Learn how to be an effective speaker with effective presentation techniques
Posted: Aug 25, 2017
A presentation is a way of communication which could be adapted to different speaking scenarios. The scenarios could include addressing a group, a meeting or briefing a team. Preparing for a presentation is often tedious, tough and takes a lot of time and the cardinal rule once in the venue is to engage the audience, not put them to sleep.
Majority of business presentations range from unbelievably boring to, simply boring. However, it need not be this way. Fortunately, there are phases of effective presentations that will not bore the audience. These phases should help one make the presentation not just a knowledgeable but also a great experience.
A. KNOW THE AUDIENCE
The most important thing to do before making a preparation for the presentation is to do a research of the audience. Spend some time getting to know what these people expect to gain from the presentation. The more a speaker connects with the audience, the more engaged they would be. The presentation should cater to the background as well as the audience's needs. Take for instance presenting to accountants. The key is to include objective data and hard numbers. If the audience on the other hand is composed of creative teams, there should be more interactive and visual content.
The people who would be listening and watching have various experiences, levels of knowledge and interests. A powerful presenter would have to acknowledge these and prepare for and respond to them accordingly. Things to consider include:
- how much would the audience already know regarding the topic
- would there be a need to win them over to a certain point of view
- how to link new material to things they might understand already
While the presenter may not be able to answer the questions for every member of the audience, but there must be enough information to ensure that one has the targeted material at the right level for their needs.
Write out an agenda telling the story in a concise and clear way. Every section of the presentation must flow in order and should tell a story. Consider the agenda carefully since it would become the foundation of the task. For instance, if meeting with a client for a business reviews, the flow should consist of past performance, opportunities, competitor analysis and a road map of what is next.
When there is a clear agenda, the speaker is not only telling the people what the presentation is about, but also how one would cover the topics. They need this assurance up front to stay with the speaker for the rest of the presentation. An agenda helps them to orient their thoughts during the opening and makes the message memorable.
C. PREPARING THE PRESENTATION
Preparation is the most important phase of making a successful lecture. This is a critical foundation and there must be no shortcuts. Regardless if the speech is formal or informal, the aim should always be to give a well-structured and clear delivery. A speaker should know exactly what he or she wants to say and the order wherein one wants to say it. Clear ideas and good organization should result in a logical, lively and engaging message.
Before writing the lecture, the presenter should have already prepared by developing ideas and choosing the main points to include. Once the key messages are decided upon, and the materials, consider how to present. Speeches could range from formal to informal, and the choice of method would depend on numerous factors, including the audience, place, facilities and one's own preferences.
D. ORGANIZING THE MATERIALS
If the presentation is informal and short, probably it is not necessary to use any visual aids. Visual illustrations are paramount if anything needs clarifying, expanding or simplifying. Any kind of illustrations should be fully explained and relevant. PowerPoint or other lecture software is often used to support a lecture, although care has to be taken to ensure that the technology helps the speech and does not detract from the main essence of the talk. Grouping together what belongs together is an effective way to organize the talk.
E. WORKING WITH VISUAL AIDS
Most visual aids would require advance preparation and has to be operated efficiently. However, visual aids should only be used if they are necessary to maintain the interest of the audience and assist comprehension. They should not be used to demonstrate one's technological prowess or expertise. If the visual aids are used well, they would enhance a presentation by strengthening the involvement of the people and add impact, otherwise, they could ruin a presentation.
PowerPoint should be used as a guide instead of a crutch. When making slides, it is necessary to ensure that the graphs and text are viewable when projected on the screen. A general rule is to keep words to a minimum and even lesser if showing graphs or charts.
F. PRESENTING DATA
There are instances when using data in a talk could really help the presenter to tell the story better. However, it is important not to blind the audience with statistics and also to keep in mind that a lot of people find numbers hard to understand. Consider using simple 2D charts rather than complex 3D charts. This is because when using 3D, it would make the audience work harder and it gives them an additional dimension to think of, which delays understanding.
Presenters attempt to explain complex data that they have studied for days, weeks and even months in just a few minutes. There is a tendency that the audience will grasp little of it. It would be hard to impossible to explain all the data in detail. The key however is to carefully choose and explain subsets of the data. Often, statistical data is presented in a clinical, dry manner. It is then paramount for a speaker to deliver the data in an energetic manner. A thoughtful presentation of data creates an energetic audience and an understandable and memorable talk.
G. MANAGING THE EVENT
The practicalities of how to manage the presentation could make a remarkable difference to the success. A speaker or presenter should learn how to cope as well as managing the sound systems, lecterns and audio-visual equipment. When it comes to seating, if the chairs are free standing, it could be arranged according to the room size and the number of people expected. Arranging the seating is relevant so everyone will be able to see and hear and there would be no obstacles to the visual aids.
A speaker or presenter should arrive in plenty of time since being late would increase stress levels. If the venue is available before the audience arrives, it is necessary to check if the seating is suitable, the supply and location of electrical sockets and light switches and make sure the visual aids and equipment are working. If possible, one should spare five minutes before the lecture begins to review notes and calm the nerves.
If the talk is a formal or semi-formal one, someone may introduce the speaker. Take time to get into position, make eye contact and smile. If introduced, always acknowledge it with thanks. Unless it is a very small group or a very informal event, it is important to always stand to give a talk or presentation. Keep the head up and maintain eye contact with the spectators throughout. It is also important to be alert to the mood and reaction of the people. Keeping interest all throughout would depend not just on the content but how the talk is delivered vocally as well. The following aspects of voice control are important:
- clarity - to be understood
- volume - to be heard
- variety - for more interest
Great public speakers keep focus on the audience, instead of their notes or slides. Focusing on the audience inspires them to focus on the speaker and the message. Never read from slides because this would only make one boring, and it would be insulting the intelligence of everyone in the room. Effective talk means not skipping around. Nothing makes one appear more disorganized than skipping over slides, showing slides that do not really belong or going back to previous ones.
Humor should be left to professionals, unless one is really good at telling jokes. Keep in mind that in terms of business presentations, polite laughter is the kiss of death.
H. DEALING WITH QUESTIONS
An effective presenter should decide ahead of time how and when to handle questions. Some speakers prefer questions to be raised as they arise during the talk. Others prefer to deal with them at the end. At the beginning of the lecture, make the preferences clear to the congregation. The main rule of question sessions is to treat the audience respect and answer the questions honestly and directly. If a question is provocative, it should be answered directly. Never be rude to the person asking the question or show that one is upset. Do not compromise but instead, maintain a point of view and never ever lose temper. While this may be hard to maintain, it could be done by being assertive.
Listen to a question carefully and if the group is big, repeat it to ensure that everyone has heard. If unsure, paraphrase it back to the questioner and make sure to have it right and always answer briefly and to the point. If the presenter does not know the answer, it would be a good idea to be honest about it and offer to find out and make sure to follow it up. To be able to answer, write down the name of the person and email address, thus make sure to speak to the person or persons before they leave.
Rakesh Patel is a senior business analyst working at eTatvaSoft. He is profoundly skilled and experienced in providing best possible IT solutions to his valuable clients.