Presentation Magazine

The Presentation Waltz

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A few posts ago, I used an analogy for how a presenter should treat his or her audience, which got some nice feedback. I suggested that a presentation is like a dance (I had a waltz in my head) and the presenter was like the man/lead. His job in the waltz is to help structure the way the dancers move, as a couple, so that what happens is the best waltz possible.

I’d like to go into that analogy a little further – at risk of breaking it! – and draw some other observations out.

  • When you’re leading, it helps your partner to know what to do if the lead gives an indication just ahead of when the turn, spin etc happens. That way she (in traditional waltzes the lead is always a man and the follower is always a woman) can be prepared for it and isn’t wrong footed – in the case of a waltz, literally. In a presentation this might be as simple as putting up a slide which gives the title of the upcoming topic and then waiting for a moment while the audience digests that information before starting to talk.
  • While the lead dancer leads his parter (the audience) where he wants her (them) to go, he doesn’t force it. It’s done on a basis of mutual respect. He knows that his partner follows him because he’s worth following and only because he’s worth following. What that means in a presentation is that the presenter should always (always!) be polite and courteous to the audience and recognise that if they’re bored (heaven forbid) it’s his fault, not theirs, because he’s not giving them anything worth following. (Actually it might not be his fault, but it’s certainly his responsibility! 🙂 )
  • In a waltz, both dancers know what they’re there for. The dance works better if there’s a mutual understanding of what they’re trying to achieve. So it is with a presentation. Information before the presentation starts should put the audience in the right mental place to ‘dance’ with the presenter. A timetable, an agenda or even a splash screen can all be used to do this. At the very least, the presenter should confirm with the audience what they’re expecting and when he’s going to give it to them, so that everyone is on the same page (metaphorically). Don’t assume the audience is thinking the same things you are – tell them!
  • In a waltz, the lead is technically competent. He knows what he’s doing and doesn’t have to stop the music, apologise and go back a few steps to try again. In a presentation, the presenter should have done all his rehearsing and practising before the presentation start! He should know how to connect his laptop without fighting and swearing – he should know where the light switches are – and he should know how to use his remote control!
  • In a waltz, the woman/follow is technically competent – or at least the man should never require of her steps that show her up. And in a presentation, the presenter should keep the ‘steps’ of the presentation within what the audience can handle. That means that there should be no big leaps of logic, no assumptions of what the audience knows, no jargon that they can’t follow etc…

So how do your waltzes/presentations shape up? Every tried to dance too soon? Or without knowing what you were doing? Or without knowing the step? 😉

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Simon Raybould – View the original post .


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Published On: 10th Mar 2015

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