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10 Tips for Giving a Great Presentation
The ability to give great presentations can make or break the sale; get colleagues and/or management on board with your ideas, or keep training participants engaged and interested. It may even affect the advancement of your career!
Yet very often presenters make common, but easily avoided, mistakes. There's nothing worse than noticing people becoming restless, looking at their watches and trying not to fall asleep!
The following 10 tips come from what the author, Deborah Sparks, has learned from both delivering and attending countless presentations and training sessions during her many years as a professional trainer, starting with her early days with Xerox Canada's Office Systems division, right through to today at DJH Training & Application Solutions Inc.
1. Know your material and be prepared. Try to anticipate any and all questions that may come your way and make sure you have the answers.
Make sure all handouts are in order and picture perfect. Prepare an outline or agenda to use as your "road map". Check all equipment ahead of time to make sure everything is working. When using technology, things can go wrong, sometimes at the worst possible moment. Be prepared with a back-up plan.
2. Know your audience. If possible, use various methods to analyze their needs prior to the presentation so the material is a relevant as possible to their requirements. Try to ascertain how much they already know about your subject matter and adjust your content accordingly. Use plain English (or French!) and don't talk down to a knowledgeable group, or over the heads of novices.
3. Project control and confidence. You may lose credibility if you appear nervous or unsure of yourself. Overcome any distracting mannerisms. You usually don't notice when you say "uhm", "ah", or any other useless word frequently, but the audience does. Not only can it be irritating, but some members of your audience may focus more on counting how many times you say these useless words than on your presentation content.
4. Let your expertise, passion and personality shine through. When you're very knowledgeable about your subject matter, your audience will trust you and feel that they are not wasting their valuable time.
When you're genuinely passionate about something and the value it brings, people pay attention. Don't focus solely on features and attributes - translate them to benefits.
Be professional but warm and genuine and don't forget to smile. Letting people get to know you goes a long way in building lasting professional relationships. Don't you prefer to do business with someone you like?
5. Don't lecture your audience - engage them by using questioning techniques. Make the presentation interactive and spontaneous, encouraging your audience to ask questions. Telling people to hold their questions until the end can cause frustration. Remember, you're there to answer their questions and concerns; not just deliver your material.
Build questions into your presentation. This is a great way to keep your audience engaged, interested, and helps you to gauge their understanding of your content.
Know when to use closed-ended or open-ended questions. There may be times when a simple "yes" or "no" answer is required - perhaps in asking if your audience has experience with a particular skill. However, open-ended questions are very important in gathering information, promoting discussion, and getting the audience to think about WIFM (What's In It For Me?), which will keep them more motivated to listen and learn.
An example of a closed question is, "Do you use the Outlook calendar?" An example of an open question is, "How do you use the Outlook calendar to help you to stay organized?"
6. Make them laugh. The content may be serious and you want to meet your presentation goals, but injecting humour when it's appropriate helps to create a stimulating atmosphere and can be a great tension reliever.
7. Speak up, vary your tone and move around. Participants shouldn't have to strain to hear you or try stay awake if your voice is monotonous. Don't stay in one place during the entire presentation. Stand up and sit down. If the situation allows it, circulate among your audience. If you're on a stage, make sure to move from left to right to make sure you're addressing all of your audience.
Whenever possible, use the attendees' names. If relevant, refer back to questions or comments they have made. Make eye contact with everyone in the audience, not just with one or two people, so that everyone feels included.
8. Don't memorize every word you're going to say. You may be experienced enough with your content to deliver it without any notes, but if not, you may want to use this method to get ready. Go through all of your content, making notes on the key points you want to make throughout your presentation. Next, read through them until you have internalized (NOT memorized) the content. That way, you can glance at your PowerPoint presentation or notes briefly, but then turn away because you "know your stuff".
Do not over prepare by memorizing what you're going to say. Listening to memorized content is obvious, lacks spontaneity and doesn't allow for flexibility. It can also put your audience to sleep!
9. Be careful with PowerPoint and other visual aids. Visual aids should support and complement your presentation by focusing attention on important subjects and illustrating complex concepts. On the other hand, a PowerPoint presentation with busy slides, animated graphics, charts and other objects that are hard to understand will have the opposite effect. They are a major turn-off that will distract and, worse, irritate your audience.
10. Be your own worst critic, but don't beat yourself up! Post-presentation, take stock of areas that you can improve in the future, but don't forget to pat yourself on the back for the things that went well.
Presentations can be fun and exhilarating and provide a great sense of accomplishment and inform your audience.
Your goals and content may be serious, but remember to enjoy yourself. If you're prepared, you'll be able to relax and give killer presentations that people will look forward to!
Which audience do YOU prefer?
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