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Eleven Really Useful Techniques for Successful Presentations

By Lisa Woods (1363 words)
Posted in Communication Skills on May 15, 2012

There are (37) comments permalink

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How do you define a GREAT presentation?  Is it the comfort level you feel when presenting, OR the positive response you get from your audience? What if I told you that it should be both…by that definition, are you a great presenter?

 

Let’s delve into the elements of a successful presentation and discuss eleven really useful techniques you can implement right away.

 

1)   Define the reason you are presenting; what is the RESULT you want to achieve?  Are you training others, looking for investors, trying to sell a product or service, trying to get your budget or plan approved?…The list can go on an on.  It is important to be very specific about what you want before you prepare your presentation.  Your result must resonate throughout your presentation so that by the time you get to the end, the message is clear. 

  • So take the time in the beginning of the process to write out the result you want to achieve, and be specific.

 

2)   Build your presentation points yourself; the story needs to be yours.  If you are given a pre-made presentation to present, modify it to your voice.

  • Make sure you brush up on your PowerPoint skills so you have the ability to do this.  It may be as simple as adding in transition slides, but you need to make it yours.

 

3)   Make sure your presentation tells a story with a beginning, a middle and end. 

  • The beginning should resonate with the place your audience is currently at mentally (Obviously you must know your audience!).  If, for example, your area of the business has not been doing well…start there.  That is what they know, don’t hide it, get their attention by proving you understand them and their concerns.
  • The middle of the presentation should be a philosophical journey taking them from point A (the beginning of the presentation), through to point F, to point N, to point T.
  • The end of the presentation should be obvious by the time you get there.  You will have taken your audience on a journey; their mindset should have transformed to where you want them to be.  The end of your presentation should be your final points making sure there is a take away that everyone can clearly and collectively define.  An actionable summary that includes follow-up dialog, approvals, timeframes, etc.…

 

4)   Practice in front of a mirror, every page, over and over.  Nobody gives a presentation with 3x5 cards, or at least they shouldn’t.  Those days are over.  You need to be able to give your presentation at least 10 different ways.  By practicing in front of a mirror, you will force yourself to have eye contact, be aware of your appearance and be comfortable with the information you are presenting.  The more you practice, the better able you will be to adlib the material, answer questions and modify your approach based on the response of your audience.

  • Practice your presentation from start to finish and time yourself as if you were giving it to your audience.  Don’t start over mid way through…you can’t do that when it is real, so why practice that way.
  • Keep to your allotted time and modify your presentation accordingly.

 

5)   Memorize the first two or three sentences of your presentation, and the last two or three sentences as well.  DO NOT memorize anything in-between. You need to be able to adlib the majority of the presentation, but don’t leave yourself in an uncomfortable position in the beginning or end.  You must force yourself off to a good start and finish on a high note, no matter what happened in-between.

  • Make your words meaningful, use some humor if you like but make sure it is actually funny.  I recommend some powerful statements that ask a question like…why are we here?

 

6)   Hear the sound of your voice before you present.  We all get nervous, no matter whom we are.  One way to overcome this fear is to hear the sound of your own voice in the room you are going to present in.  Make a point to strike a conversation with people in the room prior to the presentation, introduce yourself, shake hands, and keep the dialog light; off topic.

  • The sound of your voice will relax you and eliminate the anxiety that builds before you “officially” speak.

 

7)   Use cues throughout your presentation for areas you need some help remembering...this will help calm your nerves.  You can do this by adding transition slides to slow you down and help move to the next topic.  Or adding popup bubbles on a graph or financial statement that define changes in the data, so you don’t have to remember everything when you are getting bombarded with questions.

  • When your audience starts questioning your work, these queues will show them you are prepared and have already done your homework.

 

8)   Use either water or dissolving breath strips to combat dry mouth during your presentation.

  • We have all been there…embarrassing…come prepared; it works.

 

9)   Smile, focus on eye contact; watch your audience and respond to the way they are responding to you.  Involve them in the dialog and encourage questions.

  • If you know your material, you can modify it to the response you are seeing.  You are a teacher…are your students learning what you want them to learn?  You should be able to tell by their facial and body expressions.
  • If they look confused, state your comments differently and ask them questions.

 

10)  Don’t worry about being nervous in the beginning.  If you stick with these steps, by the end you will be relaxed, and your audience will have forgotten the first few moments.  Judge your success at the end of your presentation, not the beginning, and not the middle.

