Presenting & Communication: Effectively Prepare for Compelling Presentations | Rahaf Harfoush | Skillshare

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Presenting & Communication: Effectively Prepare for Compelling Presentations

teacher avatar Rahaf Harfoush, Professor and Best Selling Author

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Knowing Your Audience


    • 3.

      Honing Your Objective


    • 4.

      Designing for Context


    • 5.

      Using Visual Aids Properly


    • 6.

      Preparing the Right Resources


    • 7.

      Creating a Compelling Story


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Create presentations that connect with your audience, drive home your points, and advance your career with professor and best-selling author Rahaf Harfoush! 

Public speaking and presentation skills don’t come naturally to everyone, but with the right guidance, anyone can master them, and improve their professional lives in the process. Join Rahaf as she guides you through a few simple steps to take your presentation skills to the next level.  

Together with Rahaf, you will learn how to:

  • Build captivating presentations that communicate the information you need to share
  • Consider the needs and desires of your audience, and create your presentations accordingly
  • Craft a presentation planning framework that you can use again and again 
  • Deliver your presentation in the most compelling way, ensuring that you leave your audience with a good impression

Whether you’re putting together your first presentation right now or a seasoned pro, this class will equip you with the tools you need to wow coworkers, clients and bosses. 


Rahaf’s class is designed for students of all levels.

Meet Your Teacher

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Rahaf Harfoush

Professor and Best Selling Author


Hello, I'm Rahaf.

I'm a Digital Anthropologist, Professor, and New York Times Best Selling Author.  I teach people how to become Humane Productivity practitioners -- how to supercharge their creative performance without sacrificing their mental, emotional, or physical well being. 

I am the Executive Director of the Red Thread Institute of Digital Culture, where I research the impact of technology on the way we live and work. I've been named to France's National Digital Council and served on a Presidential Commission researching the role of technology in democratic elections. I'm also a visiting policy fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute. 

