Delivering Better Presentations


Just learned you have to prepare and deliver a presentation?  According to a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal, one of top executives’ greatest fears is public speaking.  Presidents, chief executive officers and board chairmen may find it easy to direct large corporations, but put them before an audience and their authority diminishes.  They are alone, being judged as individuals and they are uncomfortable.

Public speaking is an art and few people come by it naturally.  Your best bet is to take a specially-designed course to help you become a better speaker. In the meantime, here are some pointers to keep in mind.

– The messenger is as important as the message. Most presenters spend about 80 percent of their preparation time on the content, and only 20 percent on practicing the delivery. It should be 50-50. Rehearse your presentation before you give it — not just to yourself but to someone else whose opinion you value.  Ask that individual to ask some questions afterwards so that you will be prepared for them when the audience asks them.  Good speakers practice a new presentation ten times out loud.

– Take the opportunity to speak publicly whenever the occasion arises.  Practice on small audiences (social clubs, small groups of employees) first and work your way up to larger ones.  Practice is absolutely vital, and (as you may remember from our training) the best practice is in front of a video camera.

–  Credibility is critical.  Your audience will scan every personal detail about you for clues of your character and temperament.  Eyes, gestures and even posture will be included in the judgment.

–  Look at the individual members of your audience.  Let them catch a glimpse of your eyes — it makes them feel included and they will listen more closely.  Besides, it humanizes an audience for you and therefore, reduces your anxiety and apprehension.

– Speak loudly enough so no one is seen cocking his head, leaning forward to hear or leaning back with a vacant stare.  After all, you are the center of attention and you cannot hide that fact by simply being inaudible.  Pay careful attention to the ends of your sentences — do not let them drop off.

– Say articles, prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs very quickly.  Pronounce nouns and verbs with deliberation and strength.

– Arrive a bit early and get to know your audience.  Even if you cannot chat with everyone in the room beforehand, you will at least feel that you are talking with other fallible humans and that will put you more at ease.

About writing the speech:

·  Open with an anecdote which will have meaning to the particular audience you are addressing — This sets the stage for what is to come and people will instantly decide whether you have anything of relevance to share with them.

·  Do Not Overuse Quotes — It will sound like you never think of anything original on your own.

·  Make Sure Your Speech is Organized — Avoid the temptation to add irrelevant information just because you think a particular piece of data happens to be interesting.  Try this test:  read your opening paragraph and your closing note.  They should be tied together in some fashion to ensure a coherent speech.