  • Trust me on this.  Everyone wants you to succeed, or you have wasted his or her time.  So make sure you win the marathon, not the sprint.

 

11)  Thank your audience for listing to you.

  • Leave them with some final thoughts and include any follow-up that was discussed with back and forth dialog during the presentation. 
  • Finally, ask and answer any questions.

 

Giving a successful presentation is a skill that takes practice.  Being a seasoned presenter does not mean it comes naturally, it means you have honed in on these techniques to use them effectively.  You can get to know your audience by becoming well rounded in all areas of business.  It will enable you to speak with authority and show that you have respect for differences of opinion and the needs of your organization.

 

I hope you are able to test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your ideas and experiences.    Good luck!

 

 

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Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.

 

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Comments (37)

Nathalie Serra Miralles posted on: June 29, 2012

Thanks, interesting. We make so many presentations that sometimes we forget that presenting is not the objective by itself.

Monruskin Calma posted on: June 29, 2012

The technique helped a lot Lisa. I will use them again in my next presentation. Thank you and best regards.

Brian Simpson posted on: June 29, 2012

Hello Lisa. Extremely interesting and informative article. Although I have been giving presentations etc. for more years than I care to remember, I am never complacent by thinking I have nothing more or new to learn.

Your article was also good to reflect on as sometimes we forget the obvious and it is good to be reminded of the simple, but key things that can make such a huge difference to how a presentation is received. A great read. Thank you.

Elisabeth Biers posted on: June 29, 2012

Thanks for the tips. Nerves play a huge role in success or failure of a presentation, but with your tips those nerves can be calmed.

David Smith posted on: July 26, 2012

Well-constructed article, addresses one or more items all presenters have faced - successfully or NOT! Thanks for sharing this.

Tom Gill posted on: September 24, 2012

Great stuff, thanks for sharing. You may also want to check out your local Toastmasters club and explore your options. I've been a member of my local club for 15 years and each time I learn something new and am inspired by the growth of our members.

James Leahy posted on: September 25, 2012

Top 3 things that I do:
1. Have a Top 3 (or 5) list of points that you share and you want the audience to take away. Start with it; end with it. Your presentation should center around a few points that you want to share.
2. Tell stories. We all relate better to information when we can visualize it. As a speaker, it is our job to make it visual and real by sharing stories that get one (or all) of your Top 3 points across.
3. Personalize it. As a speaker, we are attempting to communicate something we know - people want to relate to us in order to better understand and remember our Top 3. If we share pieces of us, people will link us to the points and it will create a memory device for them. I still have people ask me about personal stories I told during training 5 years ago - that is how they remember me and the points I was trying to share.

Goetz Mueller posted on: September 25, 2012

#12: Join Toastmasters ;-)

Kelley Patient posted on: September 25, 2012

For me:

Thorough preparation (of course), and then visualization (meaningful connections to your audience, ease of word choice to communicate your thoughts accurately, and impactful end results that make you feel GREAT!).

Then, just before presentation time, deep breathing to focus the extra energy in your body on your audience and your message's impact.

James Hudak posted on: September 25, 2012

Great Article.

I passed it on to our management staff.

Nisa Khan posted on: September 26, 2012

Very useful

Michael Keown posted on: October 22, 2012

Never, ever read directly from your power point. Make your power point the bones and your words the flesh. This keeps the audience paying attention to you instead of the projector and keeps them from wondering why the presentation wasn't just an email. No one wants to feel like their time has been wasted.

Caroline Clarke posted on: October 22, 2012

Salutations
And a very useful tool. Thank you.
Kind regards
Caroline

Larry Petcovic posted on: December 10, 2012

Great tips!

Manish Ramachandran posted on: December 10, 2012

Good write-up. One should be bold while preparing for the presentation. Concentrate on the topic and never be distracted at all. Should also be able to present the presentation instantly with thought provoking process.

Steve Breeden posted on: December 21, 2012

Oddly enough, I'm an introvert, but I assist teaching expanded public speaking for business to adults as part of their BS degree in Business Management. We use a special outline format that will help anyone who speaks to give a presentation that gets your point across, keeps you on track (and on time), and helps the audience grasp your points. I'd be glad to give anyone a copy along with some pointers if they need some help.

Just as a side note. I use the outline for many other things, including job interviews. It allows me to take charge of the interview and direct it to my advantage. Since I began using the outline as a help, I've gotten every job that I've gotten to the interview stage with.

