Presenting? … use these 4 steps!

Effective Presentation SkillsYour objective is to be concise and hammer home the key takeaway points. Making presentations are not a part of every job, but if you are a team leader or aspire to do so, you must develop your skills to use this powerful tool. Often, when we think of presentations we visualize standing behind a podium in front of an auditorium. The reality is that most team leader presentations occur at a table with a few co-workers, colleagues or partners. Nevertheless, making a presentation is challenging if you want to give an effective presentation.

Most of the presentations that we have heard and regarded as excellent probably had at least the four characteristics that I will list in this article. Your goal is to keep the audience engaged throughout the presentation. You may also read two of my previous articles, Presentation Skills … manage your Q and A! and Impromptu Presentations … a tool!

Here are the four factors that I recommend.

As you prepare and structure your presentation, think in terms of power, clarity and brevity. If you are using PowerPoint or other presentation software, develop and finalize your text first. Visualize a headline with three to four points each. Don’t use too many bullet points because you may lose your audience’s attention span. Another consideration is whether you want the presentation to be interactive or strictly lecture style. Keep the audience engaged by asking questions and moving around the room if presenting to larger groups. If you have a small audience, consider beginning with an important statistic or some type of icebreaker exercise to relax the participants.

Decide if your information must be presented chronologically. Determine the three to five most important points you want to share with the audience with some consideration for the order of the points. Often, you can captivate the attention of your audience by beginning at the end or bottom line and the presentation will develop the reason for that particular outcome. Now that you have developed your text, you can use PowerPoint to show the important bullet points.

Visual Aids
When using visual aids, instead of PowerPoint, the rule is to keep it simple. You want the viewers to be able to read the screen or view the display, even if they’re far back. So, use a large font and a color that will stand out against the background you choose. The goal is to have the audience listen to you – not read your slides or fix on the display. Any images or backdrops you choose should add to the presentation and not distract or confuse people. Color choice is also important, because you may need to remain sensitive to a client’s brand or your own company colors. As always, text must be readable. Loud colors don’t automatically mean they’ll grab peoples’ attention. Often it can be so distracting that you do just the opposite.

Rehearse, Rehearse and Rehearse
Some of us may not be anxious in anticipation of a presentation because we know how to project our voice to large rooms with the proper tonality. For some, it takes a lot of practice to calm our nerves. The answer is practice, and more practice. If you are presenting in a small room with few people, you don’t need to worry about projection, but you must keep listeners engaged, just as you would with a large group. Even in a small setting, some movement can help to maintain audience engagement.

Don’t be reluctant to use “cue cards” to help guide you or an actual copy of the visual presentation. If you are subject to “dry mouth” make sure you have a glass of water nearby. Be prepared to notes participant s comments or questions. All of this preparations will help to calm your nerves.

Crafting and delivering a good presentation is a skill you must develop over time and with practice. Take what you’ve learned from successful presentations you’ve heard, and try to apply those elements to your own. Be concise, and keep the audience engaged by telling them exactly what the takeaways are and asking questions throughout. While it’s impossible to satisfy all participants, you can make a bigger impact by presenting less information in a more effective way.

Related Articles: Email or Call and   When Was The Last Time We Spoke?

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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