Focus: Career – Presentation Strategies & Skills
Consider This:
• Master presenters follow seven basic strategies.
• The first strategy is talk to the audience. Learn all you can about them beforehand.
• The second strategy is to have something worthwhile to convey.
• The third strategy is to organize your material well and appropriately. The
organization should fit the subject and the audience.
• The fourth strategy is powerful delivery and good content, from strong openings, through smooth transitions to smashing endings. Avoid clichés. Use humor and suspense.
• The fifth strategy is to leave the audience with something to think about, talk about and do.
• The sixth strategy is to keep yourself controlled and roll with the punches.
• The seventh strategy is to continue to hone your skills.
• Use audience participation to involve people and help them remember your content.
Be aware of your internal dialogue and keep it positive.

Man presenting to coworkers

What You Will Learn
You will learn:
1) The seven strategies that make presentations excellent; and
2) How to put them to use.

Seven in Sum
Although North Americans spend about $6 billion a year on presentations, they do not get a commensurate return on that investment. But Master Presenters are worth top billing. Their seven strategies are:

1) Talk to the audience.
2) Have something important to say to them.
3) Organize your presentation well.
4) Deliver it powerfully.
5) Give the audience something to remember, act on and pass along.
6) Control yourself, manage difficult people and cope with bad circumstances.
7) Keep improving.

Impressive speakers are:
• Able — They convince you of their competence quickly and hold your attention.
• Believable — They are honest and modest, not egotistical.
• Connected — They establish a connection with the audience.
• Dedicated — They care and you know it.
• Energetic — They deliver like dynamos.

Are You Talking to Me?
You must know what kind of an audience you are addressing. You will address an audience of intense specialists differently than you would talk to an audience of curious generalists. Use these eight techniques to develop a better understanding of your audience:

1) Survey them before you present.
2) Interview them face-to-face.
3) Interview them by phone.
4) Read case studies.
5) Visit them at work.
6) Shadow them on the job.
7) Read annual reports and other material that discusses them.
8) Look them up on the Internet.

What Do You Have to Say?
To hold their attention and not waste their time, you need to have something to say that matters to them. Different people have different priorities, styles and vocabularies. If you were talking about health, you probably would not use the same language to make a presentation to physicians as you would to talk to a group of teenagers. The content of your presentation is partly the material, partly the style and partly the delivery. To make sure that your content is outstanding:

• Take a strong, unambiguous and forceful stand.
• Use titles that arouse curiosity.
• Make sure your introductions and conclusions pack a punch.
• Use great quotations.
• Tell stories to illustrate what you say.
• Remember the three “S’s”: stories, simulations and science.
• Write a draft where you simply capture everything you might want to mention.
• Consult a board of advisors.

Organizing for Effectiveness
No matter how strong your material may be or how powerfully you can deliver it, your presentation will fail if you do not organize it well. At the beginning of your presentation, tell people what you are going to say and describe your plan of organization so they know at each point where you are coming from and where you are going. Develop clear, helpful transitions and time yourself. Select a framework, such as one of these eight organizational structures:

• Historical-chronological — Recapitulate a series of developments over time.
• Geographical — This is appropriate when you are talking, for example, about building a pipeline or tracking the advance of an army.
• Logical-analytical — This presents a series of logical steps leading to a conclusion.
• Explanation of function — Tell the audience, step by step, how something works.
• Compare and contrast — Pursue an analysis of pros and cons.
• Conflict — Every story needs a conflict struggling for high stakes. Use a defining conflict to shape your presentation.
• Metaphor — Organize your presentation as an extended metaphor, that is, compare a marketing campaign to a military campaign.

The Power of Delivery
You have good content, and you’ve organized it superbly. Now don’t lose your audience by mumbling, stumbling or muttering. To energize your presentation:

• Swear off clichés! — Don’t open your presentation the way everyone else does, by saying, “I’m happy to be here” or “I’d like to thank you all for inviting me.”
• Use forceful words and phrases
• Go with a flow — Make sure it’s clear where you’re going and keep moving.
• Use mystery and suspense — Use foreshadowing and flashbacks. Pose interesting questions and make the audience wait for the answer.
• Get some stage props — The right props can engage the audience’s attention and underscore your point.
• Ham it up — Add a dose of drama to your style.
• Master the pregnant pause — Pause briefly between words, so that the audience hears each word clearly. Pause at the end of a sentence, so the audience can reflect on what you’ve said.
• Kid around — Use a little humor, but be careful.
• Get the audience involved — Use exercises that invite the audience to stand up, play a role or work on a problem. Offer listeners a chance to comment or ask questions.
• End with a smash — Never end on a cliché. Never talk longer than you have to in order to get your point across.

Offer a Memorable Message
Give the audience something to remember, act on and pass along. Master presenters use these 11 proven tactics to help audiences remember a message, so they can act on it and share it:

1) Repeat, restate and recapitulatepicture of light bulb bursting with ideas
2) Learning by doing
3) Keep their attention
4) Mnemonic tricks
5) Stories
6) “Aha” moments
7) Anchors
8) Metaphor
9) A play in three acts
10) Music
11) Games

Control Yourself
Self-control is necessary to overcome a fear of public speaking. Most people are nervous when they think of giving a presentation. They procrastinate, put themselves down and perpetuate their own nightmares when they face an audience. Beware of negative self-talk. Don’t be a perfectionist. Good enough is good enough. If you make a mistake, learn what you can from it and put it behind you. Remember, you will never have a better past, no matter what you do. But you can have a great future. When disturbances disrupt your presentation, don’t get flustered. Use humor. Try to resolve the problem by incorporating the noise in your presentation, closing a window, moving to another room or getting help from the facility manager. Be careful with difficult people in your audience. Sometimes the person you think is least attentive, least interested and most hostile is, in fact, your biggest fan. The woman who is frowning while everyone is laughing at your joke may be pondering the deep significance of a point you made. Of course, audiences can include people who will try to drag you off course with irrelevant questions or heckle you. If you stay loose and relaxed, you can often address them with wit. If a joke doesn’t work, slowly escalate your response. Sometimes you can let the other members of the audience do the disciplining for you.

Keep Improving
The best presenters rehearse, practice, rehearse, practice and rehearse. They never consider their presentations so good that they cannot be improved by more practice. They monitor audience response to their stories and make improvements. Do these five things to get the most from rehearsing:

1) Tape your presentation — Record it and listen to it. Listen to yourself early and often.
2) Try a simulation — Find a room like the space where you’ll be presenting, and if possible recruit some people like those you’ll be addressing.
3) Drill — Practice parts of your presentation when you’re doing things utterly unrelated to it.
4. Take a trial run — Try your presentation on an audience unlike the one you’ll be addressing.
5. Ask for feedback — Have someone else watch your presentation and make recommendations.

Master presenters are self-made, not born. Tap into numerous organizations, books and resources to improve your presentation skills. Among the best are Toastmasters International and the National Speakers Association (NSA).


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