I teach Innovation and Disruptive business models at the School of Management and Innovation in SciencesPo in ... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Do you have a team presentation coming up? Have you been asked to share updates, insights, or new information with colleagues? If so, this class is for you. Many people get nervous at the idea of speaking in front of a group. And public speaking is listed as one of the most common phobias. But it doesn't have to be this way. Whether you're addressing your team, your boss, or crowd full of people, burning, how to communicate your message effectively is an essential skill for success. I am, or how purplish. I'm a New York Times bestselling author and professor, and I've been speaking professionally for over a decade. I've spoken on TV, on stages in front of thousands of people, but also in meetings and workshops. In this class, I'm going to share some skills that you can apply right away so that you can confidently present your ideas, connect with your audience, and most importantly, speak so that people will listen. Believe it or not, some of the most important thing that can make or break a presentation happen offstage. And that's what this class is about. You'll learn how to identify your audience's needs. How to turn your content into a compelling story. How to deliver a message that's designed to help you meet your strategic goals and morph. You might think you have to be born with magical innate talent, but I'm here to tell you that's not true. These are skills and techniques that everyone can learn. And if there's one thing that I want you to take from this class, it's this. Presentations are an excellent way to help you advance in your career. Clear communication is key, and it's a tool every person should have in their repertoire. This is a hands-on class, and that means we're not just learning new techniques for applying them to make sure that you have your classwork book printed out and ready to go for the class project. We will be doing several exercises together and I can't wait to see what you share with me and with other learners. Are you ready to take your presenting to the next level? Let's get started. 2. Knowing Your Audience: A presentation, one of the most common pieces of advice that you'll hear is about the importance of storytelling. But to tell a good story, we have to understand our audience. In this lesson, we're going to look at how our audience, the people you're talking to will impact how you share your ideas. One of the biggest mistakes people make when putting together a presentation is focusing on themselves. They get so caught up in what they want to share and what's important to them that they completely missed. The point. Presenting is about building a bridge between yourself and your audience. And if you're not taking into account what your audience wants, they might listen, but they won't actually hear you. Good presentations are centered on the audience. Who are you presenting to? Where are they in the hierarchy? Let's say you're presenting the results of your latest marketing campaign. How you talk about the results and the numbers you choose to share will be completely different if you're addressing your team than it would be if you were addressing the CEO or another department, right? So you can talk about the same project in many different ways depending on who it is that you're addressing. Now the key is going to be figuring out what your audience needs to know. So let's fill out the audience profile sheet together. I use this almost every time I create a presentation because it reminds me that while I always have a lot to say on the topic, the important thing is to keep my audience front and center. In the first column, you can identify who your audiences. For example, your team, the CEO, a different department. And then you'll want to fill out the purpose column here. Take a second and think about what the purpose of your presentation is. Is it to inform, to support and making a decision? Is it to teach someone something I'm presenting to the CEO? The goal might be to inform them of the overarching strategy and to let them know that our department is on track to hit our quarterly goals. If I'm presenting to my manager, I might be presenting pros and cons of different options because I'll need their input on the projects next steps, if I'm presenting to my team, I might be walking them through on a very specific level or new marketing approach. As you can see, the subject of the presentation stays the same. It's an update about our marketing campaign. But the objectives are different depending on who I am presenting to. Once you've filled that out, you can move on to the needs column. Because now that you know the purpose, you have a better idea of what information to include. Ask, what do these people specifically need to know? What will be helpful for them? What would they be most interested in hearing for the CEO? It might be general performance numbers, a couple of examples and some timelines. For my manager, I might need a detailed comparison of options. And for my team, it'll be making sure that I have clear images of a different type of campaign at that very specific level. Because if I tried to get too granular with the CEO, I'm going to take my presentation because I'm giving them information they don't need. If I'm too general with my team, they might not fully understand the changes I've made to the campaign. Fill out the sheet with all of the different audiences that you might be asked to speak to so that you can start to understand the differences between their needs. And once you've filled out this form, you'll be ready to move on to the next step. 3. Honing Your Objective: In the last lesson, we talked all about your audience, but now let's talk about you. You're giving this presentation for a reason. Let's dig into that reason with the core objective sheet starting at the top, let's get clear about your core message. What is the most important thing that you're trying to communicate in this presentation. For our marketing example, it could be that we've hit all targets this quarter and have successfully implemented new technologies. I want you to write that down next, think about any secondary objectives for each of your audience segments. In other words, what do you want from your audience? What do you want