Category Archives: Making Presentations

Making Effective Presentations Part I

A presentation is a means of communication that is adapted to various speaking situations.

The role of the presenter is to communicate with the audience and control the presentation.

Although the audience receives the presenter’s message, this reception will be filtered through and affected by the listener’s own experience, knowledge and personal values.

Planning and preparation is the single most important part of making a successful presentation.

Planning and Preparation                                                                                 

Strategy

Any presentation requires a clear strategy to help you reach your audience.

Strategy refers to what message you want to convey, and how you plan to deliver it, to your specific audience. Have clear goals about what you want to say to and accomplish with your audience.  Is your objective to inform, persuade, explain or motivate?  Be clear about who your audience is and why it is important for them to listen and pay attention. You must tailor your message to the audience.

Identify the tone you want to set for your presentation. If you are presenting to a group of experts, the tone of your voice is professional and respectful, in keeping with the formal language you use.

How long will your talk be? How will you help the audience to remember what you tell them?

What is your policy on questions? Will there be any discussion after the presentation?

When planning the content of your presentation, list the major points of information you want to convey.

Consider the number of key ideas and how much technical detail you want to include. This depends on the audience and the length of the presentation. The shorter the presentation, the fewer the number of key points. Simplify the content for a non-expert audience. Present the information in a logical sequence.

Visual aids like charts, graphs and videos can add impact to and understanding of your presentation, as well as adding variety and helping to increase the audience’s attention. They must be well-chosen, clear and well-prepared. They must strongly support what the speaker says, not just replace the spoken word. No matter who your audience is, the visual aid needs you, your interpretation, explanation, and justification.

Making Effective Presentations Part II

  • Planning and Preparation

Structure

A second step in the planning process is to develop the structure of your presentation.

Once you know what you want to say, you need to consolidate the materials into a meaningful message. In what order and how will you present the information? Don’t assume that the information will speak for itself.  Your audience may hear and process your information in very different ways based on your organization and presentation.

The audience needs to have the following questions answered:

  1. Why should they pay attention to you?
  2. When you have their attention, why should they care about the topic?
  3. If they agree with you about the significance of the topic, how are you justifying your ideas?
  4. Once you have convinced them, what do you want them to do? (What is the desired outcome?)

Develop a flexible, flowing structure. How your topic is relevant to your audience and what the benefits to them are should be addressed right away. Organize the body of the presentation logically; make it easy to follow.  Plan ways to encourage audience participation and maintain your credibility by discussing positive and negative views of what you are presenting. If you’re using visual aids, consider how you will incorporate them into your presentation effectively.

Style

The audience, your purpose and desired outcome will affect the presentation style you use.  How you present the information is as important as what you present.  Organizing your ideas is one of the presenter’s tasks; gaining and maintaining attention is the other.

Your first words must capture the audience’s attention, engage them, even surprise them. Some good techniques include giving a quotation, a startling statement or fact, asking a question for the audience to think about or telling a short story.

Eye contact is your key means for establishing audience involvement: maintain eye contact at least 80% of the time during the presentation.   Other features of a good presentation style are:

  • Speaking clearly
  • Using correct pronunciation
  • Varying the volume and rate of speech a little
  • Using the appropriate level of formality
  • Adding emphasis
  • Using brief notes as aids (but not reading them!)
  • Pausing occasionally
  • Using appropriate gestures and moving around a bit

 

Good preparation will not only ensure that you have given careful thought to the message you want to communicate, it will also build your confidence.

Making Effective Presentations Part III

Delivery

The aim is to convey a message that is worth hearing to an audience who wants to  hear it.

A presentation has three parts: 1) an introduction; 2) a body and 3) a closing.  Put simply, in the introduction, you tell the audience what you are going to tell them; in the body, you tell them, and in the conclusion, you tell them what you told them.  The introduction should take up 5-10% of the total time; the body, 70-80 %, and the closing, 5-10%.

Make eye contact with your audience before you start speaking. You need to make a connection with them and make a good impression.

In your introduction, identify the topic and purpose of your presentation. Place your topic in context.  Clarify the benefits of the presentation to the audience (why the presentation is relevant and important for them).  Give the audience an overview of your presentation: explain the layout and scope. State your preference with regard to questions.  Would you like the audience to hold questions until the end or can they interrupt you during the presentation?

Stand with your feet shoulder-length apart.  You should move about a little during the presentation, use gestures that are natural and vary the tone of your voice for emphasis and to keep the audience’s attention, but avoid incorrect body language like shifting continually from one foot to the other, toying with your notes and dramatic changes in the pitch of your voice.

Once you have the audience’s attention, you must maintain it.  Audience members ‘drift in and out’: you won’t have their full attention all the time. To help them refocus periodically and to make the information clear, you can give them different signals, such as:

  1. a list (“I will give you three main reasons why ……”)
  2. a link between parts of the presentation (“Now that I’ve talked about why this is important to you, let’s move on to …. “); ( “That’s all I have to say about …. I’d like to end with a summary of the main points.”)
  3. sequencing (“First, then ,next, finally), and
  4. repetition (“As I’ve already said, …)

The main body of the presentation contains the details of the subject or themes described in the introduction. All of the above techniques are useful in helping the audience to follow the information and remember it. They also help the speaker keep to the planned structure.

In your closing remarks, review and emphasize the key points, benefits and recommendation you talked about. For example. “If you follow these steps, three basic benefits will result ….”  Ask questions like “So what does all of this mean?” to promote discussion.

Techniques to improve your delivery include:

  • Using effective intonation
  • Speaking slowly and clearly: break your sentences into chunks (understandable groups of words separated by pauses)
  • Stressing key words
  • Showing enthusiasm and confidence
  • Keeping eye contact with the audience
  • Using appropriate body language
  • Making sure to keep to the time limit

Remember: you’re lost if you lose your audience.  Having clear objectives, a clear plan, and  clear signals are the secrets of presentation success.