I’ve talked about what an important element effective communications is at work.
Whether you are an executive who must drill corporate strategies into the psyche of the company, or you are a mentor, acting as a guide for a young employee, or your are just having an average conversation with your boss.
But the one area of communications I have not pursued here is the presentation — most likely because I have such bad memories of my own performances.
I can tell you that at least twice a Sr. manager told me I needed to go to classes to improve my skills. I never had the time to do that, but I did teach myself a few things — and they have helped me as a business owner.
I know there are thousands of books, articles, blogs and other resources on this subject — not the least of which is Dale Carnegie.
But I wanted to share my own ideas to keep things uncomplicated and genuine for you:
Preparation is king in speech-giving — lest you want to be compared to the person who gave the horrible toast at a wedding.
Preparation means a few things to me.
• First, if you don’t know how to use PowerPoint or whatever presentation software your company uses…you must learn or get someone to teach you.
• Trust me–this is half the battle. Plus you get to play graphic designer for a little while — designing strong and stylish images and messages.
• Know your subject matter — i.e. your company and your business — inside and out.
• If there is time, prior to the presentation, begin to take good notes at meetings, talk to colleagues about important aspects of the business or strategic plan that you are presenting.
• Scour the internet about your industry…find relevant facts about your company, your competition and about new trends that may impact your company.
• No idea is really ever new (seriously) don’t try to write the whole thing from scratch.
• Dig through files and find previous presentations to see what is relevant to yours…and then edit, re-write, cut and paste into your presentation.
• And just like you did for your college term papers, reference experts.
• And speaking of writing…use everyday language…no one is going to care that you’ve chosen to use the word postulation, as opposed to concept.
• Keep your slides or images very concise…bullets, bullets, bullets! You want people to commit to memory your key points.
• Which brings us to timing. A solid presentation really shouldn’t be more than 12 minutes…15 minutes tops — unless your Steve Jobs giving the annual Apple presentation.
• Be mindful of your attendees schedules…they will appreciate it.
• Find impactful images: graphs, charts, even photos if it will help strengthen your ideas.
• Practice! Take your presentation home and practice in front of a mirror, before friends, maybe even video tape yourself so that you can see what you look and sound like.
• Speak up — speak clearly and slowly. Women can sound shrill if they speak to quickly.
• Check your overall appearance: no dangling pendants, no shiney brooches…you want your audience to be listening to YOU, not be distracted by your jewelry.
• Try to limit your hand movements…but if you can’t help yourself, make sure you’ve gotten a manicure.
• If you have to give a presentation out of town, be sure to have a general sense of your audience in terms of office wardrobe. NYC Vogue does not fly in Des Moines.
• When presentation day comes, be sure to thank your audience — especially senior members of management.
• And lastly, try to stay on point — my biggest faux pas usually happened when I began to notice the audience fidget (often when I digressed and tried to throw in a giggle.)
I would stutter and really get so off topic that I’d forget where I was in the presentation — which eventually led my management to pull me aside and tell me I needed classes…ick.
We all know that public speaking is difficult…but believe me…if you prepare and practice — you will present with confidence.