TMC at TEDx Eindhoven: how to present to keep your audience’s attention (presentation skills)
‘I always was a disaster at giving presentations’, says TMC Employeneur Mark Robinson. ‘I really hated it and I was shaking before every presentation.’ Things change: last week Mark held a TEDx talk in Eindhoven – about giving presentations. ‘The message was: if I can learn it, anyone can. And the rewards are huge. Not just for yourself, but for everybody who will ever see you give a presentation. It’s a great example of a learning process where everybody wins.’
Mark Robinson has been working as a Senior Software Consultant for TMC since 2011. ‘At the moment, I’m involved in several projects as a Project Manager. I also do consultancy and I still write and test software myself as well. I like the variation, and I like to keep a connection with the hands-on work.’
Besides helping customers make their software more efficient, Mark slowly built up another expertise, much to his own surprise: helping other people improve their presentation skills.
‘After having struggled giving presentations for years, I learned a few very helpful techniques at a presentation workshop by Remco Claassen. Luckily enough, my wife Annelies trains in presentation skills, and she gave me some very valuable feedback as well. Then, I started trying and practicing. A lot. Like I said, I’m by no means a natural. But working on the techniques made me realize: I can actually give an interesting presentation.’ Step by step, Mark learned how to keep the audience’s attention.
‘To summarize, my two most important lessons are: asking questions and telling stories. Asking questions gets the audience thinking and makes the listeners part of your presentation. Telling stories helps the audience remember details, which enlivens your story.’
These days, Mark feels much more comfortable giving a presentation. ‘But I really practice, and even then I’m still nervous. For instance at the TEDx Talk. I knew it’d be livestreamed and I knew the talk would be accessible for lots of viewers later on. But I tried to make these feelings part of the experience, by asking the listeners about their own feelings of nervousness. It turned out that more than 90% of the audience felt nervous doing a presentation. It’s completely natural.’
Mark was selected to give his TEDx Talk after having read about an upcoming pitch event quite late – he only had two days left to submit his written pitch. Fortunately, he already knew his subject and his angle. Of all the submission to the pitch event, 13 were selected to pitch in front of a live audience. Of these, 3 speakers were selected. Among them the former presentation disaster.
‘At the TEDx Event in Eindhoven, my talk was sandwiched between a talk about being the spouse of an ex-pat and a talk by Eindhoven’s mayor. Interesting topics, lots of variation and there was a lot of interaction afterwards. A great experience, all in all.’
In Eindhoven, Mark spoke in front of an audience of 300. Helping people improve their presentation skills is something Mark does on a smaller scale too. Recently, he held an informal coaching session at TMC Belgium. He encouraged 12 TMC Belgium employeneurs to practice their presentation skills, and he gave them personal and detailed feedback.
‘The idea is to do this more often in the future, not just for TMC Employeneurs or customers, but for the general public as well. So much great content is destroyed by bad presentations. There is so much room for improvement and we’d very much like to be a part of that.’
In 2016 there are a total of four sessions planned at TMC Eindhoven. During these two hour sessions, Mark and the participants will improve their presentations skills and boost their public speaking confidence through practice and positive feedback.