LESSON 7 - HOW TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS THROUGH THE ART OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Preparing & Delivering a Presentation

 

The same meeting management principles as previously described still apply when setting up a meeting presentation.  Giving a presentation, however, differs from moderating or leading a meeting.  Meetings alone can be a nervous enough experience, but when you have to actually give a presentation, you are presenting yourself as well as the subject at hand.  You do not want to come across as a dull and unimaginable person.  Even though you might know what you are talking about, the impression and perception you leave with a poor presentation will question your managerial capabilities.  It might not seem fair, but that is the way it is. 

 

The good news is that with the right preparation, you will find that you will not only give a great presentation, but also truly impress your staff, boss, and upper management.  You might still be nervous, but at least in control.  The best defense against anxiety is knowledge, honesty, and full preparation.  When you present well, you will gain respect and be seen more authoritative.  Effective speaking and presentation capabilities can even lead to further promotion, as this is not a skill everyone possesses.

 

Here are 15 valuable tips to use when giving a presentation:

 

  1. Be thoroughly prepared.  You will impress your audience with obvious preparation.  Know your subject well along with a message that is clearly stated.  If you have any doubts, seek advice.  There is nothing wrong with asking for some tips or help.

 

  1. Think about the flow of the presentation, but not word-for-word.  You want to be fully prepared and confident on the key discussion points, but you should not have a word-for-word speech memorized.  If you rehearse your presentation too much, you will sound like a robot.  You need to know what you are going to say, just make sure it flows naturally. 

 

·         Have a strong opening and closing.  You want an eye-opener to grab their attention, and a grand slam to leave them with a good impression.

·         Have an introduction that will consist on what is going to be talked about, and a conclusion to review what had been discussed.

·         Create a list of key points.  If you are not using PowerPoint, be sure you have the main discussion points right in front of you so you do not forget any important topics.

·         Support your introduction with your slides or materials, and use the key points to transition from one point to the next.  Be sure your points flow and connect logically.

·         Summarize by asking if they have any questions.  This not only helps end the presentation, but also justifies the understanding on what has just been presented.

·         Now practice by visualizing yourself giving a great presentation.  You will naturally be unique; there is only one you.  Think about moments of possible applauding, your opening line, going through the slides or materials, questions that might be asked, how you will answer difficult questions, when to tell a joke along with hearing the laughter, and your closing comments. 

·         Perform a practice presentation, especially if using PowerPoint, by going through each topic or slide.  Use your notes or laptop to recite the presentation.  Look in the mirror or record yourself if you are unsure about your delivery.  There are speech-training organizations such as “Toastmasters” that can help build your public speaking confidence.  If you have time, it would be a good idea to look into a communication course of some sort.

  1. If using PowerPoint… Keep the slides simple and don’t put too many words on them.  The object is for your audience to see, not read, the material.  You want big graphics with just a few important words.  This will make the presentation more interesting.  Your job is to talk about the meaning of the visual graphics.  It is strongly suggested to learn PowerPoint if you have not done so already.  Here are six points to keep in mind when creating a PowerPoint presentation:

·          “Title” page – This should contain the Title presentation name, Organization name, Company logo, and date.  You can add your name if you would like.  Try to have your company graphic somewhere in the background, just make sure the slide does not look too crowded.

·         “Agenda” page – List a few bullet points which will go over the main points that will be discussed.

·         “Objective” page – Create a short statement which gives the desired outcome of this presentation.

·          “Subject Body Matter” - Create a slide with a keyword or statement to discuss the main point.  Some ideas would be to state the problems, solutions, costs if applicable, and action items.  Your talking points from your main point should be presented one at a time, in bullet point form, each time you hit the space bar.  Keep your text simple.  The text on a slide is primarily there for you to key off as speaker.  Try to keep each bullet point to just one line, so that the text does not look too crowded.  Less is more when it comes to visual presentations.  Only use the extra features when necessary so you do not distract your audience from your main points.  Unlike the title page, the background should consist of very little graphics.  Be sure to use high contrast between background color and text color so people can clearly see the material.  The amount of slides you should use depends on the nature of the presentation.  If your presentation is to educate or sell, you should keep the number to around 5 or 6.   You should spend no more than 1 minute on your main point.  Try not to go over 2 or 3 minutes per additional bullet point.  If your presentation requires a lot of statistical data, you might need around 20 to 25 slides.   If this is the case, each main point and following bullet points should be no more than 1 or 2 minutes per slide.   Keep the total time in mind when creating your presentation.  You do not want to go too long or too short.  

