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Stamford Business Outlook
14 Tips on Conquering the Presentationby Arun Sinha
When presenting, you need to hold your audience's attention, convey information, and persuade people to act, while all the time guarding against anything that could derail your performance.
To help you master this balancing act, here are a few pointers:
- Know your subject inside out. This is the single
most important thing you can do to ensure a high-impact presentation. Be
the absolute expert on whatever it is that you'll be talking about.
Nobody in the room should know as much about the topic as you do.
- Understand your audience. Speak at their level of
knowledge. Know their needs. What do they want from you, and what do you
want from them?
- Rehearse. Run through the presentation in front
of a mirror, in front of a spouse or friend, or in front of your team.
Use a cassette recorder or camcorder. Time yourself and add on a few
minutes for Q&A.
- Anticipate questions. As you rehearse, stay on
the lookout for places where someone could pose a question. Have answers
ready. You'll probably be asked at least one "out-of-left-field" question. Don't be thrown off balance by it; take your time to think
about the reply and be candid.
- Anticipate hardware problems. Your laptop may
freeze. The overhead slide projector's bulb may blow out. Think of
something to say and do while you – and everyone else – wait for the
laptop to reboot or the replacement bulb to arrive. Keep an easel and
blank flipchart handy.
- Break the ice. Begin with a joke or a personal
anecdote that is relevant to the subject at hand.
- Maintain eye contact. As you look around the
room, meet each person's eyes while you speak at least one sentence.
- Interact. Establish a connection with your
audience. This is easier if you're speaking to a small group. Invite
people to participate, but keep the discussion focused and on point.
- Don't talk to the screen. If you're using
overhead slides or a liquid crystal display (LCD) projector, keep your
notes in front of you. Then you can continue to look at your audience
while talking about the information on the screen behind you. If you
want to point to something on the screen, point to it on the overhead
slide or computer monitor instead.
- Recap often. If it's a long presentation that
covers many steps, help people absorb it or you may lose them somewhere
along the way. Summarize, in one or two sentences, what you've covered
so far and what the next step will be.
- Keep the lights on. Too many things can go wrong
in the dark. People may fall asleep, or they may start concentrating on
the refreshments. You won't be able to make eye contact or read your
notes. If you must lower the lights, dim them just a little, not all the
- Don't mix eating and speaking. You can't expect
full attention to your presentation from someone who is biting into an
overstuffed chicken sandwich. Avoid the "working lunch presentation." First food, then business.
- Give handouts. Always give your audience a
written summary or outline – after the presentation. There are times
when you may need to hand the audience something during your
presentation, such as in a training exercise. In such instances, give
them only as much material as they need at that point in the exercise.
- Above all, relax. A few butterflies in your stomach are OK, but if you're too tense, your performance can quickly go downhill. Remember: you're the expert, you have their attention, you're in command, and you're going to make it worth their while. What's there to worry about?
Arun Sinha is president of Access Communications, a digital marketing, content creation and web development company in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. Visit http://www.accessc.com for more information on copy writing, websites, and Internet marketing.
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