David Brookes posted on: December 21, 2012

Steve B, I'd be interested in your tips. Another useful read is Dale Carnegie "How to develop self confidence and influence people by public speaking". It's a dry but good read.

Rob Cairncross posted on: December 21, 2012

Have you ever checked out a Toastmasters club? I've found the training and experience invaluable both in public speaking and leadership training. It's fun too!

Evonne Avesing posted on: December 21, 2012

Steve B - I would be interested in your tips as well! Please post if you can. Rob-I am new to this area and would be interested in local Toastmasters clubs. Anything in Inland Empire?

Rob Cairncross posted on: December 21, 2012

Yes they do. The address is...Starlifters Toastmasters Club - Club #: 6513, Dist #: 12, Est: 4/1/1987
CB Richard Ellis
4141 Inland Empire Blvd Fl 2, Ontario, CA, 91764-5004, United States
Meeting Time: 12:00 p.m., 1st & 3rd Thursday
Club Status: Open to all

Al Bainbridge posted on: December 21, 2012

My advise is to 'do your research'. A lot of people sweat because they know that they are ill prepared. Your personality is what it is and though there are techniques to help if you are prone to being uncomfortable the way you are is the way you are. Ah yes there will be those who disagree as they would like to sell you a course or two or even help to personally mentor you. I agree with Steve that if you have a structure, a framework to start it helps you determine what you need to know and how to put it over. However I always perform an FMEA (failure mode and effect analysis), Simply assessing what could go wrong. What happens if? Ask yourself questions that you may be asked. I've spoken in public and given numerous training courses and I learned quickly that there is no substitute for fully researching and understanding what it is your are trying to impart.

Steve Breeden posted on: December 21, 2012

Good point Al. I think preparation is always the key. That includes not only the presentation itself, but also to the extent you are able, controlling your environment. Never leave things to chance. Can everyone see my visuals clearly, is the temperature in the room too hot or cold, have I tested the equipment. Even in "impromptu" situations such as when you know you want to speak up on a subject in the next meeting, you can be better prepared. If I know I have something important to say, I always get to the conference room early and sit at the head of the table where I can command more attention. If I have nothing to say, I sit where I can blend in.

Al Bainbridge posted on: December 21, 2012

Spot on Steve,

Loved to have worked with you young man!

All the best,

Al

Dave Tibos posted on: December 21, 2012

Totally agree with research. As an over the top extrovert speaking in front of others regardless of the size of the audience has never been a problem for me however ensuring what I say flows, makes sense, is simple to understand and backed up with good research well thats another story. It took some time and at times shook my nerve, but now that Ive learned the lessons Ive added the learning to the personality and it makes for a much better response from the audience and there are no more vague and cofused looks. I also took a course in Homeletics, (how to public speak well) all great stuff that has now helped me to present well. Oh and imagining that the audience is naked to help doesnt work its just too funny and distracting.

Steve Breeden posted on: December 21, 2012

Al, my daughter might argue the young part with you now that she's graduating from college and picking out graduate schools. Makes me feel old just thinking about it. You'd like her - she's a rugby player here in the US.

Al Bainbridge posted on: December 21, 2012

I certainly would like her Steve. Played rugby for years. Got the scars to prove it! Must admit got a little 'sweaty' myself faced with some of the big guy's I faced! I'm a member/contributor to 'The Rugby Business network' Give it a try! We get people from all over the world joining in. Rugby has a great ethos, I'm really glad that your daughter is involved. She will be surrounded with those of a similar mind set and that will be great for her future. I wish her all the very best.

All the best to you too,

Al

Al Bainbridge posted on: December 21, 2012

Dave you mention the fact that you are an 'Over the top extrovert' I can identify with that myself. Extroverts tend to think as they speak and often think best when they are talking. This is both a strength and a weakness. The strength lies in their ability to adapt and somehow find a way out of difficult situations, although many of their own making. Their weakness is that concepts don't seem real to them unless they can talk about them; reflecting on them isn't enough. You obviously have learned this, and judging by your comments, perhaps the hard way.....I know that did! Taking a step back and not rushing, expediting is sometimes very difficult especially for the 'over the top extrovert' who wants to 'get on with it'. However, once the penny has dropped, and the extrovert understands that preparation is the key, they can make their personality their strength. They understand themselves. Once this is achieved there is no holding them back and anything is possible.

