At some point in your life, you’re going to have an opportunity to give a presentation. I’m not talking about standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people. I’m talking about every day presentations—updating your co-workers on a project, giving a talk to a civic club, leading a conference call, chairing a fundraiser, training your team, motivating a group of volunteers, or persuading legislators to support your cause.
I’ve seen great presentations and I’ve seen lots of bombs. Unfortunately, when a person gives a poor presentation, the audience misses out on great information and the opportunity to take decisive action or uplift others in fun and different ways.
You don’t have to be a professional speaker to give a good talk. You can learn a few techniques to make yourself credible and audience-worthy, no matter if you’re speaking for one minute or one hour. The ability to effectively connect and communicate with a live audience is a skill worth cultivating in this era of text messages and e-mail efficiency. But are you currently making any of these mistakes?
- Spewing too much information, both verbally and visually
- Forgetting the point of your presentation
- Failing to connect with the audience
- Disrespecting the audience’s time
I’ve watched thousands of everyday presentations and always make it a point to check the audience’s reaction as a measure of how well a speaker is delivering the message. Look around the next time you’re in a meeting, and take note of what’s working and what’s not. One of the most recent speakers I watched left the audience buzzing and excited. Another speaker—although he had good information–had the audience checking their watches and wishing he’d move on.
Here’s how you can polish your presentations:
Cut it Back. Casual, everyday speakers usually have anywhere from 15-30 minutes to get their message across. So the tendency is to put a ton of information on a slide or over-talk the topic. If you find yourself saying, “I know this slide is a bit of an eye test,” or “I know this is a lot of information for you to digest,” then it’s too much information. Pare it down–a lot. Your audience can always contact you to get additional information and it opens the door for follow-on conversations.
Get to the Point. If you’ve been invited to speak, be clear on the purpose of your presentation. Your key point (or points) should stand out and your audience should leave with a memorable message or call to action. I once listened to a woman give public testimony for a new law that was under consideration. In her 60 second time allotment, she rambled from the cost-of-living to global warming–neither of which had anything to do with the topic. When she finished speaking, lawmakers had to ask, “So do you support the proposed law or not???” She missed the point.
Say it with a Story. Most people have short attention spans, so it’s important to quickly connect with your audience. One of the best ways is to engage your audience with a story. For example, if I wanted to tell you about the need to reduce stress in your life, I could relay statistics and talk about the effects stress has on your health. Or I could tell you about the time I wound up in the emergency room in severe pain and the doctor looked at me and said, “Lady, I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but unless you get rid of some of the stress, you’re going to wind up with two motherless children.” (True story.) Stories are relatable and memorable, and are a great way to deliver your message.
Respect the Schedule. Everyone is on a schedule. If you’ve been given the opportunity to speak, stay within parameters. Just because you’ve been given the microphone or are holding people captive on a conference call, it doesn’t mean you have a license to talk until you’re tired. Cut yourself off when your time is up or when you’re being waved off the podium. Being respectful of everyone’s busy schedules is a more powerful message than anything you feel you have to say in overtime.
Know Your Audience. Before your presentation, take the time to learn a little about your audience. Are they a service organization? Are they business-builders? Age range? What brings them together? Have they been together a long time? Knowing a little about your audience will allow you to tailor your comments and shows you’ve taken the time to prepare especially for them.
Knowing how to give a good, everyday type of presentation is a skill that anyone can learn. Start with these fundamentals and try them the next time you’re asked to give a talk. Your audience will appreciate the difference!
Cheering for you!
Welcome to the Life Cafe! I’m a Hawaii-based Success Coach, Trainer, and Motivational Speaker. I created this column as a place for people to gather, enjoy a cup of virtual coffee and get information and motivation to up-level their lives. If you have questions or topics you’d like to see me address, let me know. You can also find me and other guest experts serving information and inspiration on FaceBook at “The Life Cafe.”
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