AXON presentation training. Three hours. Compulsory 5-minute presentation. ‘Dread’ doesn’t cover my feelings. Hearing past presentation topics helped i.e. anything goes: Columbo, yoga, how to cook BBQ spare ribs! In fact, I realized, this was my opportunity: 5 minutes to educate, inform and to show a new way of thinking…

Brain-racking and PowerPoint wizardry followed. And so to training I went.

Following 2 hours of informal training, I stood to educate and inform on the issue closest to my heart…“Around the World in 80 Breakfasts”. What was I thinking?…

The training began with 7 steps to presentation excellence:

1. Audience: They’re why you’re presenting. Consider their needs and interests.

2. What you are saying: The ‘red thread’ connecting your story and allowing information to flow between slides is essential. Without this, the audience can become lost.

3. Getting and keeping attention: The first 90 seconds are key to engaging the audience. Greet them, introduce yourself, let them know what to expect; an objectives slide is great. Audience attention peaks at introduction and conclusion, waning in-between. Take advantage using interim conclusions after key points.

4. Maximizing delivery:

a. Body language – 55% of presentation impact. Look the part, smile, make eye contact, stand confidently, gesture for impact, show enthusiasm. Talk to your audience, not your slides.

b. Voice and tone – 38% of presentation impact. Don’t mumble, speak too fast, or too quietly.

c. Words – 7% of presentation impact. Use clear, simple language.

5. Questions: The unknown. Some questions can’t be prepared for, but believe it or not the majority can be. Prepare! Listen, ask if you don’t understand, reply to the whole audience, keep your cool and don’t get defensive; it’s ok to not know.

6. The final word: Tie off the red thread; link back to the beginning. Use a conclusion slide.

7. Rehearse: Iron out tricky-to-say lines, time yourself, build confidence; don’t underestimate rehearsals, but never be over-rehearsed.

So, I bet you’re all wondering how it went? Well, it was going pretty well, until my red thread spontaneously combusted, leaving me speaking directly to my notes. Slides 3–9 became an endless, monotonous abyss of breakfasts, far overrunning 5 minutes.

My companion trainee presentations were well-constructed and well delivered. Red threads like red rope. I felt outdone, but we all received positive and constructive feedback, leaving me feeling…better.

Unexpectedly, I really enjoyed presentation training. It was challenging and I was nervous, but that made it rewarding. I have lots to work on next time, but now have a clear formula to approach it. Next time I’ll have titanium red thread, double stitched through my presentation. I’ll consider my audience and talk to them. I’ll rehearse, but not so much that it seems rehearsed. I guess this is what training is all about – making your first attempt in a friendly environment, where you can make the odd mistake and learn from it. Perhaps one day I will be delivering the AXON presentation skills training myself!

Sonia Leach