·         “Summary” page – List the points of what was just discussed, along with the desired outcome.

·         “Questions?” page – This simple page would be at the very end of the presentation.  This is the time you ask the audience if they have any questions.  This is also the indicator that the presentation is about to end. 

  1. If you are using a projector…   If you have never used a projector before, you should practice setting up and taking down the projector and laptop at least 5 times before you give your first presentation.  Your goal is to be able to do this with your eyes closed.  Have the PowerPoint file on your laptop desktop for easy access.  Pack up all equipment for easy set up and take down, and if possible have a spare projector lamp and cord.

 

  1. Always have a backup plan…  Projectors might break down, your laptop might not boot up, or some other complex equipment will inevitably go wrong at the worst possible moment.  If this happens, most importantly keep calm.  Don’t lose your cool and be bumbling around trying to fix everything.  If you can show grace under pressure, you will be seen as an emotionally controlled manager.  Make sure to have a copy of the main talking points that you can discuss.  Just start back up verbally, instead of visually, where you left off.

 

  1. Know your audience.  Think about what it will take to get them interested right from the beginning.  If it is an audience who is not technical, do not blind them with science.  If the audience is technically inclined, do not use meaningless eye candy graphics.  A good-looking presentation that has irrelevant meaning to the audience will be a waste of time.  A presentation to upper management would most likely be much different than a presentation to your front line staff.  If it were a mix from low end to high-end personnel, then you would need to mix up the presentation just right.

 

  1. Know the true goal for the presentation.  You need to know exactly what it is you need to accomplish buy giving this presentation.  It is imperative you get your point across on your expectations, and if applicable, what upper management expects from you.

 

  1. Look at the audience as a whole.  Don’t just single out one or two people.  Instead, try to make eye contact with numerous people throughout the room.  If you just look at a one or two people, not only will you make them nervous, you won’t be including the audience as a whole.  They might lose attention and feel like they are unimportant to the mission at hand.  A good tip is to find a couple of individuals on the right, center, and left that you can use as a target.  Try to spot these people out before you start the presentation.  They should also be located in the middle rows.  This will help you keep from just looking at the people in the front row.  While talking to them, swing your view from one person to the next casually and slowly.  Pause for a longer period while looking straight ahead.  Try not to stare.  Don’t feel like you have to always be looking around, just casually glance around the room.  Try to make them feel comfortable.   If you are giving a presentation to just a few people, then just be sure to give each person at least a couple of glances.

 

  1. Show your personality, dont be stiff, and make them laugh.  Show your character and charisma when presenting.  Be passionate about the subject.  Move around a bit and show that you are relaxed.  It should not feel like a boring school lecture either. Tell stories that relate to what you are talking about.  Make them laugh to ease any tension.  This also helps them re-adjust to the serious material.

 

  1. Talk with your audience, not down to them.  You want to hold the audiences interest, not yours.  You need to interact by creating a conversation.  Ask them questions and listen carefully when you’re asked a question.  Never cut them off, and make your answer brief. 

 

  1. Be Flexible.  Stick to your main points, but be ready to adjust your presentation to the particular desires of your audience.  Gloss over minor points for which your audience has no interest.  Welcome questions and comments.

 

  1. Try not to use “uhm” or “ah” words.  It becomes a distraction and people even play games by counting the number of times these useless words are said, which distracts them to listen to the topic at hand.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”  If your unsure about a question, just take a note and let them know you will get back to them with an answer.

 

  1. Know when to end the presentation.  If you’re running behind, start to wrap it up as fast as possible.  Your employees and upper managements time is precious and you don’t want them looking at their watches.  If you feel like the meeting in not going the way you expected and you are getting sighs of boredom, you might want to skip the least important points and just focus on the remaining points.

 

  1. People want you to succeed.  Just remember that you’re not giving a presentation to be judged for a score, it is to convey information.  If you have fun with presenting, the audience will leave happy.  You will get through it and will be admired for the ability to give such a presentation.

 

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