Your presentations skills are as important as the information you are presenting. This guide will help you prepare for a presentation and polish your speaking skills for a successful pitch.
The opportunity to pitch your services to a potential client, spell out your business plan to a potential business partner, or promote your business at an event may require that you give a presentation. Whether or not your presentation achieves its desired outcome can be affected by your skills as a speaker, so it’s important to step in front of your audience with your best foot forward. As Speakandmore, we explain how to prepare, deliver, and answer questions about a stellar presentation.
1) Research your audience. Knowing the needs of your audience can help you tailor your presentation to target their interests and explain how your company can be of use in their specific situation.
2) Structuring your presentation. The classic format is to tell them what you’re going to say, present, and then tell them what you told them, What we advise is to start off with the benefits of what you’re going to say, the benefits to the audience, and then present and review.
- Opening. Your opening should be something that makes an emotional connection with the audience. It can be a story, a question, or a shocking static. It should not be an introduction of yourself or five minutes of thank-you. Any stories you use should represent your audience’s position in life and should use characters that are analogous to your audience.
- Body. Try to stick to your three most important points. It’s more important to engage the audience than to tell them everything you know. You will need to leave some information out, but it is likely that what you don’t cover in the presentation will come up when you take questions. Keep your outcome in mind. You don’t have to write out your presentation word for word (or worse, memorize it) if you just remember to keep going back to your main points and working toward your desired outcome. Be prepared to present both sides of an issue. You’ll appear more credible if you acknowledge your competitors or any opposing arguments. After you’ve explained the other side, you can spell out exactly why your company is better or your argument is stronger.
- Closing. The closing of your presentation is the last opportunity you have to give your audience something that will stick in their minds. You can go back to your opening or end on a clever slogan or a call to action. When making a business proposal, you end on a positive forecast. Your forecast will provide fodder that can serve to validate any subconsciously generated optimism.
3) Practice, practice, practice…but don’t memorize. If you practice your speech only once, you’re going to stink. Starting to rehearse your presentation about a month in advance. You can talk into a mirror, talk to a wall, or ask a family member to listen. Do whatever works for you, but make sure it includes practicing out loud so that you can get a sense of timing.
- Rehearsing does not mean memorization. Memorizing your speech can make you sound mechanical and over-rehearsed. Really the only people who are good at memorizing things are actors, If you’re going to do it well, you actually have to act it out and play a character, and most speakers aren’t very good at that. Even if you are good at acting, you don’t memorize your speech to perfection. When an individual is too polished, it makes them relatively inaccessible in the mind of the audience. The audience is human at the end of the day, and this person doesn’t seem to be like them. It really retards the rapport building process.
- Videotape yourself. You can’t know how you come off to people until you see it. Recording yourself is the best way to target the areas where you can improve.
- Calm your nerves. Changing the word ‘presentation’ to ‘conversation’ when thinking about your big day. Feel better yet? If not, you can also quell panic by conditioning yourself to be in presentation-mode.
- Stop working on it. You really need time to start getting into relaxation mode. You can’t be in your hyper rewriting, restructuring mode right up to your presentation. Take a couple of days to relax before your speech.
1) Verbal Delivery
- Be Brief. The average adult was able to focus on a loading web page for only four to eight seconds before looking somewhere else. Attention spans are short; don’t dwell on a specific subject too long.
- Ask questions to keep the audience engaged. This can be something as simple as pausing to ask if your audience understands everything you’ve presented so far.
- Speak to your demographic. Match the semantics of your audience as closely as possible. Speak their language. If you’re selling a new video game, for instance, your semantics are going to be a lot different than if you’re working with a litigation attorney.
- Work on your tone. Evolutionary psychology suggests that people of both sexes respond better to deep male voices and high female voices. It takes practice to change the tone of your voice, but it can be done.
- Avoid speaking softly or other speech patterns that make you seem unconfident. For example, avoid ending sentences in an escalating tone that suggests every sentence you speak is a question.
- You should avoid words like ‘umm’, ‘uhh’. One strategy for kicking a fill-word habit: Say the offending word and concentrate on it.Then tell yourself, ‘this is a fill word, I’m avoiding this”. When you say this, it creates that pattern of changing it so that you’ll catch yourself when you start saying it.
- Don’t use words like ” don’t “. It’s important to avoid phrases like “don’t worry”. Tell your audience what they should do instead. Similarly, don’t say “I hope you will enjoy this presentation”. Say, “I am confident that you will enjoy this presentation.”
2) Body Language
- Stand at a comfortable distance. Remaining within 2.5 – 7 feet of your audience. This presupposes (at a subconscious level) a personal to social relationship.
- Eye contact. Don’t surf the audience with your eyes. Rather, make eye contact with one person at a time.
- Appear confident:
a. Shoulders back
b. Arms at your sides or held in front of your body when making gestures
c. Hands open or only slightly closed
d. Smile slightly or keep your face neutral.
e. Take long strides
f. Make every movement purposeful and decided
g. Treat props (like your resume or a handout) as though they are of value. Don’t let a paper in your hand flap back and forth carelessly.
- Relies heavily on images.
- Has only one or two sentences per slide.
- Enhances your presentation, but doesn’t summarize it.
- Contains font smaller than 32pt.
- Has more than five or six lines of text per slide.
- Displays a logo on every slide (your audience won’t forget who you are).
- Is printed and distributed as a handout.
Being prepared to answer questions plays a major role in appearing credible to your audience.
Taking questions before the end of your presentation. You’ll have to let the audience know that you plan to continue after questions so that they don’t start packing up their things, but this approach allows you to close your presentation on your own note. The audience will leave with your final message in their minds instead of some random question that someone asked that maybe was off-topic.
For further details you can always contact us in order to boost your presentation skills and impress your audience.