Presentation Skills – How Do You Reach Everyone in the Room?

Presentations or speeches can be a wonderful experience for the person talking at the front of the audience and for the audience as well. This is a technique usually used to get information to people and also to entertain people in some circumstances. There are many ways to do this such as Powerpoint, hand outs, or using writing boards which are the visual aspects of presentations. But let’s face it, most of the time it is talking and the audience listening to many words.

Because any group is composed of different types of people with some who listen well, others that are visual learners, some that talking puts to sleep, and others that just want to talk, different ways may be used to attempt to reach everyone.

If at all possible do not get behind a podium. This separates the speaker from the audience and gives a feel that the speaker is unreachable. In this scenario it is unspoken that the audience role is to listen only. It may be untrue but it is an unconscious feeling and interpretation.

Walk around a little. This makes the audience follow you and keeps their attention. At the same time eye contact with different members of the audience shows that you are engaged with them. Don’t linger too long on one person though, but it is OK to see if you can get a nod or a smile.

Bodies make a lot of expression so to use your hands is great. A cordless, hands free mike would be best for this. There are many places using these now and is a good investment. A good one even picks up a whisper.

The voice when speaking should change in tone and emphasis at time but there is no need to shout. It is much like a conversation though one sided mostly, but people listen to conversational tone better than feeling it is simply orders. It is also terrific to smile and tell some related stories. Stories people remember which gives a reference for the information given.

Presentations are meant to help people so give it in a manner that says exactly that.

Presentation Skills – Are You a Rock Or a Diamond?

There’s a story of a man, a poor farmer, who was fed up of his life working from dawn to dusk to only survive. He decided to sell his fields and went off to seek his fortune. He traveled the world for many years until finally, tired and defeated he returned home. He collapsed onto the ground and noticed for the first time some strange looking rocks, which turned out to be diamonds. The wealth he desired had always been his own back yard.

The point is that diamonds in their rough state do not look like diamonds at all. They first have to be cut and polished.

I have trained people in presentation skills for over 20 years and for the vast majority, just like the poor farmer, the huge advantage of being able to communicate powerfully and persuasively to groups of people, is not fully realised until they have learnt to present in an entirely different way. Learning to present your ideas and desires in a way that engages and motivates others can truly turn a rough looking rock into a diamond, in terms of the value your presentation creates and the impression you leave with your audience.

Some people are born to present. They can stand up and wow an audience with their confidence and personality. Being a good presenter is about being yourself, but ‘larger than life’. However, out of the thousands of people I have trained, I have only come across a handful of people who are natural presenters. Because presenting is such a scary experience, the vast majority of people seem to do the opposite and come over to their audience as a shadow of themself.

They adopt a strategy of self-preservation and consequently deliver their presentations in a way that minimizes the risk of damaging their credibility. Unfortunately, the chosen strategy is usually one that makes them come over to the audience as boring and lacking in personality and enthusiasm. This is why we see so many over-scripted, PowerPoint driven, detail laden presentations delivered with no energy and little passion. They hide the diamond from the audience and only show them the rock!

The good news is that anyone can learn to be an effective presenter. If your job involves motivating, persuading, inspiring or leading others, can you really afford not to invest the time and effort (usually about 2 days) to realise your full potential to communicate with groups of people? Out of all the personal skills, the ability to communicate effectively is by far the most powerful and provides the largest return on investment. Value is created by motivating others to do something differently. This cannot be done just with facts set out in an email or report. People need emotional input to fully engage and be motivated to change the way they do things. If you can stand up, talk and have a personality you can achieve all of this.

By realizing your potential as a presenter, you recoup your investment many times over. If you can inspire and enthuse others, you have created the ability to create value by promoting change. And once you are trained, it doesn’t cost you a penny!

How To Design A Business Presentation

Delivering a business presentation is an event that most people find utterly terrifying. A business presentation, however, is just another business skill, combining specific technical aspects with behavioural practise.

There are three distinct components to making an effective presentation:

- Designing a high-powered presentation

- Using PowerPoint properly to support your presentation

- Delivering the presentation effectively

This article, the first of three, will outline how to design a high-powered business presentation. It will identify a number of strategic considerations, in addition to highlighting some organizing and sequencing suggestions.

The Starting Point

When preparing a business presentation, what elements need to be considered?

The first questions that you need to address are:

- what is the Purpose of this business presentation

- what Action do you want people to take as a result of the presentation

Although these questions seems relatively straight-forward, most often they either are overlooked or it is assumed that “we all know the answers”.

