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.

Effective Presentations – The Second Step for Success

Building strong workable objectives is the second step in effective presentation planning. The emphasis is definitely on the word, workable. All our objectives have to be achievable by us, the speaker. And they have to be achieved in the time permitted with the audience’s involvement. Once we factor in the external pressures of time and audience it is imperative that we have the means to deliver — workable objectives give us the means.

Having good workable objectives is, therefore, an essential element of the effective presentation. Critically they fulfill 3 main purposes:

  1. Workable objectives provide us with a framework for success — giving us a quick embodiment of everything that we need to present.
  2. Workable objectives stop us from rambling and going off message — either when we plan, when we write or when we deliver our presentation.
  3. Workable objectives get us to where we want to be getting — serving as visible milestones of progress made and distance still to be covered.

But that is not all they do. Workable objectives have another overriding purpose in our presentation. Well outlined and understood objectives assist our audience to understand our presentation’s logic flow. They ensure that our audience is more likely to follow the presentation and remain captivated by the subject — whatever that subject might be. And that has to be the overriding reason why we invest time and effort in getting the right objectives.

In an earlier article we used a mission statement selected from a presentation given in the South West: “To ensure that the team understands the HR (Human Resources) consequences of factory closure.” It was a dry old subject, but typical of many presentation missions made every day in the work-place. With this mission statement we could expect some workable objectives along the lines of:

  • Set the scene for manufacturing optimisation.
  • Establish the productivity benchmarks for manufacturing progress.
  • Assess the options available and their impacts.
  • Describe and cost the HR (Human Resources) consequences.
  • Detail the preferred route for factory closure.

Our target should be some four or five workable objectives that can be handled easily and smoothly in a business presentation. Any more objectives than this, however, and you run the risk of exhausting your audience. It is a mistake that is most often found with the PowerPoint presentation style — where we are presented with multiple lists of objectives and issues at every stage. Too much detail at this early stage is not useful.

Our workable objectives should be short and sharp. And to the point.

They should stress action and focus on activity. Your choice of words is important, for they also convey important meaning for the audience. For the matter of the cardboard manufacturing plant we used the action words: set the scene, establish, assess, describe and detail. And they were probably appropriate for the circumstances. In a marketing presentation your workable objectives might include: research, develop, deliver, compete or gain share — action words which are well understood by the audience work the best. There is no room for misunderstanding.

Finally, once you have committed to your workable objectives, consider how they fit with your mission statement. Ensure that the two are in tandem and assist one another, bearing in mind how they impact upon an audience’s understanding and appreciation of our presentation. With the workable objectives settled, the next step is the planning of our presentation in more detail.

PowerPoint Tips – How to Present the Content of Your Presentation

Bullets or No Bullets?

The use of bullets in presentations can be useful because it’s always better to have as few texts as possible on your slides. People can immediately read your content as soon as the slide is shown to them; however they usually find it hard to read and listen at the same time.

At times, Bullets also present other issues:

* Some will associate your presentation with dreary ones
* It represents a template for lists
*It is a delineated way of presenting information

Bullets Make Your Presentation Dreary

Presentations with a lot of text and bullets are often not appreciated. Avoid using bullet points in your presentations or you’ll risk losing your audience’ interest.

Bullets Represent a Template for Lists

As long as messages are carefully and logically arranged, you can go away with a list format for your presentation. An example is when you write about something and you mention related information such as supporting numbers and related examples. However, your slides shouldn’t just contain a number of lists; instead they should cover the entire topic.

When using bullets, it is your speech which expresses the progress of the topic however the audience feels you are only providing them an outline.

Bullets are Non-Graphical

PowerPoint slides are made to put together both graphical and verbal means of communicating, so they should be made graphical. Always remember that the PowerPoint presentation isn’t the core of the presentation, but is your actual discussion.

A good number of researches have proven that useful images help express a clearer point, and audiences remember images better in contrast to texts. Audiences also comprehend the discussion better in general.

When choosing an image to use for your presentation, make sure it is significant to your topic. The images should help express your message and help the audience connect to the presentation at an emotional level.

Moreover, if you make use of irrelevant images, recalling the message of the presentation becomes harder.

More PowerPoint Tips on How to Avoid Bullets

It might seem impossible to avoid using bullets when you have so many important things to say. But these PowerPoint tips offer great ideas on how you actually can!

You simply have to put one idea in one of the slides and disseminate the bullets into other slides. Make sure to add images related to the topic. Should you want to summarize all your ideas in the end, you can add all of it on the last slide. During this part, the audience will be familiar with your ideas and you will find it convenient to use all of them at once.