Putting Tenacity In Your Presentation : If you are one of those people who find it difficult to make presentations, this article will help you improve your presentation.
Get ready for your presentation
One of the keys is being prepared. Know your goals. If you’re not sure, ask the person requesting the presentation. What do you want to achieve with this presentation? Providing information, selling ideas. How much time do you have for your presentation? Another thing to consider – the resources and visual aids available to you. Do you need to book a room? What other settings do you need to make?
Get as much information as possible about your audience. Their knowledge of the topic. What are their goals? What language are they comfortable with? Consider the possibility of splitting the presentation into two sessions if there is a mix in knowledge levels. Be prepared for any objections your audience may have.
Prepare your presentation
As a rule of thumb, preparation takes up to seven times longer than delivery. Remember to incorporate factors such as your workload, interruptions from coworkers into your preparation time. Try using available visual aids.
Think about the topic. Gather all aspects of the subject matter, dividing the topic into 3 areas:
- Need to know
- Pleased to hear it
- Deviating from topic
Arrange the ‘need-to-know’ topics in a logical order and prepare a step-by-step flow to them. If you do not have sufficient knowledge of the subject matter, do your research using resources like library, internet. Do not be proud, consult with colleagues or experts in your organization.
Crafting your presentation
The general structure of most presentations has:
- Questions and answers
The introduction should include:
- introduce myself
- subject matter
- the topic you will discuss
- why is there an audience?
- the benefits they will get
- how long will the presentation last?
- when questions can be asked
This is an important time to show enthusiasm and energy for your subject matter. First impressions count in presentations.
Content, as mentioned earlier, should be logical and laid out step by step. Divide your presentation into subsections. Summarize each subsection before moving on to the next. Emphasize during this summary the main points to reinforce learning. If you allow the audience to ask questions at the end of each subsection, mention this at the beginning of the introduction.
The conclusion is where you refer back to the presentation objectives and review the goals that have been achieved. Highlight the key points of the presentation and emphasize the benefits to the audience. Remember to smell the conclusion (Keep It Short and Simple).
Question and answer sessions are the most difficult to prepare. During your brainstorming, consider the objections raised by your audience and address these in the body of your presentation. Ask your partner to ask questions, the harder the better.
Run and rerun your presentation in your mind, but remember that you think much faster than you speak. Practice hard. Speak. By doing this, it gives you the opportunity to find the words you want to use. Time your presentation. If possible, record your presentation. This gives you the opportunity to check your own presentation.
Check your voice, pitch, volume, pace, body language, and movements. Do an exercise (or dry run) with your coworkers. Get feedback and modify your presentation as necessary. If possible, have a rehearsal where your presentation will take place.
Your delivery should be free-flowing and you should sound natural. This means having a good workout. Should you have presentation notes? Depends. Notes can be annoying. Try to maintain eye contact with your audience. If you really need presentation notes, have index cards ready.
Write in large print, using short bullet points. Number the cards, tie the cards loosely. Place the card on your presentation table. Remember, minimize your references to these cards. Or, use your visual aids for clues. Expand on the key points highlighted in the visual aids.
Use visual aids to enhance and make your presentation interesting. But remember, YOU are the primary visual aid, other visual aids should never distract from you. Visual aids can be a projector (lcd, slide, overhead), flipchart, whiteboard, video. How often do you use visual aids? As a rule of thumb, roughly every ten minutes. Try to vary the visual aids. Visual aids should be clear and concise.
The choice of visual aids depends on:
- audience size
- room size
- available facilities
As a guide, flipcharts or whiteboards can be used for small audiences. The projector is suitable for complex materials and graphics. Provide handouts if visual aids are not available and work through handouts.
Have handouts or not. Handouts can be valuable reference documents for your audience. If you intend for your audience to work on the flyer, distribute it before your presentation. If not, distribute it at the end of your presentation. The handout should cover the topic in your presentation. Let your audience know that there is a handout at the end of your presentation. To avoid handouts distracting your audience, follow these rules:
- share documents
- make sure everyone has a copy
- highlight to your audience where you want them to focus
- tell your audience to save the document after you’ve done that.
On the day of your presentation, check and make sure everything you need is in the room. What to check? Visual aids, tools, leaflets, notes, extension cords. Make sure all equipment is working. Give yourself enough time to set up your computer, check its connectivity. Check that video can be seen and audio can be heard from every seat. Keep your records and overheads in order.
If you feel nervous before your presentation, do some stretching exercises. During your presentation, make sure you minimize nervous reactions from your audience’s perspective. If your hands tend to shake, avoid using props. If your knees are wobbly, stand behind a podium or table. You can build movement into your presentation like walking to your visual aids, remember to stop completely before speaking to your audience.
