What do speakers need for a high-class presentation? The “Presentation Rocket Day” is promising some valuable answers – and delivers!

The event is aimed at people who want to present more effectively. In addition to classical rhetorical skills and the confident, convincing stage effect, the aim is to convey information in an interesting way and to make optimum use of media.


Staging and focus are well received by the audience

Of course, successful presentations offer much more than just the mentioned aspects. Hermann Scherer speaks plainly in the first presentation: “Normal” speeches are quickly forgotten, the passion of the speaker is important. He sees valuable content as a matter of course, but even more important is the framework the speaker sets: Does our quality become visible? Are we staging ourselves? Do we position ourselves divinely? “Gods immediately position themselves at the top.” A remark worthy of discussion, but not for nothing is Scherer one of the most successful business speakers with over 3 000 presentations in front of around a million people: “We need a clear message and no USP” (USP for Unique Selling Proposition). We all have the potential. Scherer concludes: “Focus on a story” while speaking. I am positively surprised: Although this is the third time I have seen him live and know all the content, I belong to the vast majority of the audience who smile and laugh, are touched and inspired during his presentation.

The protagonist of the day will deliver three presentations. In between, he will receive two detailed expert coaching sessions each, allowing him to optimize his subsequent presentations. Dr. Christof Horn, CEO of digdeep.de, delivers a solid first presentation. His introduction: “I have to talk to you about polar bears.” Again and again he actively involves us – his audience – in his presentation, asking rhetorical and connecting questions. His slides are slim and almost without text, the images are large and convey emotions. Nevertheless, the critical feedback is inevitable: He could share central messages without slides and name the problems and solutions addressed more concretely. It ends with the standard sentence “And I thank you for your attention!” This is where the well-known speech trainer and coach Michael Rossié comes into play: he takes the speech apart in line and thread, his hints follow at intervals of almost ten seconds. He finds potential in every weakness, which he spices up with concrete suggestions for improvement.


From stage design to presentation trends to humor

After a half-hour break three parallel “Break Out Sessions” follow. I decide for “the legendary keynotes of Steve Jobs”.

Frank Asmus, director and “Specialist for excellent presentations”, starts with the basics: High-quality speeches are usually divided into three parts. Clear messages like “Think different” (Apple) or “Yes we can!” (Barack Obama) consist of a maximum of five words. The hero’s journey creates the decisive scenes, with case studies, personal experiences and references underpinning the credibility of our stories. The most important proof, however, is always our personally experienced story. He discusses Simon Sinek’s “Why – How – What”, because this sequence has a pulling effect on the audience. Those talking about the “Why” are credited with solution competence. Asmus does not view slides as supporters, but as visual amplifiers of our message: “The slide is the stage set”. For strategic reasons, we should come onto the stage from the left. This is how we set the direction for our audience. In addition, we show personality by standing at the front of the stage, while the back position is more suitable for sharing substance and evidence. Surprises in the presentation provide special experiences for the audience. Those who can also include live broadcasts in their presentation are considered “brutally strong”, according to Asmus.

Thereafter the initiator of the event, Matthias Garten, speaks about current presentation trends. His message is aimed at everyone who presents with PowerPoint: “You are only as good as your worst slide”. He mentions the five most common mistakes and how we can do better:

  1. Empathy instead of egocentrism
  2. Focus instead of aimlessness
  3. Exciting, not boring
  4. Innovative instead of old-fashioned
  5. Be unique instead of exchangeable

The trends 2019: Texts with large letters contain pictures deposited in the letters, violet is the trend color, color gradients on slides are welcome. Instead of angular shapes, edges will be rounded off in the future. Microsoft’s modern metro design remains “in”, while photos are now combined with hand drawings. Matthias Garten closes his lecture with the appeal “Down with gravity. Long live frivolity.“ (German „Nieder mit der Schwerkraft. Es lebe der Leichtsinn.“)

After lunch, Michael Rossié talks about how we can create jokes ourselves and put punch lines in the right place (in German). He rushes through at a high speed that the audience hardly has time to digest the punch lines. Those who do not know the speakers of the German Speakers Association (GSA) will hardly understand them. In the following “Presentation Fuck Ups”, three participants report on how they failed in past presentations and what they learned from them.

Our protagonist, Dr. Christof Horn, follows with his revised presentation. Indeed, the performance has been improved: personal introduction instead of polar bears, more direct questions to the audience and fewer slides as well as some new, even more up-to-date slides. But they are often displayed too early, which also becomes clear in the audience feedback. Michael Rossié also confirms that Horn can add even more emotion, enthusiasm and variation to his voice. Hence: There is still some room for improvement.


Outfit sells, emotion makes the difference

From the following Break Out sessions I choose “Outfit sells – the eye buys” with Elisabeth Motsch: How do I want to appear on stage? Which values do I want to express with my clothes? Motsch underlines what I have often experienced as part of the audience: Outfit beats competence, because “clothes are visual small talk without speaking a word”. We can use them specifically for addressing out status. The darker we are dressed, the more “weighty” we are. This is one of the examples of how we convey our message on stage. I am confirmed with my choice of color (blue shirt), whereby the combination light blue with dark blue jacket would suit me well, says Motsch. I will have that in mind for my next purchase in a fashion store.

The event closes with a performance by Uwe Günter-von Pritzbuer: “Visualization – Emotion is the difference that makes the difference”. He combines expressive and emotionally charged images with many short metaphors. Slides that do not meet these criteria are redundant. We know from photography that light, perspective and sharpness of the image contribute decisively to the effect of the image, in addition to the motif. We should place important motifs or cut-outs at interfaces: Namely where the lines of the 3 x 3 pictures meet.

And how does our protagonist Dr. Christof Horn perform after the second coaching? His third presentation actually beats the first two by far! What makes the difference: He uses less slides, but even more expressive photos, which he takes at the right time for the punch line. With personal stories and core messages, we are no longer distracted by slides. Horn now appears even more personal and connects his business more closely with himself as a person. Despite the long day, he still appears authentic and relaxed. This performance really goes off like a rocket: “Presentation Rocket Day” fulfils what it promises its participants.

My conclusion: The full power of coaching unfolds in intensive, all-day individual coaching! Even top-class speakers can thus significantly improve the quality of their presentations.

This post is also available in: German

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