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12 Helpful Tips for Giving More Engaging and Effective Presentations

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

In episode 9 of Think Big, I share some of the key things I have learnt about giving more engaging and effective presentations. I take ideas from my previous guests Steven Rubio, Saneia Norton and Vanessa Paisley to put together 12 things that stood out to me as being important. It's not an exhaustive list but some of my keys learnings. I also share some examples of language you might use in a presentation to hook the audience as well as signposting to keep the presentation moving along.

I discuss:

✨ My top 12 tips

✨ The language we might use to hook an audience

✨ The language of signposting to guide the audience through your presentation

Books & Resources

🎥 Archimarathon Critical Thinking in Architecture 📚 Articulating design decisions, Tom Greever

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull

✨ Extended Show Notes and Full Transcript:

Have a presentation coming up and want to feel prepared?

Download the free Ultimate Presentation Checklist to help you prepare for your next presentation. Take me to the Ultimate Presentation Guide


Table of Contents Books and Resources


Transcript Images of Expressions


synergy - the interaction of two things together

tweaks - small changes

pre-empt - take action in order to prevent (an anticipated event) happening;


meet in the middle - to agree


Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to think big episode nine.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:12

Hello big thinkers and welcome to episode nine of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host Tara Cull, landscape architect, English teacher and communication coach for ArchiEnglish. I coach people in the built design profession who speak English as a second language to build outstanding communication skills and feel more confident to speak up. You can learn more about my coaching programmes and upcoming courses, and In this presentation skills podcast episode, I'm going to give you 12 helpful tips that you will be able to use to prepare for your presentations to make them more effective. This will be great for you if you're doing architecture presentations, either at uni or in your job design presentations with clients or any other kinds of presentations where you have to explain or articulate your ideas to somebody. I've gathered all these great tips that I had from my two previous podcast guests. So Saneia Norton, and Steven Rubio. And I've put them together in this list to help you. Now this podcast episode is also sponsored by a free download that I've created the ultimate presentation checklist. And you'll find a link to download this in the show notes. So if you've got a presentation coming up, you can use it to help you or to remind you of the key things that it's important to remember. And then finally, at the end of the episode, I'm going to share some examples of language that you might use to hook your audience and also keep the presentation going using signposting language to make it more engaging. If you listen to episode eight with Saneia Norton, you'll remember she talked about how some of her podcast guests on Dig Beneath Design, really thought about the hook. And they realised that this was the most important aspect of any presentation to really engage your audience very quickly, and to keep them engaged throughout the presentation. So I'm going to talk about some of those examples and how you can do that. So as always, you'll find the transcript to the episode on the blog post linked in the show notes. So let's dive straight in to the tips. When I first start working with somebody, or when I'm teaching in university, I like to share the work of Simon Sinek and his TED Talk, how great leaders inspire action, and also his book, start with y. If you haven't already seen the TED talk, I'll link it in the show notes. But essentially, what he talks about is the Golden Circle. So most people when they're communicating, they start with explaining what something is, how it works, and why it's important. However, Simon Sinek, through his work and his analysis of companies and why they're successful, like apple, say that they do it the other way round. So they talk about why first, and then what and how afterwards. So it's really, it's essential for me, I think, to talk about why it's important to know what you valued to begin with, before we communicate anything, if we don't feel connected to why we are doing it, then it makes it a lot harder to articulate your words, with the passion and inspiration that comes across in your unique way. Now I spoke about why it's important to understand your values in Episode Two. And I think it's important if you want to be a great communicator, to continue to delve deeper and deeper into what you value to really unearth what truly makes you tick. So to unearth means to reveal. So in addition to this, when you're doing a presentation, you need to know who is your audience? And what do they value. It's not just the physical Who is your physical audience. It's much deeper than that. So one thing that I suggest often to people is to on a piece of paper or notebook, write down on one side of the paper, what you value. So it might be words or sentences that help you to articulate what you value. And then on the other side, write down what it is that your audience values. And where can you see the overlaps? Or where can you create more of the overlaps in the book articulating design decisions by Tom griever, which was an amazing recommendation by Saneia Norton.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 04:50