them to remember, or what actions you want them to take? For example, when presenting the marketing campaign update to the CEO, you're not just informing them. You also want them to recognize your competence and hard work when presenting options to your boss, you might actually have a preference, so you could want to convince them to choose a specific outcome. And when teaching something to your team, you might want to make them feel excited and motivated to participate in the upcoming campaign. I want you to write that down in the secondary objectives box. And finally, let's focus on what I call the subtle professional positioning box. When you're presenting, it's never just about the content, it's also about you, the presenter. A good presentation says a lot about the person who is giving it. For example, it can show that you are prepared, that you have a deep and solid understanding of the subject matter, that you're a team player, that you're a good problem-solver and so forth. So as the presenter, you have the power to choose to highlight these elements and use them to your advantage. Now you can be honest here, no one's going to see this sheet, but you, so you could write something like make me the obvious choice for an upcoming promotion. Right next to that, I've left you some room to jot down some notes on how you can accomplish your goals. So for example, if you want to show that you're a good problem-solver, you'll want to structure the presentation with several examples of how there was a problem, but you found the solution. If you want to show that you know your stuff, you can make sure to include a few key points that reference other information that shows that you've done your research. And if you want to show that you're a team player, you can jot down that before the presentation you'll meet with different colleagues, get their perspectives and then include their viewpoints in your final presentation as well. Remember, our presentation can be anything you want it to be. So why not use it to make yourself look good? 4. Designing for Context: One important factor I don't see many people considering is the context that they're presentation is going to be given in, in this lesson, we'll be talking about three major contexts factors that need to be taken into account. The first factor is time. I know this sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised at how many people don't design for time. Obviously, you're going to have a time limit. A 15-minute presentation is very different than a 45-minute or 60 minute presentation, right? But here's the thing. You don't actually have the entire amount of time you think you do. There's always a few minutes to transition between subjects, and it depends on if there are questions or conversations or discussions. In actuality, a 15-minute presentation might only give you six minutes of presenting time when you take into account all of these other factors, if you plot ahead, no problem, you'll know exactly how to make the most of your time. But if you don't, and I've seen this happen so often, you'll end up rushing to get through your material and you won't have communicated. The most important thing that you wanted to. Imagine these two scenarios. First, you've prepared a 15-minute presentation. The meeting is running behind and suddenly you only have ten minutes. You start. But then somebody asks you a question, you take some time to answer it. Suddenly your time has run out. It's a disaster. Now imagine the second scenario you've prepared six minutes of content. You clearly state you're going to give a brief overview and then open it up for questions and conversations. At the end, you pass around printouts with key figures and additional information. You take the six minutes to meet your objectives and your audiences objectives. You're on rushed. You nailed it. It's a pretty big difference, right? Why do you want to be able to do is to look at your time and prioritize the most important things you want to say because you won't be able to fit everything in that you want to. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna be using the designing for context sheet together. At the top, you can fill in the allotted time that you've been given and then break it down into the time you have to present and the time for Q&A. I always like to leave three to five minutes of buffer time just to be safe. If you're not working on an act of presentation, you can skip this section and come back to it when you need it. Next, I want you to pick a presentation subject and then try to prioritize the key points that you would make if you had 5101520 or 30 minutes to present. You can even try timing yourself to see how much information you can get through. And this is why going back to our earlier sheets as key, because if you know what the core objectives are, then you can pick the important insights that are gonna help you make your point. The second factor is the space, the physical space you're meeting or presentation is gonna be held in. Let's think about this together, start with the location details and impact box. This is where you'll fill in the location of the meeting and how you might need to adapt. For example, you might eat in a small office. So you might want to print out a copy of your presentation to go through with your manager versus presenting slides in front of a large group. Because standing in a meeting room in front of 12 people with a big screen is very different than being in a small room with your colleagues. So write those details down. The presenting details box is where you'll write down the logistics of the presentation. Are you going to have access to a screen or your computer? Or you gonna be able to move or manipulate your slides and present, or are you going to be sitting across a table or a desk and giving a more verbal update in the colleagues box, I want you to list who is going to be attending your presentation. Especially if you have colleagues who will be joining remotely, you might want to think about adding more visuals in order to keep their attention. We'll talk about presentation aids a little bit later, but for now, just think of these logistical parameters of your meeting. Here's an example from my own experience. I usually like to have slides that have a lot of animation. So each point comes up, as I'm saying it, this requires a lot of