What should I wear? The audience and the situation will dictate your dress code. It is important to respect your audience but at the same time, you have to feel comfortable in what you are wearing.
Delivering your presentation
Your presentation begins when your audience begins to enter the room. Mingle with your audience, meet and greet them when they arrive. Remember your eye contact and gestures, first impressions mean a lot.
Ask your audience to sit back and calm down. Remember to assert yourself as a presenter. Stand where all the audience can see you. Make eye contact with your audience, don’t forget those in the back of the room or in the corners of the room.
It’s perfectly normal for you to look for a friendly face in the audience, but it’s important to have eye contact around the room. If someone asks a question, make eye contact with that person. But break eye contact when you answer a question, answer everything in the room.
Remember your posture, stand comfortably. Certain. Take a deep breath. Use lower keys if you feel nervous, your voice tends to be high when nervousness increases. Slow down if you feel nervous. Keep a cup of water nearby if you have a cough or if your mouth feels dry.
Use your body language as a natural communication tool. If you are illustrating a point, use your hands. From time to time, try to move away from your current position. Avoid hand movements using a pen, because it can irritate some people.
What’s next? Oops, I forgot what to say next. But who knows? Only you know what you want to say. If you have your prompt card, refer to them, return the card to its place and continue your address to your audience. This will look like a natural pause to your audience.
Pay attention to your audience’s body language. If you see some eyes yawning or wandering around, increase the energy level of your presentation. It is important that you maintain enthusiasm and energy in your body language and voice.
Remember Murphy’s Law – If something goes wrong, it will go wrong. The most important thing to remember is DON’T PANIC. If the projector is damaged, check for a spare bulb or spare projector. If you are using a projector, prepare a hard copy of your presentation. You can switch to the whiteboard or flipchart and continue with your presentation.
Always repeat key points of the presentation to reinforce learning. Try to vary the format when you emphasize key points.
Stick to your time schedule. If you have a Q&A session at the end, let your audience know. Don’t be distracted by questions from the audience during your presentation.
Whether it’s a room or a hall, it’s important that all of your audience can hear what’s being said. Ask a partner to stand at the back of the room and tell you if he or she can’t see or hear you clearly. You can invite your audience in the back to respond by raising their hand if they can’t hear.
Controlling the Q&A session
At the start of a Q&A session, tell your audience the duration of the session. Give your audience time to engage in the session. After a pause, if no questions arise, start with your frequently asked questions to get the ball rolling. This can give your audience encouragement and time to generate related questions.
When asked a question, repeat it in your own words. This is to ensure that you understand the question and let the audience hear the question asked. Break eye contact with the person asking the question and respond to all of your audience. If you are asked a hostile question, repeating it in your own words, will take the pain away. After you answer a question, don’t return eye contact to the questioner.
Sometimes an individual may demand your attention or keep asking questions, you can suggest a discussion to continue at the end of the session. At all times, remain polite and invite other questions from the floor.
During a session, it’s easy to get off track. To avoid this, consider the question carefully. If you think the response will take you outside the scope of your presentation, let your audience know. Again, you can answer questions at the end of the session or send them to all audiences at a later stage.
If you don’t know the answer, tell your audience. You can open questions to your audience for their answers. If you promise your audience to send you the right answers, keep that promise or you risk damaging your credibility.
Closing your presentation
When the questions coming from the floor have stopped or you have run out of time and have answered the last question, this marks the end of the Q&A session. Always go back to presenter mode and summarize your audience’s goals and expectations and thank them for their time. Be the last to leave the room.
Always evaluate your presentation. This is the best time and opportunity for you to improve and develop your skills. You can request an audience assessment form to be filled out at the end of your presentation or at a later stage (preferably within a week of your presentation). You can also do a (subjective) self-assessment using a checklist. If the purpose of the presentation is to lead to a change in behavior, you can measure your presentation using direct or indirect observations of the behavior.
The key is to accept criticism and acknowledge our weaknesses. But the key area of any feedback, whether positive or negative, is that it should be specific and if possible, provide an example of what it means. Identify weaknesses so they can be eliminated. Remember it is your willingness to change.
Prepare well and practice well. Be open and honest. Remember your audience is human, what they want is to enjoy and benefit from your presentation. Keep them in mind as you prepare and deliver your presentation. Good luck for your next presentation!
David B.W. Lee is an ERP consultant at Sage Accpac since 2000. He was previously a senior consultant with Malaysia’s Top Premier Reseller Careware Systems Sdn Bhd.
Over the past few years, he has held seminars, workshops, training classes, and software demonstrations. He also writes technical and non-technical articles, documentation and tutorials as a freelancer. Among his years of consulting experience, involve setting up and designing websites and providing content management.