Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to make effective presentations.

Post 428 - According to Dale Carnegie, “There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”

I’ve given literally hundreds of presentations over the past 40-years and here’s some of what I’ve learned. I also include some tips I picked up from Diane West, President of 2Connect, a San Diego based company that offers a variety of services to meet people’s presentation needs.

The key points of making a great presentation are:
* Knowing what you want to say.
* Believing what you’re saying.
* Being convincing and compelling in how you say it.
* Providing valuable information.
* Providing useable information.
* Providing timely information.
* Being completely prepared and rehearsed.
* Projecting a positive attitude and a willingness to engage with the audience.

Here's a short list of why presenters and presentations fail:
* Bad choice of words.
* Not enough vocal variety.
* Inappropriate hand gestures.
* Weak body language.
* Lack of passion.
* Lousy attitude.
* Speaker isn't relaxed.
* Reading or memorizing, rather than speaking from the heart.

Also very high on this list are boring, busy, crowded PowerPoint slides.

Gestures to avoid when making a presentation:

- Don’t cover your mouth - this suggests you’re hiding information, or not convinced of what you’re saying.

- Don’t press on the bridge of your nose. This is sign of fatigue and stress, the equivalent of saying, “I don’t want to be here.”

- Avoid fidgeting with a ring during a presentation - this indicates emotional sensitivity, agitation or boredom.

- Don’t massage your throat. This suggests you’re having difficultly accepting someone else’s premise or argument and it can alienate your audience.

- Don’t put your hands on your hips. This comes across as an attempt to increase your presence, show dominance or attract attention.

- Don’t hide behind objects or hold items between you and the audience. Standing behind a chair, holding an object close to your body or crossing your arms indicates defensiveness and insecurity.

- Don’t lock your ankles. Locked ankles are a sign that things are getting too difficult for you.

- Don’t point at someone while looking at them directly. This comes across as aggressive and authoritarian and, in some cultures, it’s insulting.

Good communicators use energy and enthusiasm to persuade their audience. Great communicators know they also need to explain what all the excitement is about. Next time you need to share something important, be sure you convey enthusiasm, but also clearly explain what’s at stake and answer the question "What does it mean?" Lay out what the issue, initiative, or problem is - and be clear about what it isn't as well. Use examples only if they help to make your point and support your claims. Then, define what you want to happen and establish clear expectations. Don't lose or confuse your audience with too many details - save these for written handouts.

A presenter’s biggest gift to an audience is to deliver a clear, concise message. Yet, audiences are often left wondering what the key message actually is in the sea of information provided. To make sure your message is crystal clear, use the 30, 15, 5, 1 strategy.

Simply put, if you have a 30-minute presentation, what would you cut out if you only had 15 minutes? What else would you cut if you only had five minutes? And, what if you ran into someone in the hallway later and only had one minute to share your information - what would you share that would intrigue them enough to give you more time? Using this strategy allows you to:

1) Crystallize the essence of your message, even if you have 30-minutes to present.

2) Effectively manage the most common “what if” scenarios (projector breaks down, time runs out before you've completed the agenda, someone needs to leave the room and asks for a high-level summary before they go).

3) Easily summarize your message for those critical hallway conversations.

Here are three ways to handle disruptions:

1. Be prepared. Know your audience before you walk into the room. Will they be receptive or hostile to what you have to say? Are they likely to be outspoken or sit quietly? Knowing what to expect helps you design a presentation that prevents disruptions before they happen.

2. Be flexible. If someone interrupts or heckles you, don't ignore him. By acknowledging the interruption, you're reminding the audience that you're the one in control, not the disrupter.

3. Be resolute. If the disruptions continue, ask people to hold their comments until the end. If that doesn't work, ask the audience to voice their opinion: do they want you to continue? Peer pressure can be a powerful way to silence disrupters.

Finally, Jim Rohn reminds us that, "You cannot speak that which you do not know. You cannot share that which you do not feel. You cannot translate that which you do not have. And you cannot give that which you do not possess. To give it and to share it, and for it to be effective, you first need to have it. Good communication starts with good preparation."

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