Presentation Effectiveness

Think about those times when you went on your first date and you really wanted to make a good first impression. Did you start out by detailing your life history? Probably not.  Yet, when making a business presentation, many people start out with a slide detailing their organization history.  An article by Leadership IQ states that most presenters start out by talking about themselves, right from the first slide, and destroy their presentation.

Most people are selfish in that they want to hear or see in the presentation something that will benefit them and they care little about the speaker, or his organization’s background. If the speaker is putting forth something relevant and useful to the audience, it matters not how important the speaker thinks he/she is and and/or their organization.

So how should you start? First add to your understanding of their needs. Ask them what they want to accomplish with today’s conversation. Note the word conversation, you are not there to preach a sermon. It is best if you can get the audience involved. The next key word is listen; listen to their desires and note them down to make sure you address them. This note taking also exhibits a sincere desire to hear from the audience about what would make this a good experience for them; very important to make your talk effective.

Next, pay attention to the mechanics of your presentation. A good thing to remember is that any extemporaneous talk is well rehearsed. You are probably not intentionally making an extemporaneous talk but you need to be flexible to respond to the audience input at the beginning of your presentation. Know your subject so thoroughly that you can adjust the presentation to address the stated needs and wants of the audience. This may be more difficult if you are using slides. But, if you are just using a few slides to reinforce key points that you want the audience to remember, you can easily adopt your oral presentation to use the key points to fit the audiences stated needs.  Slides should never be just read, which is very boring. A good point to remember is that any talk worth listening to is worth learning by the presenter.

Address the audience; look them in their eyes. Of course, if you have your back to them reading your slides, this is difficult to do. Make sure at the start that everyone can hear you and annunciate clearly. Take your time and don’t race through your presentation. Pay attention to your body language, it sometimes tells as much as what you are saying. Have excitement in your voice and body language. You really want to get the audience with you; bobbing their heads up and down.

The conclusion of the presentation should leave your audience on a high note. This can be accomplished by addressing the benefits of whatever you are promoting in your talk. Again these benefits should tie back to the audience input in the beginning and your understanding of their needs. Use case studies, when you can, which are relevant to the audience.

Last, “ask for the order”. Get the audience to agree to take the action that you desire. Make it easy for them to say “yes”. Presentations without resultant action are generally of little value.