Communication skills: Presentation skills
There are times when you have to present ideas, information or proposals to other people, at work.
These other people may be part of your organisation, or they may be external from it. These other people may be known to you or they may be unknown. These other people may be friendly towards you or they may be critical, or they may even be hostile, or worse, not at all interested.
Whatever the scenario, you have to present yourself, and your case, in the most clear, convincing and positive manner, in order that you get the best result possible.
You need to present yourself in a professional manner.
But for many, that is not easy; because presenting ideas in a formal, or semi-formal context scares the pants off them; they feel awkward and ill at ease. Many people find presentations, vexing, and they are lacking in confidence. This means that, even if they know their stuff, they mess up the presentation and vow, never to put themselves in such a situation again. Which is fine, except that, they will be required to present information, proposals, plans, ideas and themselves, many times during their careers.
There must be a good way to do it.
There is a good way to present yourself
All you have to do is learn, understand, memorise and apply the following 7 steps to effective presentation skills.
1. Structure your message
Your message must have a structure: A logical structure. The logical structure will be dependent on the context, and the content, of the presentation; but no matter what is the context, or the content, there must be a logical structure, imposed on your material, by you.
That logical order may be:
- Chronological order: items ordered through time.
- Order of importance: most important first, least important last.
- Order of preference.
- Problem, cause, solution.
- Cause, effect.
- Theory, practice.
- Action, reaction.
There are many ways to impose order, on chaos. Whichever way you do it, will be up to you.
My point is, impose a logical order onto your (chaotic) material.
2. Limit the amount
Don't overwhelm your audience. The human mind is limited to the amount it can absorb in one sitting. Most people can take in, about 7 up to 9 bits of new information, before they start forgetting items or making mistakes. So limit the amount. More information, is not necessarily better.
You are better off giving 6 bits of information which your audience can remember, rather than giving 20 pieces of information, that they cannot remember.
- Less is sometimes more.
- Less information is more easily retained in the memory, and may, therefore be more compelling.
So, don't say it all.
Limit the amount that you say.
3. Know the nature of your audience
You should make adjustments to your language, depending on the nature of your audience. You need to take into account, their existing knowledge of the topic about which you are speaking. Do they know a lot, or not?
You need to know whether or not you can afford to assume their knowledge of your acronyms. For example, would your audience know what The C.P.S. is? Or not?
Err on the side of caution and don't lose your audience by assuming too much about them. If in doubt, check it out.
You should also assess their level of motivation. Do they want to listen to you, or not? If they are not motivated, then you must motivate them. You need to tell them why your information is important to them, personally.
- If there is no personal reason for them to listen, then you can assume they won't listen to you for long.
- If you give them a personal reason to listen, they will listen to you for longer.
Know your audience.
4. Involve the audience
Involve the audience as much as you can. Give them as much interaction as the context allows. Ask rhetorical questions. Invite questions from the floor. Involve as many of their senses as you can. Sight. Sound. Movement. Humour.
Don't let your presentation degenerate into a monologue, with you the only speaker, and with you the only one listening.
Keep it interactive and keep the audience involved.
5. Vary your voice tones and animate your body language
Make your voice tones variable. Sometimes louder, sometimes quieter. Sometimes light hearted, sometimes, earnest. Sometimes higher pitched, sometimes lower pitched. Don't be a mono-tone speaker. If you do, you will sound like one of those robot readers. (oops!)
In addition, vary your body posture. Gesticulate a little. Move a little. Become slightly animated. Don't stand rock still, statue-like: Be human. Animate your body language. Vary your voice tones.
6. Don't read. Be spontaneous
Don't read from notes. This cuts your eye contact away from your audience, and makes you look like a novice. Don't try to memorise your lines, because you won't be able to memorise the whole thing. And even if you can, you shouldn't; because you should be responding to your audience. (See the above notes.) Relax and speak spontaneously basing your words on the order set out by your logical plan. (See step one).
7. Enjoy yourself
Most of all: Enjoy yourself. Nobody likes a grumpy presenter. Nobody likes a nervous presenter. Nervous presenters make the audience feel awkward. And they don't like to feel awkward.
Just relax, work spontaneously through your logically arranged sequence of ideas, involving the audience as much as you can, as you go. Smile, relax and enjoy.
Assume they want you to win.
If you believe you will win, then you probably will.