I saw it in a story on my first architecture job, and I contacted her straightaway saying this is a great book. I've been listening to it on the audio book. And it's something that I think I will definitely go back to over and over. So in the book, he discusses creating an audience with a, when you're thinking about your audience, to create a stakeholder avatar or an audience avatar. Now if you've done any type of marketing in architecture practice, you might already know a little bit about what it means to create an ideal client. So it's, you're trying to make sure that your message resonates. So how do you do that? How do you actually make a stakeholder avatar or a presentation avatar? Well, the simplest way is to draw a stick figure in the middle of a piece of paper, and then divide the paper into four quadrants or four squares around that avatar. Now obviously, when you're doing a presentation, you can't appeal to every different person in the audience, that's impossible, and you're not really going to know everything about the person in the audience. However, if you try and create an avatar for the type of person, that you want to connect with the most in the audience, then you've got a good chance of being able to connect to them, and for things to resonate for them. So when you have these four quadrants, you put these four headings in each of the quadrants. What do they do? What do they think or feel? What do they see? And what do they hear? now doing this can help you to better understand the audience and how you can connect your values to theirs. Now you can see an example of this in the download from today's episode. So looking at what are some of the things that you might say about what your ideal client or your ideal audience member is thinking about? I believe that when you lead with your why, in everything you do, it can help you to feel more connected to your message, to your words to your ideas, as well as the people with whom you're speaking. So even if English is your second language, I think it's really important, even more so to do an exercise a values exercise to know what is really important to you. And it can be especially important when you're applying for jobs, discussing ideas and opinions, presentations, and also in the progression of your career. And it also helps for people to connect to you, because they know who you are. And when you begin your presentation with why you could begin in many ways by articulating what you're passionate about why the topic is important, how it's connected to your audience and their life. And of course, you're also trying to make sure that you connect to the audience. Tip number two is to prepare notes. And don't be afraid to use them if you want or you need to. So in episode eight, Cynthia talked about how often people want to be able to deliver their presentations, without notes. So off the cuff, or without present or without preparation at all. A lot of us think that we should be perfect and present without notes, but good presentations for me and not necessarily about who can remember the most off the top of their head. It's about knowing how you can connect with the audience, connect with your message, and how you can do that through your choice of language, choice of words, eye contact, and body language. I think the most essential point is that when English is your second language, and you're not necessarily feeling as confident if notes are going to help you to connect to your message, connect to your audience, and you feel more prepared then I think having your notes is okay. And if it's preferred if it's going to make your delivery much better and come across in a more confident way. And it also means that you can make notes of the key language that you need and any signposting examples. So I will go into more detail about this at the end of the episode how you can use signposting language. It's also worth practising in front of a mirror or recording your video so that you can see what your presentation looks like. But don't just be so critical that you say it's terrible. Give yourself some credit. So what are the things that you do well, and maybe what are some of the things you want to improve for next time? You might be surprised at how well you do. And I know that with all of the zoom calls that I've been doing, and recording lately that I've even taken on some of my own constructive feedback as to how I can improve my body language. Tip number three is to prepare your visuals and verbal presentation at the same time.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:47

