Presentations: Captivating Your Audience (Part II)

Persuasive and powerfully delivered presentations can set the stage for corporate success. Conversely, a poorly executed speech can result in corporate suicide. This is the second in the two-part series looking how to craft a successful presentation.

Let’s start with a presentation “no no”: the dreaded “screen-reader”. A poor presentation is one that is read from the screen or paper. Reading your PowerPoint presentation is not only boring but also sends a message to your audience that you are not confident, not prepared, and/or nervous. Yes, a tough crowd is ‘out’ there…and the proverbial work-force wolves prey upon the weak.

Here’s a 13-point “HOW TO” combat a somniferous, head-nodding, eye-closing speech.
1. EACH slide must have 1 or 2 messages only. Let’s repeat that: 1 or 2 messages relayed per slid. That’s right… the less the better …for both you and the audience.
2. The second trick is to understand the message(s) in the slide and then TALK TO that slide. Use passion and free-flowing words that make it sound natural. A “rehearsed-sounding” presentation is equally as bad as one being read.
3. It’s only the first 1 to 2 minutes that are nerve-wrecking. So pick something that is easy to talk about first – ie an easy first slide, introducing someone, etc. Be comfortable with the first few slides. As you gain ‘speech-rhythm’ you gain momentum and confidence!
4. Your voice is your best friend. Project it. Go into the room before hand and listen to yourself.
5. A tip when answering Questions: if you don’t know, say so! Even subject matter experts don’t know everything. “Good question, let me get back to you,” and make sure you do get back to the questioner; it demonstrates reliability and everyone likes a person who does follow-through on issues. If there is a good question that gets people talking, that’s great! But it can also be distracting and time-consuming. If you need to get people back on track say “Let’s take that off-line for now…”. You control the flow.
6. Know your audience/target market. An executive wants something different from a manager.
7. Be aware of room, the temperature, etc. Drink warm/room temperature water. Cold water with ice is not good and constricts the vocal cords.
8. Be aware of people’s time. Don’t stand up there and pontificate because you have the ‘floor”. People’s attention is limited and the best presentations are pacey and positive.
9. Use visuals or bring in demo’s. Music or videos are also great for breaking up the monotony of a long presentation.
10. Smile, breathe, look people in the eyes. If someone has shifty eyes during a conversation you feel they are ‘untrustworthy’. Likewise, people draw the same conclusion from someone delivering a presentation – look them right in the eyes. You can do the scan-approach – but don’t stare someone down for too long.
11. Be well-groomed. That means iron clothes, neat hair, clean teeth, etc. Also think of what colours to wear – blue or black portray confidence and are not distracting. However, depending on the speech you may wish to dress up.
12. Use humour wherever possible. It breaks the tension. It also gives you speech-rhythm.
13. Practice practice practice.

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