6 Alternatives to PowerPoint Presentation for Your Unconventional Presentation

Presentation Skills: what I learned from interviewing Steve Ballmer Live in front of 1.500 people …that you can use for your presentations

Presentation Skills!

Those of you who’ve had the privilege of seeing Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft Corporation, give a presentation will know that he’s an enthusiastic and, more importantly, captivating speaker.
When Steve came to Italy a while ago I interviewed him, face-to-face, in front of a crowd of between 1000 – 1500 people (talk about a nerve-wreckingpresentation!).
Interviewing the legendary Steven Ballmer was a great experience precisely because he’s such an excellent CEO and business speaker (…and he forced me to work hard on my presentation skills).
What I’d like to share with you today is the fact that an interview is also a type ofpresentation – if you want to present your product or service, you can use a type of interviewing format by interviewing a guest or a past client that’s giving a testimonial.
I learned quite a few lessons from this experience with Steve and I’ve set out a few of interview format tips and presentation skills for presentations that will help you become a “presenter impossible”.
Lessons learned:

1. Keep it short – a key presentation skill

How many times have you see the interviewer “ask a question” that takes about five minutes to ask? This is no way to give a presentation.
Keep your questions short and avoid loaded questions (where you actually ask a bunch of questions in one breath).
One presentation skill I’ve learned throughout the years is that it’s better to ask short, open-ended questions because you not only give your guest time to give his or her view on a specific topic, but you will also be able to manage your time and the flow of the interview better.

2. Focus on externalities during the presentation

Presentation Skills - Marco Montemagno and Steve Ballmer
Presentation Skills - Marco Montemagno and Steve Ballmer
When you’re conducting an interview in front of a live audience, you and your interviewee are only one part of the entire presentation process. You need to pay attention to the audience who’s listening to your question and the interviewee’s answers. Good presentation skills is all about paying close attention to the audience.
How are they reacting to what’s being said during the presentation? Are you engaging them and asking the right follow-up questions?
Also pay attention to the technical side of things. Is the audio or video director catching everything (you’ll quickly notice a technical failure – try to keep the interview going even if you see people murmuring or hustling to get things working – this is true regardless of the type of presentation).
An important presentation skill is to be able to keep your eyes everywhere. If there are slides in the background, check out of the corner of your eye to see that the slides are following your progress and not behind schedule on yourpresentation.
When dealing with celebrities or VIP’s, you will always have a communications or PR representative present. They’ll quickly start indicating if you need to change the topic of the presentation (or there could be an emergency that would force you to end the interview before schedule) – keep close tabs on them to make sure you don’t look spooked if something pops up.

3. Timing is everything for successful presentations

I can’t believe how many presenters and chairman go over their time limit! If they worked in Television they would be fired immediately! Can you imagine a TV show that finished 15 minutes because the host wasn’t able to fit everything he wanted to say in the allocated time slot?
One important presentation skill you need to develop is timing. Timing is really important and it’s vital that you respect – whatever time slot you’ve been give. It doesn’t matter if you “only” go over by 5, 15 or 25 minutes – if you don’t stick to your time slot, it’s considered rude and it shows that you didn’t take the time to plan your presentation.
This is even more applicable if you’re interviewing a celebrity, who undoubtedly has a very tight (and well managed) schedule – remember your presentationonly fits into a tiny slot in their day. People like Ballmer, for example, have 15 minute agendas so you absolutely can’t go over your time slot without disrupting the rest of his day. If you want to be seen as a skilled presenter, learn to stay within your allocated time slot.

4. Be a microwave

With people like Ballmer, you often won’t get a chance to meet and greet beforehand – you will be meeting them for the first time on stage in front of your audience. So you have to make sure every aspect of the presentation has been arranged and organized with his team so that when you meet him you can kick-start the interview immediately without wasting any time.
If you’ve only got 20 minutes to give the presentation or interview, every second counts. Be ready with a great icebreaker to immediately draw your audience and start the interview with the right mood. Setting a good mood is a key presentation skill.

5. Having a preference is having a weakness

When you interview someone you should focus on the topics that you want to explore with your guest. Your presentation has a specific goal so don’t drift off topic.
Conducting an interview with a thought leader or someone of importance can be tough as it’s a constant task of juggling the right balance of focus and neutrality. On the one hand, you’re going to want to push the tough questions and on the other hand you want your guest to be comfortable and easy to talk to – it’s almost like aikido and you need to focus on adapting to your guest.
Remember what Steve Jobs said: “Focus is not about saying yes, it’s about saying no.”

6. Before and after

With people like Ballmer, you can never be 100% sure when they will show up and when the will have to leave. The golden rule here is to have good material to fill the gaps before the interview as well as after the interview (in case they’re late or need to leave before your time slot is up).
An important presentation skill is to be ready with a backup video or slides – or even a backup guest – every time.
To get inspiration about how to catch audience attention you can also 9 presentation tips and skills to get your audience’s attention in..10 seconds.


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