Presentation Essentials – 6 Tips to Success

One of the most powerful skills in today’s business world is the ability to deliver effective presentations. Few of us are born with the raw natural talent to be great presenters. For most of us, it requires practice, coaching, and hard work to master a skill which can be intimidating and frightening. At a time when it seems there is an aversion to PowerPoint presentations, there will always be a need or requirement for career-minded individuals to be competent and comfortable speaking and presenting in front of audiences – in person or online and to employees, colleagues, or clients. Here are 6 tips to success from a career of delivering more than 300 presentations.

1 Start with the end in mind

One of the most difficult steps in delivering effective presentations is the development of the presentation itself. We often struggle organizing a presentation so it delivers the messages you want, is well organized and flows nicely, and is visually appealing (if using visual aids). Start with end in mind. Identify 3-5 key messages you want the audience to remember. Once you have your messages, build your presentation around those messages. Create an outline for your presentation and fill in the blanks – introduction, body and content, value proposition of very most important takeaway message, and closing.

2 Keep it simple

We hear it often – keep it simple. I recall preparing a presentation for a CEO in the Middle East about 5 years ago. I worked on it for about a week and went into the meeting ready to deliver about a 45 minute presentation. Before I started, the CEO turned to me and said “I have about 15 minutes so please just hit the highlights of what you are proposing and how it will solve our issues.” This was a great reminder of how most of us our today – busy and overloaded with information. I improvised and shortened a 45- minute presentation into about 12 minutes. Always be ready to deliver an “executive summary” of your presentation if needed.

3 Use graphics and pictures

Using graphics and pictures in a presentation can be powerful. Use simple but attractive graphics to tell a story or convey and support a message. Use pictures to show your experience or an example. Graphics tend to trump bullet points and text every time.

4 Practice your presentation

There is no better substitute than practicing. Whether you are using visual aids or just standing in front of a podium, practice, practice, practice. You should rehearse in front of a mirror or in front of other colleagues (when possible) at least 3-4 times before delivering the presentation. Be open to feedback. Sometimes we can’t see what others see in us or we don’t realize we are doing something annoying like putting our hands in our pockets and jingling coins. Never try to “wing” a presentation. Be ready when it counts.

5 Bring energy and enthusiasm

Audiences and clients are perceptive. You need every edge you can get when competing against others for projects or competitions. Look like you want to be there by showing some excitement and enthusiasm. There is a fine line here with not over-selling or going out of character. Be yourself, be calm, confident, and make the audience feel you want to be there and you are enjoying it.

6 Nail your opening and closing

Leave nothing to chance, nail your opening and closing. You should practice and know the first 25-35 words you are going to open with, exactly. You should also know how you are going to close and summarize, precisely. Both of these are opportunities to capture the audience and then confirm you delivered a winning presentation!

Gary L. Miller lives in Tokyo, Japan and is the founder of http://logosreadyonline.com

The New Speaker’s Dilemma – Interpreting the Audience’s Signals About Your Presentation

A speaker must constantly make eye contact with his or her audience. How else would the speaker know if he is getting his or her message across? The audience always want the speaker to succeed. But there is only a finite amount of time before the audience switches off if the message is not creating interest in the minds of the audience.

The speaker must observe the signals coming from the body language of the audience that will tell him or her that the audience is no longer interested in what is being said.

There are a number of movements within the audience that are signals. They include the following:

1. Eating or chewing;

2. Tapping a pen; playing with a paper clip…

3. Adjusting hair, clothes…

4. Texting or taking calls;

5. Looking out the window;

6. Blowing his or her nose;

7. Looking at the wall clock or watch;

8. Yawning;

9. Reading.

These are all physical indications that are easily read or seen.

There are some more subtle ways the audience tells the speaker that he/she have lost their audience. They include:

1. Asking questions at a seemingly wrong time. This could mean that the questioner has not understood your point or is maybe trying to get you back on track. It might also mean that what the speaker is saying is common knowledge to the audience or is not what they paid for or expected to hear.

2. Asking questions that seem irrelevant to the speaker’s speech. This could mean the speaker has lost the audience completely or the message has failed to be taken in by the audience.

3. A silent question time. No speaker is so perfect in getting the message across that there will be no questions. Silence most likely means that the audience simply has had enough and wants to leave.

