How To Deliver Great Presentations In Your Organization
For many people, presentations are one of the most difficult parts of their job. Whether it’s speaking to a roomful of people, explaining your budget to the CEO, pitching to a potential client, leading a departmental meeting or presenting remotely via the Internet, otherwise effective and valuable employees struggle to drive home their message and persuade their audience. Even experienced presenters can fall flat on their faces when the stakes are high. Rambling, nervousness, excessive detail, over-reliance on slides, lack of focus on the audience: These are all common problems — and all easily corrected with the steps detailed below.
The key to truly great presentations is to understand your audience’s point of view and to tell them what’s in it for them. These steps helps you make this crucial audience assessment, then carefully analyzes the mechanics of stellar presentations. Believe it or not, you can become comfortable — even enthusiastic — about presenting yourself and your message with clarity, credibility, and confidence by following the expert guidelines below.
Crafting Your Presentation
A persuasive presentation consists of three sections, delivered in this order:
I. The Opening (tell them what you are going to tell them): Set the stage by providing your audience with a well-organized opening consisting of three key elements: introduction, attention-getter and executive preview. Quickly establish your credibility and enthusiasm, and clearly state the purpose of the presentation. The attention-getter is a magnetic tool that keeps them watching or listening. Startle them with a surprising statistic or fact related to their industry or your topic. Ask a rhetorical thought-provoking question followed by a pause. Use humor, which may include an amusing personal story, funny saying, witty example or clean joke. The executive preview shows that you are organized and prepared with a well-thought-out plan. They immediately see that you are going to lead them down a logical path and not waste their time.
II. The Body (tell them): The body of your presentation consists of three elements: key points, supporting material and transitional statements. Select three key points. There’s an age-old principle in communicating that suggests when things come in a pattern of three, they are inherently more satisfying, easier to remember, even funnier. Add supporting material: feelings and facts; abstract and concrete; heart and head. A persuasive presenter seeks first to connect on an emotional level by eliciting positive feelings; then he or she offers concrete evidence to confirm those feelings. Transition statements between key points notify the listener that you are about to change the course of direction. It leads your audience from one key point to the next.
III. The Close (tell them what you just told them): Conclude your presentation with a powerful, persuasive close that consists of three key elements: summary, call to action and appreciation. Summarize the key points and benefits of your message. Tell your audience exactly what you want them to do in response to your message. And, finally, thank them for their time and attention.
Presenters who follow this proven format enjoy more successful outcomes. It makes it easier for you to prepare, present and persuade. It makes it easier for the audience to listen, remember and respond.
Use Effective Body Language to Show Confidence
When you present, you send two kinds of messages to your listeners: verbal and nonverbal. While you may be communicating verbally through the words you speak, a more memorable message is conveyed nonverbally by your body language and voice tone. You cannot avoid sending nonverbal messages to an audience, but you can train yourself to send the right ones. In body language, you are equipped with at least five powerful tools to communicate your message:
1. Eye communication: Eye contact is the most important nonverbal tool you have; it is the cement that bonds a speaker with his or her audience. There is no surer way to break that bond than by failing to look into the eyes of your audience members. A lack of eye contact implies a list of offenses: disinterest, detachment, insecurity, insincerity, shiftiness or arrogance.
2. Facial expressions: When you speak, your face serves as a billboard communicating to others your attitudes, feelings and emotions. People recognize almost every emotion simply by observing a person’s facial expressions. A genuine smile conveys interpersonal warmth, empathy and friendliness. If you smile easily, your audience is likely to as well.
3. Gestures: Gestures are the punctuation marks of body language. They support your message and help the audience interpret your meaning. When used effectively, gestures increase a listener’s understanding, attentiveness and retention. Gestures serve as a positive, effective outlet for extra adrenaline. Loosen up and let your body move naturally.
4. Posture: Good speaking posture involves your whole body from head to toe. It’s a revealing indicator of self-assurance, attitude and energy level. Good posture aligns your body to optimize breathing. This allows you to project your voice more effectively. Try the following: Pull in your stomach. Balance your weight evenly. Keep your head and chin up.
5. Body movement: Meaningful body movement is a tremendous asset to your delivery style. Here are a few guidelines on how to move with meaning: Step away from the lectern. The more of your body the audience sees, the more of your message they believe. Have a mobile microphone so you are free to move. Change your body position to transition between points. Step forward for emphasis. Avoid pacing or swaying. Move to both sides of the room to be equally accessible.
Speak with the voice of Authority
Your audience of decision makers is influenced by what they hear. If they are distracted by the way you talk, they will miss your message and fail to take the action you want. The key to discovering your best voice is cultivating six key vocal qualities:
1. Use a listener-friendly tone of voice. Tone is how you say something. Your tone is your most important voice attribute because it conveys your emotions and attitudes. Set a micro-cassette recorder beside your telephone and click it on when you answer. Afterward, play back the recording and listen for your tone of voice. What feelings and attitudes do you hear?
2. Control your pitch. Pitch refers to the highness or lowness of your voice. Speaking in the lower register of your voice range sends the message of credibility and command. Think of your voice as a musical instrument. Sing the ah sound at various pitch levels, traveling up and down your vocal scale. Recite the letters of the alphabet while ascending and descending within your range. This exercise builds awareness of your various pitch levels and builds confidence to use more of the lower tones available to you.
3. Calculate and vary your pace. Pace, or rate, is how quickly or slowly you speak. The average rate of speech for most presenters is 150–160 words per minute. It’s a rate that is quick enough to keep the listener interested, yet not so fast that it loses or frustrates the listener.
4. Use volume to speak up and speak out. A timid, weak, or inaudible voice is not persuasive. You have a message and a purpose for presenting it, and you have earned the right to be heard. Give yourself permission to project your voice with confidence.
5. Use inflection to influence decision makers. A monotone voice is a listener’s No. 1 pet peeve. The remedy is inflection — adding special emphasis to a word by modulating your tone, pace or pitch.
6. Practice articulation to speak clearly. All words are pronounced correctly and each syllable is enunciated intelligibly. Warm up your mouth muscles by practicing a few tongue twisters.
Leading Team Presentations
Use the following guidelines for planning, rehearsing and delivering winning team presentations:
• Appoint a strong leader or captain. The team leader is responsible for total project management from concept development through the final presentation. Whether it’s content, structure, presenters or logistics, the captain takes full responsibility for the overall outcome of
• Decide on three clearly defined goals. Make a list of goals, then narrow it down to those that are most important. Focus on the three most essential goals you as a team want to achieve with this specific audience.
• Prepare, prepare, prepare. Know your audience. Organize your individual presentations as if they were each part of one continuous presentation delivered by several people.
• Optimize individual strengths. Assign each team member specific responsibilities regarding content, delivery, visual aids, research, handouts and deadlines — based on each person’s strengths and expertise.
• Ask the lead presenter to facilitate Q&A. The leader should respond immediately with a brief answer and then direct the question to the member who is best equipped to elaborate.
• Rehearse as a team. It’s critical that the team practice together. It’s the best way to ensure a high level of comfort with the presentation and each other. A full dress rehearsal with visual aids is a must for successful team presentation.
• Remember, you are always on. In a team presentation, everyone is being watched, even when they’re not presenting. Stay alert. Listen. Show interest in what’s being said. Pay attention to the audience. You may pick up signals that help you gauge audience response and then tailor your comments and presentation accordingly.
Effective presentation and communication skills will not only get you noticed, remembered and promoted more often and more quickly than any other skill set, they will also help ensure that you get more of what you want and deserve in life. By acquiring these abilities, you will begin enjoying a whole new level of success –– personally and professionally.