So a common thing I often see is leaving that verbal aspect of the presentation to the last minute. And I know that when you're working as a student and you're trying to get your presentation boards finished before you're present Patience, or you're working in an office and you're trying to get everything finished before the client meeting, it can be stressful. But if you can try and do them alongside each other so that you'll have more synergy between the verbal and the visual, because you can often make different decisions about how you will present the visuals based on what the verbal part of the presentation is telling you. If you've thought more clearly about it. Now that thinking about what you're going to say might just be making a storyboard or making sure you know exactly what the key points are. If you have good visuals, and you can't communicate them, well, you can really let your concept down. And I've seen this time and time again, in student presentations, and even presentations with big companies and who are presenting to big developers. So know how those visuals will communicate the message. And then in Episode Seven, Stephen suggested, get to know more about design principles, and how they will help to convert your message in a stronger way. So how can you use colour to stand out? How can you use hierarchy in a better way, don't just assume that people will understand your visuals. As the scenario was talking we talking about we use, really, we have really complex drawings and complex ways of communicating ideas. And people who are watching your presentation don't have the same amount of time to get into it. So it's important that we think about the audience, we think about how we can connect the visual to the verbal and how it's going to relate to each other. So you can do things like creating your templates, obviously, a lot of practices, they'll have templates for presentations. But then also take that one step further and analyse how your template actually makes that synergy between the visual and the verbal better, and how could you do it better? Or what tweaks what small changes could you make for next time, if you're doing your presentation, your slide presentation, what templates work well for you, and which ones could be better? Tip number four is definitely my favourite tip. And I think it's the most important, and it's don't apologise for your level of English, or don't apologise. When you apologise for your English for saying that you're not good at something, or that you don't feel like you're as good as your colleagues, then it automatically takes away your authority, and people start believing that you're not as good. So instead of starting with, I'm sorry, for my level of English, start with a positive statement and explain why you're passionate about what you're doing or why you think you're qualified to speak on the topic. For instance, you might say, I've been working in this field for over 10 years. And I'm really passionate about this, for example. So instead of saying sorry, because I don't know everything about it, tell people why you're there. And what's important for you. Remember, improvements are incremental. So each time you do a presentation, acknowledge what you've achieved as a presenter, and then take away that key learning into the next one. Please don't apologise for your level of English, please don't apologise for your accent, you come to a presentation, you do the presentation with what you have now. And of course, if you're working on it, then you're doing your best to continue to work on it. Your accent is who you are, as well. So the most important thing is to just get the message across and connect with your audience. So that's why I was saying previously if notes are going to help you to connect to who you are, and to the audience, then use notes to help you. And little by little, perhaps you take those notes away. Tip number five is to know your style. So when I say know your style, look for speakers who inspire you. Analyse and write down all the things that they do that resonates with you. What language do they use? How do they interact with the visuals? What do they say? What's their body language look like? When do they say certain things? And what's their tone? What are they showing on the screen when

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 14:12

they're presenting their visuals? culturally, and this is what I spoke about with Vanessa Paisley in Episode Five, culturally we all present differently to so in English, we like to structure the presentations in a very explicit way. So we'll explain what we're going to talk about how we're going to talk about it, and then we summarise it at the end. But other cultures do it differently. So I think the important thing is, is to know what sort of style suits you what style suits the culture that you're presenting in, and how can you meet in the middle? How can you make sure that you're still connecting with your audience, but also being yourself? So I think the best way for me to do that, or for anyone to do that is to look for speakers that inspire you, and that you feel connected to, and start to think about what are some of the ways that they present. The more you do this, the closer you're going to become to know what your style is, and what your preferred way of presenting is, is to use your presentation as a conversation. Now, the presentation is not about you, but it's also about the audience. So the presentation should be designed to create some form of exchange of knowledge and understanding. So you don't want to just speak at them. Try engaging with them in some kind of way. And this way of engaging with them doesn't have to be in a way that you find difficult or you're not comfortable with. So perhaps you might show images, or maybe you might share some aspects of your personal story. Or maybe you might ask rhetorical questions, you might do a poll, if you're presenting online, you could do a digital poll, or get them to show their hands when you ask them a question. Or you could get them to ask the person next to them a question or tell them something. There are so many different ways that you can create some form of conversation with your audience. So think about what are the ways that are going to be comfortable for you, and help you to feel more engaged with the audience. This really helps you to understand more about the audience, and it can also change the way that you interact. Tip number seven is to make it concise and know your message. In Episode Seven Stevens recommendation was to write one or two sentences that capture the main idea of your concept. And then Cynthia talked about distilling the message in episode eight, I think a great resource to be able to do this is to look at 32nd architecture, which is a book and one of scenarios recommendations. The thing is, you're never going to be able to say it all in one presentation. But you want your audience to have small snippets or small takeaways that are going to inspire them or move them forward or to have a better understanding of your work. Kevin Huey and Andrew may not talk about how drawing the part the party diagram on a napkin is also a good way to help you distil the message to make it clear and concise and also set the context. As I mentioned in the beginning, Simon Sinek suggests starting with why, and I think this is so important. It shows who you are, what you believe, and what you value so that you can speak your words with conviction. So here's an example of a presentation that I heard recently where they started with why, in everything I do, I believe in designing spaces that encourage community engagement and collaboration. The way I design spaces to encourage community engagement is by starting with understanding the true needs of the client. When we know the core of your needs, the environment and the community, then you will truly live in harmony. Now I'm going to show you how we do this. Tip number eight is great communicators are most definitely trained. I'm not sure why we think that great presenters and great communicators have never been trained or they've never thought about how to connect with their audience. I think the best communicators, they do all that work beforehand to understand what they value, what does the audience value and how they're going to connect to that

