Fourteen Tips on Conquering the Presentation

When presenting, you need to hold your audience’s attention, convey information, and persuade people to act, while all the time guarding against anything that could derail your performance. To help you master this balancing act, here are a few pointers:

* Know your subject inside out. This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure a high-impact presentation. Be the absolute expert on whatever it is that you’ll be talking about. Nobody in the room should know as much about the topic as you do.

* Understand your audience. Speak at their level of knowledge. Know their needs. What do they want from you, and what do you want from them?

* Rehearse. Run through the presentation in front of a mirror, in front of a spouse or friend, or in front of your team. Use a cassette recorder or camcorder. Time yourself and add on a few minutes for Q&A.

* Anticipate questions. As you rehearse, stay on the lookout for places where someone could pose a question. Have answers ready. You’ll probably be asked at least one “out-of-left-field” question. Don’t be thrown off balance by it; take your time to think about the reply and be candid.

* Anticipate hardware problems. Your laptop may freeze. The overhead slide projector’s bulb may blow out. Think of something to say and do while you – and everyone else – wait for the laptop to reboot or the replacement bulb to arrive. Keep an easel and blank flipchart handy.

* Break the ice. Begin with a joke or a personal anecdote that is relevant to the subject at hand.

* Maintain eye contact. As you look around the room, meet each person’s eyes while you speak at least one sentence.

* Interact. Establish a connection with your audience. This is easier if you’re speaking to a small group. Invite people to participate, but keep the discussion focused and on point.

* Don’t talk to the screen. If you’re using overhead slides or a liquid crystal display (LCD) projector, keep your notes in front of you. Then you can continue to look at your audience while talking about the information on the screen behind you. If you want to point to something on the screen, point to it on the overhead slide or computer monitor instead.

* Recap often. If it’s a long presentation that covers many steps, help people absorb it or you may lose them somewhere along the way. Summarize, in one or two sentences, what you’ve covered so far and what the next step will be.

* Keep the lights on. Too many things can go wrong in the dark. People may fall asleep, or they may start concentrating on the refreshments. You won’t be able to make eye contact or read your notes. If you must lower the lights, dim them just a little, not all the way.

* Don’t mix eating and speaking. You can’t expect full attention to your presentation from someone who is biting into an overstuffed chicken sandwich. Avoid the “working lunch presentation.” First food, then business.

* Give handouts. Always give your audience a written summary or outline – after the presentation. There are times when you may need to hand the audience something during your presentation, such as in a training exercise. In such instances, give them only as much material as they need at that point in the exercise.

* Above all, relax. A few butterflies in your stomach are OK, but if you’re too tense, your performance can quickly go downhill. Remember: you’re the expert, you have their attention, you’re in command, and you’re going to make it worth their while. What’s there to worry about?

Copyright 2006 Arun Sinha.

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.

Presentation Skills

You’ve only got about fifteen to thirty seconds before people start to settle into their impressions. Hence, when effectively presenting, we want openers that will not only grab our audiences’ attention, but will also quickly establish our credibility, cultivate goodwill with our listeners and introduce our topics.

Think of your opening as not being more than 10 percent of your entire presentation. Budgeting your speech in this manner forces you to organize your time so that you know exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Scrap the old fillers like, “Today’s topic is…,” or “I’m going to speak on…,” or worse, “I was assigned to talk about….” When preparing your opener, think of efficiency and accuracy. First of all, consider ways that will grab your audience’s attention and perk them up. Several of the most effective approaches involve the use of humor, the telling of a personal story, the posing of a question, the sharing of a quote or the presenting of a startling fact or statistic. Anything that you feel will get your audience to tune in is critical to your opening.

When preparing your opening, how do you establish credibility? One thing is for sure: Don’t just start spouting off your accomplishments and credentials. Nothing will turn an audience off faster. Sure, education and experience matter, but there are subtler ways of mentioning them. Sometimes it will be natural to mention the school from which you graduated, to refer to a publication you authored, etc. Many times, you can do so without seeming pompous. A better strategy than tooting your own horn is to have someone else introduce you before you come on. Another handy way to highlight your qualifications without including a “Why I’m So Great” section in your speech is to include a written bio sketch in any materials you may hand out. Your biography could even be included if a basic itinerary is handed out. Such background information is commonly seen for keynote speakers in programs, for example. A written bio can be very effective, but it is very important to keep in mind that when furnishing this “blurb” about yourself that it be written in the third person-that is, as if someone else is describing you (“s/he” instead of “I”).

When I say you want to establish goodwill with your audience members, what I mean is that you want them to feel that you genuinely care about their needs. You want to exhibit your desire to share something that is both meaningful and useful to them. Very early on in your presentation (in your opening), you must clearly communicate the answer to the audience’s two most pressing questions: “WIIFM?” and “WSIC?” “WIIFM?” stands for “What’s in it for me?” “WSIC?” means “Why should I care?” Your audience has to have a reason to want to listen to you and providing them with the answers to these questions gives them one. If you can answer their unspoken, but sincere interest in WIIFM? and WSIC?, they will definitely feel goodwill towards you. You can then achieve a win-win situation where the feeling of goodwill extends in both directions.

Finally, how do you go about introducing your topic? You introduction can be worked into the opening story, question, statistic, quote or joke you use to grab your audience’s attention. Alternatively, you can set up your presentation so that the way in which you grab their attention smoothly transitions into your topic. Last but not least, I will state the obvious and remind you that a charismatic demeanor from the get-go will carry you miles beyond a dry, monotone one.

Understanding different types of audiences will also help you determine how you design and deliver your message. Following are some different categories of audiences and some strategies on how to deal with each of them.

Learning how to persuade and influence will make the difference between hoping for a better income and having a better income. Beware of the common mistakes presenters and persuaders commit that cause them to lose the deal. Get your free report 10 Mistakes That Continue Costing You Thousands and explode your income today.

Conclusion

Persuasion is the missing puzzle piece that will crack the code to dramatically increase your income, improve your relationships, and help you get what you want, when you want, and win friends for life. Ask yourself how much money and income you have lost because of your inability to persuade and influence. Think about it. Sure you’ve seen some success, but think of the times you couldn’t get it done. Has there ever been a time when you did not get your point across? Were you unable to convince someone to do something? Have you reached your full potential? Are you able to motivate yourself and others to achieve more and accomplish their goals? What about your relationships? Imagine being able to overcome objections before they happen, know what your prospect is thinking and feeling, feel more confident in your ability to persuade. Professional success, personal happiness, leadership potential, and income depend on the ability to persuade, influence, and motivate others.