Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Polishing Your Presentation Skills

The last time you gave a presentation did you claim that the reason the audience dozed off was because of a stuffy room, too much lunch, or perhaps some weird sleep disorder? If you did, perhaps it’s time to go to the true source of the audience snores -- you.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when putting together a presentation is that they sit down at their computer and begin writing a speech with long sentences and big words. Experts say that means you're writing for the "eye" and not the "ear." In other words, you need to use short, simple easy-to-understand sentences and words that the audience will grasp immediately.

Another common goof: reading from the paper directly in front of you, instead of working on giving eye contact and keeping what is called an "open face" -- lots of raised eyebrows and teeth showing.

Research shows that there are three things business audiences like about their favorite speakers: enthusiasm; interesting subject matter full of humor and stories; and knowledge of the subject.

With that in mind, here are some tips to get you on the road to a dynamite business presentation that will leave your audience dazzled -- not dozing.

1. Subject. When choosing the issue you want to address, look at what you want your audience to think, do, or say when you are done.

2. Tone. Don't talk about how nervous you are. The audience wants to know it is in good hands, so speak clearly and loud enough to be heard by the back row (make sure a microphone is working properly beforehand). Your presentation should offer solutions to any problems you present.

3. Audience. Who are they? What do you want them to know? This is key when setting up your presentation.

4. Keep moving. This applies to body language and subject matter. Hand gestures and facial expressions keep things interesting, and you should always practice a presentation many times so that it moves smoothly and prevents the audience from being bored.

5. Tell them a story. Storytelling has proven to be the most effective form of communication since man learned to speak. Use as many anecdotes and stories and examples as you can as long as they apply to the subject. Humor is always welcome, but make sure it is not offensive in any way to your audience.

6. Opening. You’ve got to grab them from the beginning. You want to get a reaction immediately, whether it’s positive or negative.

7. Closing. Too many people race toward the end, relieved it’s nearly over. Big mistake. This is when you need to leave them with a closing image of you, your topic or project, your department or organization.

Remember, presentations are important to careers, because it gives you a chance to showcase your knowledge and abilities and impress bosses and peers. Don't blow it by not being completely prepared.



Thom Singer said...


Great points. the best thing I ever did for my career was to join a Toastmasters Club and participate actively for several years. Speaking in public is a skill you learn by doing.

Does not matter what you do for a living, if your presentation skills are above average you will find more opportunities in life.

Anita said...

When I was in school, I participated in plays and chorus and a bunch of other stuff, and I think that helped me enormously...just being able to stand in front of people became easier and easier. I think your suggestion about joining Toastmasters is a great idea, or someone could even participate in community events such as a house of worship, theater, etc., to help them become more at ease in speaking before others.