How to Deliver Effective Presentations
"O, it offends me to the soul, to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear
a passion to tatters..." - William Shakespeare.
Giving presentations to audiences, large or small, can be a daunting and
anxiety-ridden task. You’re going to be in front of a group of people, some
you may know, some may be total strangers. You’re on stage, all eyes are on
you, the audience has high expectations or they wouldn’t be there. Every word,
every nuance, your appearance, the tone of your voice, not to mention the
content of your presentation, will be scrutinized in every way. You know what
you want to say – you know the material – but there’s that nagging feeling
that you’ll say the wrong thing or you’ll have a spot on your suit or there
will be some errant distraction.
Business presentations take many forms. Some are extremely formal with
highly detailed information... how do you make sure the audience doesn’t get
lost in the detail and focuses on the overall message? Some are informal and
the difficulty is controlling the cross-talk. What about the technical aspects?
What will you do if the projector goes out; do you have a backup plan? The
outcome you want is that when the audience leaves, they will remember the
information and be impressed with the overall presentation. These steps offer
some guidelines on how to accomplish that purpose.
- Know your audience and understand its perspective. Whether your goal
is persuasion, or simply to inform, you need to understand your audience, its
level of expertise and how your message will resonate. Crafting a presentation
for a group of high school interns would be very different compared to an
executive report to management, pitching a sales idea, or addressing a hostile
audience about why the company needs to cut benefits.
- Research thoroughly. You absolutely must be an expert on the subject.
Okay, you don’t have to be the world’s leading authority, but you have to know
the critical facts as well as much of the little-known information. Just talking
about things everybody already knows is a recipe for boredom. It’s not at all
unusual to spend weeks, or months, getting the facts, alternate opinions and
comments from reputable sources as well as what the general community may think.
- Document your sources. Where you get your information is as important
as the information itself. Without solid, peer-reviewed data, you’re just a person
with an opinion. The audience, in this exercise, is expecting facts and projections.
Your personal opinion may very well be important but it must not be the only thing
you present. You won’t be listing the sources ad nauseum (you will bore them silly)
but you do want to be able to give citations when asked.
- Write your speech. Off-the-cuff talks are fine if you’re on a soap box
in a park. In a large room with hundreds of attendees, you just can’t afford that.
You might not exactly "read" the speech, but that’s certainly not uncommon,
especially if you’re going to be using a teleprompter. Print the speech in large
print so you can easily see it at a glance without appearing to read from it. You
want to give the appearance of talking to the audience instead of reading to them,
but you also want the words and phrases to be precise and predetermined.