Once the speaker notices more than a couple of these signs, the time is ripe to change how the speaker is delivering his/her message. He/she may need to involve the audience in some way. It might mean asking a question of the audience or having an activity for them to do to open up the topic. It might be time to offer something controversial. Maybe, the speaker might need to summarise what is left to say and just finish the presentation.

Professional speakers will always provide their audience with a feedback sheet. It is important to offer the audience a chance to critique the presentation. There will be committed people in the audience who will give honest feedback and suggestions for improvement. The evaluation sheet should allow them to do it. Importantly, the speaker, in reading the reviews, must not take anything negative personally but use it to improve the next presentation. It is also important to understand where the negativity is coming from and address the reasons for it.

After the event, it is important for the speaker to review the way they performed, what succeeded, what failed, what needs to be deleted and what needs to be added to the presentation. This evaluation should be done as soon as possible after the presentation.

Finally, taking into consideration their own evaluation and the helpful comments from the audience evaluations, the speaker should prepare an upgraded version of his/her speech for the next time it is presented. This must be done while “the iron is hot”.

The Power of Being Present

Last week, my sister and I went into the town of Pittsford, NY to the Ben & Jerry’s store for some ice cream on a beautiful Friday night. The excruciating decision between Karamel Sutra or Imagine Whirled Peace almost doing me in, it was a relief to get my ice cream and head outside to sit on a bench.

Shortly thereafter, a little girl about 5 or 6, her brother and parents head out of the store with their ice cream. They sit down on the curbside near my bench. As the family is enjoying the ice cream, the little girl asks her parents “Why do they call it Mango, Mango Sorbet?”

“Because it’s made with Mangoes” her father replies somewhat impatiently.

“Then how come it isn’t called Mango Sorbet? Why Mango, MANGO Sorbet?”

At this point, my sister and I are laughing at the reasonable questioning of this little girl. Her parents went on with their conversation. This wasn’t the first or last amusing thing this little girl came up with but her parents seemed too preoccupied to notice.

I mentioned to my sister that it’s sad that many parents seem too busy, distracted, or just plain tired to appreciate some of the things their children come up with. My sister – having raised four children all two years apart from each other – replied “that’s just the way it is.”

That answer left me, and still has me, bothered. It’s not that I am blaming the parents for doing anything wrong or different than the rest of us do. It’s just that I thought it was sad. This little girl couldn’t have been cuter or more entertaining but her parents’ conversation took precedence. And from what I could hear (okay, eavesdrop) it had to do with gas prices!

The worldwide webcast of Eckart Tolle and Oprah (from Tolle’s book The New Earth) had as one of its themes “being present”. While watching these webcasts, I realized how much of our time is spent in the past or future – but rarely in the present.

Just monitor your thoughts and conversation for an hour. See how much of the time you are truly present. It’s not necessarily negative or positive thoughts but sometimes just neutral thoughts that take us out of the present.

In Yoga some weeks when I am supposed to be meditating – I’m off making a grocery list in my head. “Don’t forget the strawberries, oh and get some milk”.

As the aunt to 10 nieces and nephews and 5 great nieces and nephews (and one on the way!!!), I have done a lot, A LOT, of babysitting in my life. One thing I always noticed was that the only time the kids misbehaved was when I wasn’t paying attention to them. If they had my attention, there was no reason for them to act up.

But as soon as I was on the phone with a friend or watching something on TV, all hell would break loose. Now when I see children acting up, I look to see what the parents are doing. Every time, the parent is distracted and not paying attention to the child.

Am I saying that children should be the center of a parent’s attention every single minute of every day? No, because that would be unrealistic and impossible. There is work and chores and other things that have to get done. But I would wager to say that many parents would admit to rarely being completely present with their children and therefore, not enjoying their children as often as they would like to.

The next time your child is annoying you, stop and think about what you’re doing and if you were to redirect your attention to them, even for a short time, would they calm down?

If you’ve ever seen the show “Super Nanny” one of the first things the Nanny encourages parents to do is to set up a schedule for the home. Included on this schedule are specific times for each parent to spend some quality time with each child with no distractions. Play time. The beautiful thing is that when we are truly playing – guess what – we’re in the present.

Whether you have children or not, look for opportunities to be completely present with those around you.