In fact, accurately articulating the answers to these questions at the outset of designing your presentation is vital to constructing a business presentation that will be effective, as well as delivering meaningful results.

It’s Only For Information

Generally, people answer the first question with “It’s Only For Information”. In a business context, however, everyone is far too busy to attend a presentation just for information. A business presentation needs to provide value to the audience.

In the business environment, every presentation needs to be understood as an opportunity to:

- Educate

- Create alignment

- Develop commitment

- Secure resources

From this, we can conclude that the Purpose of the presentation is to persuade the audience to engage in supporting your initiative, with the desired Action being the allocating of human, financial and other resources to achieve its end.

Obviously, this is a fundamentally different and more intricate objective than the view that “It’s Only For Information”.

Internal Competition For Resources

Every organization experiences significant ongoing constraint on its available resources. Legitimate demands for more resources far exceed the organization’s ability to satisfy all those requests.

The organization ideally will allocate its finite resources in a manner which maximizes strategic priorities. Other business units or particular initiatives, therefore, effectively are your competition for these resources.

Given this backdrop, delivering a presentation is a focused opportunity to stand apart from the internal competition and promote your imperatives, while demonstrating how this will contribute to the organization’s success.

Strategic Positioning

The strength of a business presentation depends on the degree to which it is strategically positioned.

- Does it concisely link to the business priorities?

- Does it deliver on improved customer service, reduced costs, etc.?

- Does it collaboratively support other business units or initiatives?

- Does it reduce organizational pain and increase employee engagement?

- Does it address emerging dynamics and opportunities?

Remember, you’re looking for support and resources in a highly competitive environment. Your goal is to build the audience’s understanding about your activities, so that they enthusiastically will endorse your resource requirements.

The Audience

The audience is comprised of a variety of people with different roles and varying power. You need to be very thoughtful about:

- Who are the decision makers?

- Who are the influencers?

- Who are your potential allies?

- Who are those that might perceive you as competition or a threat?

The presentation needs to be crafted to appeal and connect sequentially with each of these groups. Their current level of understanding, as well as their educational and business needs, most often will be quite distinct. This unevenness requires your careful consideration.

Be Selective And Precise

Think of presentations you’ve attended. Has your attention ever strayed and, if so, at what point in the presentation? The sad truth is that we’ve all endured presentations which were too long and crammed with an overload of information.

Your goal is to connect with the audience, keep their attention, nurture their enthusiasm, and secure their commitment. Avoid sabotaging yourself – keep the presentation short, concise and focused.

You are the expert regarding your business. You are intimate with a vast array of information, substantially more than the audience wants to know or can absorb. Your presentation should deliver education, not just reams of information.

You will need to be selective and precise, by filtering and organizing only those important highlights which will be most meaningful to the audience.

What They Need To Know

It has been shown that your presentation time is limited and precious, therefore, be judicious. Determine what your audience already knows. You might choose to remind them of this, but you don’t need to dedicate valuable time to details.

What are the gaps in their understanding and which is the most effective way of educating them to close those gaps? Articulate the most critical elements first.

Position your presentation to demonstrate a compelling argument that delivers on a blend of positive outcomes from strategic priorities to financial success to alignment with other operations. Highlight the benefits of supporting your initiative and the consequences of declining such support.

Sequencing

Your presentation should begin with a short description of what you are about to present. This eliminates the situation where your audience is side-tracked during the presentation, trying to figure out your intent. Then deliver your presentation. Conclude the presentation with a short summary of what you just presented.

Good News First

You want to get the audience on-side as quickly as possible. Start with good news. For example: “Our recent project was delivered on time and under cost. There were, however, a number of major obstacles that we needed to overcome. I would like to share those insights with you, as well as the lessons learned.”

This is a more effective approach than beginning with a litany of problems that were encountered and only sharing the good news at the end of the presentation. As soon as the audience hears the good news, they will be relieved and encouraged, and likely will be more attentive throughout the entire presentation.

Timing

You will need to time out your presentation. Always aim for something less than the total time that has been allotted. The most accurate way to time out the presentation is by practising it and making the necessary adjustments.

Conclusion

By combining these design strategies with suggestions from the companion articles on how to use PowerPoint properly and how to deliver a presentation effectively, you will become much more confident and competent in delivering high-powered and effective business presentations.