Present Like a Pro
“Proper planning and preparation prevent poor performance.” —Stephen Keague, Irish author
Yesterday, you discovered the power of asking good questions for better results. Today, we are focusing on presentation skills.
Good presentation skills enhance your reputation as a professional, strengthen your credibility, expand your opportunities to get new business or be considered for promotion, and boost your self-esteem and confidence.
Every business professional must be able to prepare and deliver presentations to management, clients, and the general public. Whether you are in a small conference room or a convention auditorium, you need to feel comfortable and know how to hold the attention of people while you speak.
Set a Goal
Are you presenting to get a contract, gain support for your recommendation, celebrate the bride and groom, or give a memorial at a funeral?
Write out your goal and keep it in front of you. The more you describe the outcome you want in detail, the easier it is to prepare what you need to say and how you should say it.
Know Your Audience
In addition to setting an outcome, you must consider your audience. Your presentation to C-level executives will differ from a keynote to physicians, and both are different from a lunch-and-learn in a cafeteria full of elementary school teachers. Ask and answer these questions about your audience.
• Who are they?
• What do they want?
• What do they expect from you?
• How much do they know about the topic of your presentation?
• Do you want to meet their expectations or surprise them or both?
• Why should they listen to you?
• What do they get from your presentation?
When you know your audience, you can more easily relate to them. You will create a presentation that uses language they understand and appeals to their self-interest. This improves your ability to achieve your goals for the presentation.
Prepare Talking Points
You want to sound relaxed, comfortable, credible, confident, and relatable. Reciting a memorized presentation will not accomplish any of that. It will, however, put the audience into a coma.
Instead of writing out your speech, list the points you want to make and arrange them in a logical order. I do this on index cards, so I can shuffle them; add and delete points; slot in stories, statistics, metaphors, analogies, and quotations, where appropriate; and create memory prompts.
Eliminate anything that does not support your goal for the presentation or that is irrelevant for the audience. Make sure you prepare responses to questions and challenges. Rely on facts and data to address these.
Prepare your handouts or supporting material and your visuals for the presentation. Do not load visuals with talking points. They are not speaker prompts. Just capture key ideas you want to emphasize, and use strong images that capture attention and illustrate your point without words.
Rehearse by talking to each point until you feel comfortable with how you want to present the material. Stand and move around with deliberation, just as you will when delivering it. If you are using visuals and/or handouts, make sure you work those into the rehearsal.
Practice the presentation in segments. If anything sounds awkward or if a movement or gesture feels off, change it and re-rehearse that section. Take breaks between each segment.
With each segment, you will rehearse more and more of the presentation until you are doing it from beginning to end. Now time it out to ensure that it fits within the allotted time.
The more you rehearse, the more you will feel and look confident when you present.
Step 1. Speak up at meetings and become comfortable expressing yourself in small groups.
Step 2. Take advantage of opportunities to present to groups, such as Rotary Club, or join an organization like Toastmasters to help you become more accomplished.
See you tomorrow, when your next lesson will help you deliver effective feedback to help others improve without becoming defensive.
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