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Make Your Presentations Sing! Six Lessons From the Musical SIX

Why is the average powerpoint presentation painfully dull while the average musical is something theatergoers will pay loads of money to experience? How is it that the musical genre can take a topic like Alexander Hamilton or the six wives of Henry VIII and make textbook history into a memorable hit? Aside from the obvious advantages of singing, dancing, and glitzy costumes, the musical SIX gives us a clearly defined roadmap: we will tell you the stories of the six wives of Henry VIII, in order. This roadmap is repeated a few times during the show, cementing the women’s stories and driving home the historical details behind the songs. Besides a roadmap, how else can you improve a presentation? Here are six ways:

First: be brief. If a musical can condense the salient details about a woman’s entire life, two marriages, one daughter, an acrimonious divorce and a trip to the convent into a three-minute song, you can give a presentation in half an hour. If you truly can’t give a presentation in half an hour, consider going into a profession that equires you to give fewer presentations.

Second: don’t lose your head. If you misspeak during a presentation, apologize, take a deep breath, and move on. Often the audience has barely registered the mistake.

Third: stick to your theme, even when it gets tough. The audience’s attention will flag in the middle of any presentation. Remind everyone of the roadmap so that they know they’re halfway through.

Fourth: don’t worry what other people think of your face on zoom. Try not to worry about what other people think of your face in any situation.

Fifth: don’t over-share on zoom. If you are not 100% sure whether your audience is seeing your presentation notes, they probably are. If you want to be sure, enlist a friend to send you a private message when they see your notes. If you don’t have any friends, log your phone into zoom as a dummy audience member so that you can see what the audience sees. As an added benefit, you won’t be able to see any of the imaginary flaws in your face when it’s reduced to a miniscule size on your phone.

And SIXth: your presentation is your story. Tell it with confidence, and don’t let anyone else tell it for you. On that note, don’t ever use someone else’s slides without rewriting them first. If you don’t feel that the slides are yours, your presentation will feel inauthentic and impersonal. And finally, it never hurts to use a roadmap.

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