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 18:27

audience. And they do things like when they look at a presentation that they've done, they reflect, they evaluate, they think about what are the good things that they did, and what's maybe something that they could do better for next time. They're not focused so much on what are the bad things that they did. presenting to an audience is a presentation of your expertise. And so it really should be practice, and you're trying to connect to the audience. So you really should do that work to understand them beforehand. It really takes time and practice and patience, because it's like preparing for a marathon. You need to stay curious about the journey and you need to be consistent, and you need to prepare, I know that I need to prepare for things, I need to know exactly what I'm saying. So that I make sure that what I'm saying what my message is, is connecting with the people that I'm speaking to. Tip number nine is you might come up against opposition. Now no presentation or meeting is without some form of audience questions, or opposition's it's really part of the process of presenting your ideas and you need to be ready for it by preparing. What are some of the things that people might say to you when you give your presentation. A good example of this might be if somebody asked you how do you know this? You might answer I've done the research about it and this is what I have found. So we want to try and use credible resources. We want to try and preempt what guess what some of the things that the audience might ask or what are some of the objections that they might have to what you're talking about. And if we do this, we can feel more confident that we can adapt our answers based on what they say. We often call this, in design, managing expectations. So if you go back to the very beginning, when I spoke about creating the avatar of the audience and thinking about what questions or opposition's might they have, then you'll feel prepared to manage their expectations around this topic. I can remember doing a presentation, a client presentation, and I was showing them the concept. And then at the end of the presentation, the client told me that her sister in law, his mum had seen the concept and didn't agree with some of the things that we had included in the design. And part of managing their expectations was about asking how important it was for them, and then also trying to politely explain why we had made the choices that we had. And I was able to do that, because I had an understanding of what are some of the things that they might have opposition's to. So it helps you to feel more confident. And obviously, you're not going to know everything that the people are going to say. But at least if you're prepared, you have a good way of coming up with some ideas. Tip number 10 is to consider going against the grain. So when I say going against the grain, I mean to go against the norm, or what other people say. And it's to help create tension and debate and for people to really pay attention and to stay focused on what you have to say. So think about what are the risks that you can take considering that what you're trying to say in your presentation is researched. And it's backed up with credible resources and ideas. So different structures do this really well. And one structure that you often see drawn out, and I've put a diagram in the free download. So you can see how this looks is that they look at what is the Now where is the gap, how the solution will help to overcome the problem. And it's what it will look like instead of the solution. So the presenter is continuously trying to create this tension by showing what is now and what it could be. Tip number 11 would be to provide a time limit and to know what you want your audience to do, what do you want them to take away from the presentation? So before you do anything, before you plan the content, think about what exactly is the message what's the key message you want them to take away? The more complicated that your presentation is, the less time people will be focused on what you're saying. And also there'll be less time for questions. So your presentation should be really designed around the clear structure that you've decided in the beginning. So is it the type of presentation that has a clear beginning, middle and end? Or is it the one that I just talked about creating that tension? Or is it more of a narrative type presentation, so really know what your structure is? And what is the limit of time, and what is going to help you get to that endpoint so that people can take away the most important message

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 23:21

number 12 is to share your presentation with someone who doesn't know the topic well. So in episode eight, Cynthia gave us that great example of how she explains what she does to her 96-year-old grandmother. And she's really quite engaged in everything that she's talking about. We can't all be experts at everything. But I think when you ask somebody who doesn't necessarily know all the technical terms, or the technical vocabulary about the presentation, they can often give us a more neutral opinion of it than somebody who is an expert. Because somebody who is an expert, or is from your field, they're going to know all those jargon terms or all those ideas that maybe a more layperson or a person who doesn't necessarily know what you're talking about. And I think this is really important because we spend so much of our time speaking to clients who don't necessarily know what we're talking about. So trying to practice that more, will help you to make your presentations more accessible, and easy to understand more engaging, concise, and simple. So that brings me to the end of my top 12 tips for giving more engaging presentations. I hope you found them useful.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 24:34

