Delivering your presentation effectively involves using a proven four-step process:
Plan, Prepare, Practice, and Present
Plan the content of your presentation around your purpose and your audience's interest and level of understanding. Use words and phrases common to your audience, and focus on your purpose. To help yourself do this, try these exercises:
¨ Describe your audience as it relates to the topic — their knowledge and experience, their needs, wants, and goals. Ask yourself, “What does my audience know about this topic?”
¨ Define the purpose of your presentation as it relates to the outcome you seek. Is your intention to inform? Persuade? Motivate? Teach? When you clarify your purpose, you will more easily hit your target.
¨ Plan the content of your presentation around your purpose and your audience's interest and level of understanding. Use words and phrases common to your audience, and focus on your purpose.
After you finish the initial planning phase for your presentation, you can begin to prepare it using the following guidelines:
¨ Establish a positive mindset by considering the value of your message. Ask yourself, “Why is this message important to me?”
¨ Structure your presentation, remembering to centre it on a message with key points that you can back up with evidence.
¨ Prepare an attention-getting opening. Use a question, make a startling statement, or relate a relevant incident to elicit the audience's interest. The opening makes up 5 to 10 percent of your presentation.
¨ Determine the key ideas of your message and back them up with evidence such as statistics, testimonials, demonstrations, and analogies. Make sure that the key ideas support a coherent message. Remember that an audience can only remember 4 to 6 different points, so choose your key ideas carefully. This should make up 80 to 85 percent of your presentation.
¨ Prepare a memorable close that supports your purpose and creates a lasting impression. You can close by summarizing or restating the message or by throwing down a challenge to your audience. A close that relates back to your opening can also be effective. Whatever you choose, be sure you tell your audience what action you want them to perform. The close should make up 5 to 10 percent of your presentation.
Practice your presentation in front of a small audience or a colleague, and ask for feedback on the content and style of your presentation. Consider the following:
¨ Is your message clear?
¨ Does your evidence support your key points?
¨ Are your graphics and illustrations clear, appealing, and relevant to the topic?
¨ Are you talking in terms of your audience’s interest?
¨ Is your close memorable?
¨ Did you achieve your intended results?
¨ Consider videotaping yourself rehearsing, and then review the videotape for distracting mannerisms and other signs of nervousness. Remember that the best cure for nervousness is confidence, and that confidence comes with practice.
¨ If possible, rehearse multiple times, trying out new ideas and new techniques for delivering the material. Choose the techniques that you are most comfortable with.
¨ Rehearse the timing of your presentation to be sure that it falls within your time limits. Be sure to allow time for questions, if it’s appropriate.
Many people consider delivering the presentation to be the most difficult part of the process. Remember the following:
¨ Assume the attitude of a professional in delivering presentations. A PRO views presenting as a Privilege, a Responsibility, and an Opportunity.
¨ Make a positive first impression. If possible, establish eye contact with your audience. Be yourself and relax.
¨ When speaking, be natural. Speak in a heightened conversational tone. Slow down and emphasize important points, and pause before and after key points to set them apart.
¨ Be sincere and build rapport with your audience. Involve them in the presentation. Ask your audience questions to be sure that they’re following you. If appropriate, get feedback from them after the presentation, and use this feedback to make your next presentation even better.
Question-and-answer sessions present a unique set of challenges, but they also offer the opportunity for you to clarify your message and reinforce your key points. Questions also get resistance out in the open and allow you to deal with it. Here are some tips for handling questions during a presentation:
¨ Plan for questions and answers by writing down questions you expect from the audience.
¨ State in advance whether you will take questions during the presentation or at the end. If you are taking questions during the presentation, be sure not to get sidetracked. If a question takes you off track or is of interest to only a few members of your audience, deal with it at the end instead.
¨ At the beginning of your question period, state how much time you have for questions, and then ask for the first question. If no one has any questions, suggest one yourself. You could also consider planting someone in the audience to ask the first question.
¨ Repeat questions so that everyone can hear them. Rephrase the question if necessary. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s best to be honest. Try to find some way to follow up with the person asking the question to get an answer to him or her.
¨ End the question period by restating your summary, close, or the action you want your audience to take.