or actual code. Be careful not to overwhelm your audience. To rock your demo:

  1. Map your demo directly to business needs. Identify which goals your solution meets and the people/roles it affects.
  2. Personify your demo talk track with the roles you identified above. For example, “It’s Monday morning, and I’m logging in as Katie to check service requests.”
  3. Zoom in to highlight areas of the demo. Nothing can loose an audience quicker than looking at a list view in 12-point font with 10 columns and 100 lines.

Be Prepared

Finally make sure that you practice, practice, practice. The audience will clearly be able to tell if you just wing it. If you stumble, loose your place, the audience will grow impatient, and quickly move back to their Twitter feed as you head down the Valley of Despair. Tips for successful preparation:

  1. Ask friends and co-workers to be a speaker coach. Don’t consider coaching as a formality to getting to the stage, carefully consider their advice
  2. Memorize your talk track. Be prepared for interruptions, as smaller settings might have questions come up, or others chiming in to emphasize your points.
  3. Practice in front of an audience. If you’re selected to speak at a big event, consider warming up your content at a smaller event, such as a User Group Meeting, gathering feedback prior to the big day.

Bringing it all Together

Your goal as a presenter is to keep your audience out of the Valley of Despair and help them retain your message. Using a variety of engagement techniques you can keep your audience engaged and deliver a message they’ll remember tomorrow.

Learn even more about giving great presentations with Trailhead, the fun way to learn Salesforce. Check out the Public Speaking Skills module which part of the Get Ready for Dreamforce trail to continue brushing up for your next big presentation.

The Trailblazer

Blaze your trail to a top job by skilling up with Trailhead. Discover how Trailhead brings the Trailblazer spirit to everything we do by putting YOU at the center of learning.

Andy Schmiechen

Written by

3x Certified Senior Solution Engineer @Salesforce, @WI_SF_Saturday Co-Leader; former User Group Leader. Elected Public Servant. All words are my own.

The Trailblazer

Blaze your trail to a top job by skilling up with Trailhead. Discover how Trailhead brings the Trailblazer spirit to everything we do by putting YOU at the center of learning.

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