And now what I'm going to talk about is some of the language that you might use for when you're giving presentations. In episode eight, Saneia talked about how many of her guests, particularly the ones that worked in media, aimed to hook their audience or to engage the audience really quickly. So I encourage you to look out for examples of how people do this. So when you're watching presentations that you really resonate with you How do they do it? Do they use comedy? Do they show facts and figures? Do they share big ideas, there's so many different ways that you can do it. And I think it's important that it really resonates with you and your style. So let's have a look at some of the examples, the language of hooks, and I'm going to put these examples in the show notes. In all the examples, I'm going to use the material cross-laminated timber, so that you can see how it might be used in context. Example one - rhetorical questions. What do you already know about using cross-laminated timber as a building material? Or have you ever considered using cross-laminated timber as a building material example to try and shock them? What would you say if I said that there are more innovative and sustainable ways to use timber as a building material? example three, educate them. Before we begin, I wanted to share a video with you about the construction benefits of cross-laminated timber. Example for state the problem. The problem today with construction is that cheap construction materials are overused and we don't often consider the long term sustainable benefits. The next thing I'm going to talk about is signposting language. So this is how we navigate through the presentation so that it all threads together nicely. So examples of signposting language include, first I want to touch on, so touch on means to briefly discuss, you might say secondly, or next I'm going to what I'd first like to discuss is, or what we're going to focus on now is a next we are going to focus on you also might like to draw their attention to something so you might say, I'd like to draw your attention to. Before we end today, there's one thing that I'd like to point out. Another way we can use signposting language is to point out key ideas. So some examples might include, one thing I wanted to stress is, or this is going to be the most essential thing I tell you today. Or, it would be a good idea to take note of this, or something important to remember is, the benefit of this is or the great thing about this is, or notice how in this example you can see. What's important to note or remember here is so as you can see hooks and signposting language is very important to engage your audience and continue to engage your audience and to capture their attention so that you're making sure that they're listening to what you have to say. So thank you for listening to the episode today. If you found it useful, please share it with somebody who might find it useful. And if you want to download the free resource, the ultimate presentation guide, you will find the link to it in the show notes and I look forward to sharing my next conversation with you very soon.

The Language of hooks and signposting

In all the examples I'm going to use the example of using Cross-laminated Timber as a material so you can see how it might be used in context:

Example 1 - Rhetorical questions

  • What do you already know about using cross-laminated timber as a building material? (rhetorical question) + explanation

  • Have you ever considered using cross-laminated timber as a building material? (rhetorical question)

Example 2 - Shock them

  • What would you say if I said that there are more innovative and sustainable ways to use timber as a building material. (shock them)

Example 3 - Educate them

  • Before we begin, I wanted to share a video with you about the construction benefits of Cross Laminated Timber (video clip, sound bite, story).

Example 4 - State the problem

  • The problem today with construction is that cheap construction materials are overused and we don't often consider the long term benefits .... (state the problem)

Signposting language

Navigating through the presentation

  • First I want to touch on ... (touch on = briefly discuss) Secondly, Next I'm going to

  • What I'd first like to discuss is ...

  • What we're going to focus on now is ... / Next we are going to focus on

  • I'd like to draw your attention to

  • Before we end today there is one thing I'd like to point out

Pointing out key ideas

  • One thing I wanted to stress is ...

  • This is going to be the most essential thing I tell you today

  • It would be a good idea to take note of this ...

  • Something important to remember ...

  • The benefit of this is ... / The great thing about this is ...

  • Notice how in this ....

  • What's important to note/remember here is ...

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244 views1 comment

1 Comment

Alexander Smith
Alexander Smith
May 23, 2023

It would be nice for you to describe in more detail with the help of a new post or video you can shoot on a free app from here what you liked the most, it would be interesting to hear what you think.

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