clicking with a clicker. I've learned that this format does not work when you're presenting online and can't control your own slides, which happened to me recently. Suddenly I had to say Next slide, please. Next slide please like 25 times, which disrupted my entire flow. The next time I didn't use any animations. I had less points per slide and it made the presentation much smoother. So context matters. The last factor is the level of interaction. Is this a presentation where you're simply presenting information in a one-way broadcast? Or is this a meeting that is designed for conversation as a group? If it's designed for conversation, you'll need to take that into account with your presentation versus just presenting an update and answering a few questions at the end. So fill out the Interaction Box with this information. Your presentation doesn't exist in a vacuum. Because the point, if you'll remember from our last lesson, is that we want to connect with the audience and create a narrative in a compelling way. And we can't do that if we mismatched our presentation style with the context. I mean, imagine trying to present when you're crammed around at tiny computer screen. Or if you have colleagues on a video chat that can't hear you properly or if you're trying to present your findings and then you're getting interrupted every five-minutes because people actually wanted a discussion. A little bit of preparation can ensure that you're designing a presentation that is tailored for your unique context. 5. Using Visual Aids Properly: Let's talk about presentation aids. I know we're pretty deep into the class already, but that was done on purpose. You might think presenting is just about throwing a few slides together. But as you've seen, there are lots of factors to think about when creating a compelling presenting experience for your colleagues. And what aids you decide to use will be determined from the questions we've been thinking about so far. The most important thing to remember here is that slides are not the presentation. You are the presentation and the slides and other aids are just there to help you. The first question I hear is, should I use slides at all? And there's no right answer? It really depends. It's up to you. If you're making a connection with the audience, telling an important or personal story or trying to motivate people. You might not want to have any other distractions or anything else pulling focus away from you. However, when used properly slides can help emphasize your points out a visual element to create a more compelling experience and help people remember the key facts. Let's learn about three different presentation aids. The presenting deck, meeting aids and the send ahead or send after deck. Presenting deck are the slides that you'll use during your presentation. There are meant to be used when you are presenting to help you make your points. They can be just images or graphs. You don't need a lot of texts because you're the one who's going to be speaking. Meaning aids are resources that are printed out or share digitally that include additional information that attendees can use to gain further insights from your presentation. For example, if you're presenting deck has some financial highlights. Your meeting aid can include some more detailed financial analysis to help support your argument. But you don't need to have this. This is just there if it's gonna be helpful to you. Finally, the send ahead or sent after deck, is what you use to send to participants after you're done presenting. This deck would have more information on each slide because it's meant to be a standalone. You can include links, notes, more details. It's like a report or summary of your presentation. Let's play around with this using the presentation aids sheet. Fill up the different elements that you would include in each type of aid. For example, in a presenting deck, I might include a key client testimonial and one general statistics about our department's performance. In the printout, I might include some other statistics about customer demographics and then the sender after-death, I would put more information about how we collected this data. The biggest mistake I see with slides is that people confuse the script of their presentation with the slides that they're using. In other words, they put everything they're going to say on the slide and then end up reading it out loud, which becomes boring to the audience. Slides are there to help you tell a story. For example, let's say that I am presenting to you about mental health in an organization. Mental health is a continuum ranging from mental wellness to acute illness. Research shows that in most organizations, one out of a 100 employees will require acute support. 24 out of 100 will require moderate needs like counseling and the rest will require an environment that supports mental health. Okay, now, let's try that again. But with this slide, mental health is a continuum ranging from mental wellness to acute illness. Research shows that in most organizations, one out of a 100 employees will require acute support. 24 out of a 100 will require moderate needs like counseling, and the rest will require an environment that supports mental health. Do you see the difference in the second example, you are probably busy trying to read what the slide set and weren't listening to me at all. I gave you the exact same content, but I used the slides in a very different way. Not all slides play the same role in a presentation. Some slides are there to make an argument, highlighted key message, or summarize the points you've been making in general so far. Every time you use a slide, you should have a clear purpose that is aligned with the goals we've determined earlier in the class. This is a great time to get creative, to keep the presentation interesting. You can add videos, graphics, product demos, wireframes and more. Just be sure it's adding to your point and not distracting from your messaging and goals. Let's go back to the presentation aid sheet in the key message box. Take an example of one of your most important slides and write down what core message you're trying to convey. Then move on to the so-what, ask yourself, what's the point of the slide? And even if it seems obvious to you, write it down and state why it's important. For example, in our marketing campaign, update. The, so what could be that the campaign has been successfully launched and you want approval for the next campaign. You can fill that out here. Finally, about the data that you're going to use on the slide, what would make it more compelling? For example, if I want to show that consumers love our new campaign, I would include a client testimonial which I wrote up on the sheet earlier. But to really nail the delivery, I might use a screenshot so the team can see a picture of the client who's leaving the comments which will create a strong emotional connection. Ultimately, everything has to have a purpose and everything needs to be intentional. And by the way, there are a lot of templates you can buy online. You don't have to be an experienced designer to make your decks look pretty. But finding a beautiful template that won't cost you very much can help create a polished and professional looking presentation. 