Over the last five years, I've noticed a dramatic change in the field of presentation
skills. Increasingly, experts support the idea that being a "good enough" speaker is
no longer "good enough." Mere competency as a speaker is no longer enough to sell
your ideas, bring communities together, or move clients to action.
What are the reasons for this change? I believe it results from a unique confluence
between popular and business cultures. The private sphere has become more
public, reality shows rule, PowerPoint is the norm, and the idea of individual
"performance" is key. Whatever the reasons, the expectations of ordinary audiences
have risen. It's no longer good enough to be good enough.
How can presenters overcome these new challenges?
Here are five essential tips to ensure you are better than "just good enough."
1. Ensure that you have a good design.
More presentations fail because of poor design than because of poor delivery. In
fact, high quality design actually improves delivery.
Here are the three factors most likely to cause poor design:
* Composing your presentation without an "end in mind."
* Using PowerPoint to compose your presentation.
* Overlooking your audience's needs, wants, anxieties, biases, "personality..."
How to avoid these pitfalls:
Always ask yourself: "What do I want to this presentationto achieve?" Many speakers
who want to persuade their audiences compose "information-only" speeches. Guess
what? The audience, in most cases, will NOT fill in the blanks. They will NOT be
moved to action. Learn how to construct the right speech for the job. (I can help -
drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
PowerPoint is meant to support your message, not to be used as a composing tool.
You must identify your desired outcome(s) and design your presentation to achieve
those. The best tools to do this are a pen and paper, (or Word if you are so inclined.)
Composing on PowerPoint increases the chance that you will deliver an unfocused,
Know your audience. Design your presentation to answer the question, "What's in it
2. Be fit.
The best presenters, even the "low-key" ones, use a lot of personal energy. If you
feel out of shape, find an activity that strengthens you, speeds up your metabolism,
and gives you stamina. It doesn't matter what "size" you are. It does matter how fit
3. Remember that presenting is a relationship event, not a performance event.
Above all, effective presenters connect with their audiences. The presentation
becomes a large conversation. Everyone feels more comfortable, even when the
topic is thorny.
How to connect? Greet people individually as they come in the door. Hob-nob at the
refreshment table. Learn people's names. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Show
4. Breathe. Be yourself. Have fun!
This tip is integrally attached to point #3. When we are authentic, we connect
authentically with people. They are more apt to listen to us and receive our
message. When we have enough oxygen to fuel our brains, we don't forget our
material. We are energized. When we're having fun, the audience is more receptive.
5. Remember that your internal voice never tells the whole truth.
You're done with the presentation. You're privately debriefing the experience inside
your brain. Some presenters will hear mean-spirited comments--crueler by far than
any comment they might dream of giving someone else. Other presenters hear
overly grandiose feedback, telling them that they did much better than they actually
Many presenters don't hear much self-feedback at all, since they became oblivious
of their actions and words once they began their presentations (not a good thing.)
How do we discover how effective we actually were?
Elicit feedback from people you trust will tell you the truth. Take their comments
seriously, and then decide what, if any, changes you want to make. Don't depend
totally on your internal voice.
Approximately 50 million presentations are given every day across the United
States. Since you sometimes give one of those presentations, why not rise beyond
being "just good enough?" Integrate these tips and you'll present like a pro!
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Article © 2005 Guila Muir and Associates