Dave Tibos posted on: December 21, 2012

Thanks Al, what you say is true far too many times I have run in and mucked it up. But I like your comment on how extroverts think best whilst they are talking, when I think about it you are right. Never considered that before thanks for that. And yes very true about how we can find our way out of difficult situations many of our own making. I have many a funny story but nobody to blame but myself. Am still very much a student in this area and would love to know more.

Al Bainbridge posted on: December 21, 2012

The fact that you accept that your are a 'student' Dave means that you have every chance of success. I've been standing up in front of people for over 40 years and every time I learn something new. To be able to listen, and listen well is not always easy for extroverts like us, who'd far rather be doing the talking. At school I was constantly reminded by my form teacher that, as I have two ears and only one mouth then the ratio of listening to speaking should be the same.
When I was younger I was always looking for delegates/students to reassure me that I was doing a 'good job'. If there were one or two introverted characters in the room I was sometimes unnerved and felt uncomfortable if they didn't respond as I would wish. Understanding the different types of personality, variations of extrovert and introvert, helped me enormously. Perhaps try the Myers Briggs type indicator. I did years ago and it helped me.

Dave Tibos posted on: December 21, 2012

Thanks for that Al Ill look into it. I like your bit on understanding different personalities. In public speaking Im often looking for the facila response the signs people give facially and sometimes if I lean too much on them I get it wrong. I think learning about personality will help me address this. Thanks Al

Al Bainbridge posted on: December 21, 2012

Good luck Dave. Let me know how you get on.

All the best,

Al

Tim Ward posted on: December 21, 2012

No book or advise will do much for you...practice is the key to gaining a confident feeling...many, many moons ago I was a USAF instructor and part of our training was getting over public speaking nerves. We were required to do 5, five minute impromptu speeches everyday, and they were taped. It was a 3 month long affair but by the end public speaking became no different than a conversation with a stranger.

Steve Breeden posted on: December 21, 2012

Tim, I agree with you that to become a confident speaker requires practice, and there is no substitute for it. Practice, however, will not ensure you are an effective speaker. That is where the correct advice is paramount. After all, speaking confidently won't do much for the intended audience if we still can't get our point across.

Al Bainbridge posted on: December 21, 2012

That's what happened to me Tim when I was in the British Army (REME).

Admittedly we were all Electronic guys (not instructors) and had to do exactly what you described 5 minutes. of impromptu speeches. I loved it. It was exciting and although I was nervous I enjoyed it. Just giving impromptu talks was OK for me because nobody expected too much and I liked the limelight anyway. There were others who absolutely hated it though and were nervous wrecks. One or two of the guys, who tried to refuse, were forced to. I remember a quiet. unassuming mate of mine being physically sick knowing it was his turn next.

Standing up in front of people and getting ones point over clearly and succinctly takes an enormous amount of skill, preparation and planning. It cannot be learned by giving 5 minute impromptu speeches.

I have attended many excellent training courses, read lots of books and as a result I am a far better public speaker than when I left the Army.

Tim Ward posted on: December 21, 2012

Confidence can carry you a long way in public speaking, and practice is just the beginning. Although it was nearly 30 years ago I still recall a number of the suggestions to becoming a good public speaker.

Know your audience, rocket scientist require a different manner of speaking vs Plant managers.

Try to establish a core of common experience. Nothing gets the attention of someone who feels the speaker has been in their shoes.

Use concrete terms. Fluff or obscure words only make you sound ignorant of the subject. Nail down exact terms and phrases.

Get the attention of the audience in the first five minutes, use jokes, experience anything to get them focused on you.

That is a very short list of some og the things I was trained on. All of which require work to develop. All of which will make you stand just a bit taller and feel much better as you speak. Also remember nobody is born a speaker, they are made.

Al Bainbridge posted on: December 21, 2012

Your right Tim, confidence can and does carry a lot of weight.

For me, I gain my confidence from making sure that I have done everything reasonably practicable to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
I always feel a little nervous before standing up to speak as I am totally aware of myself, my audience my surroundings and what it is I am trying to achieve.

There is, of course, misplaced confidence, usually demonstrated by those who show an inept depth of understanding of the situation. They usually have no nerves whatsoever.

I particularly like the point you make that there are no born speakers. There are born talkers though, I'm one of them, but any skills that I may have as a public speaker I learned.

That, of course included, listening to sound advise and reading good books.

Shrirang posted on: August 22, 2013

Excellent tips. I have been making presentations for many years and yet I found a tip or two which will come in handy. Thanks

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