6. Preparing the Right Resources: I'm a big fan of being prepared and that means having access to certain resources just in case. I'd like to have a variety of slides that I might never use in my actual presentation, but that might be helpful in answering questions I get afterwards. I can't tell you the number of times these slides have saved the day and emphasized that I knew my stuff. Here's how you can prepare. Go back to your objectives sheet, go through the primary and secondary objectives and ask, is there anything additional that I might be asked about any of these topics? Then, using the preparing the right resources sheet, make a list of all the potential questions that you might get asked. You can also get input from colleagues or friends. Once you have a list of questions, you can see what materials you'll need in order to be prepared. You can either include this information in the general presentation or you can just add it to the end and only use them if you need them. After the presentation, you can include all the slides from your questions in the said after-death if you want. And this helps give additional info and insight to the people who were at your meeting. If for whatever reason you get asked something you don't have a slide for, just make a mental note, smile and say, That's a great point. I'll be sure to get that information and include it in the summary document I'm circulating after the meeting, then you can get the information and send it along. Being prepared to answer questions can really make you stand out because it will show your team that you're thorough, well-informed, and prepared. And this is one way that presentations can be an incredible opportunity to create a strong impression to help further your career. 7. Creating a Compelling Story: Now we're going to put everything we've done in this class so far together in order to create a story. Chris Anderson, who runs the famous TED conferences, has said that the most important thing you can do to give a great talk is in framing what you want to say. In other words, knowing how to present your information in a way that connects with your audience. To do this, you have to think of your presentation like a journey. It has to have a beginning and an end. And in the middle, you want to take your audience on a little adventure. So you want to present a problem. You want to show how you searched for a solution. And then you want to show your success. Let's use the creating a compelling story sheet to help you hone in on this. The basic premises, this, you want to capture their attention right away. You want to create some tension or suspense, and then you want to end with a satisfying conclusion. So going back to our marketing campaign, let's imagine a few different stories. One story could be that we were getting certain feedback from clients and we didn't realize what it meant at first, we investigated and found a solution and then launched a campaign that met the client need and got great results. Or we could start with a question, how do we capture more market share? We could show how we approach the problem, what we tried, what worked and didn't work, and then end with our final results. Let's say you're presenting to the CEO. Maybe you start with where you were last year, describe some challenges you face, but then end with how you overcame them. So now it's your turn. Use the sheet to see how many stories you can come up with. This doesn't have to take a long time. It's more about practicing and understanding that there's a formula in how you present information. Once you've filled that out, you can move on to one of my favorite sections, which is identifying the emotional resonance of your presentation. So go through your slides or your aids and think about what emotion you want to convey or how you want the audience to feel. For example, when I talk about client feedback, I want the audience to feel curious and intrigued. When I talk about our search for solutions, it's more serious. I want to go for a more intense or excited tone which adds to the suspense and gets people invested in the conclusion. And finally, when our team succeeded, I want to feel triumphant. So I want to add with an upbeat and confident tone. People respond to stories that have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but also stories that touch on their emotions. You can even add these cues to your presenter notes so you don't forget, once you've filled out the sheet, you've completed the workbook and have everything you need to give an amazing presentation. 8. Final Thoughts: There you have it. You have done the prep work to ensure you're creating a clear and compelling presentation by understanding your audience and your objectives. You've designed for contexts, identified the best presentation aids to help you make your point. And you're prepared for any questions that might come your way. Most importantly, you've learned how to turn your content into a compelling narrative and to use the opportunity to present as a way to advance your career. Please share your questions and comments and workbooks with other learners and with me because I love building a community where we can all learn from each other. You can also join me for the next class, where we will dive into the actual nuts and bolts of presenting things like your tone of voice, your paste, your posture. So I hope to see you there and good luck on your presentations. I know you're going to nail them.