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Sparkle when you speak - 10 presentation tips for communicating results.
By Marsha Petrie Sue   Printer Friendly Version

According to SMI, Success Motivation Institute, there were 1,684,061 meetings held in 2000. So hold on to your hat, because there will be even more meetings in 2001. You will hear some presenters that sparkle, but reality tells us there will be some duds - those that just don't connect. Have you ever said to yourself, 'This presenter has no clue who their audience is, who I am, or why we are here!' And, wham, you stop listening!

There are 10 simple preplanning tips that should be addressed EVERYTIME we have the honor of presenting to a group of one or a gathering of many. This check will never let you down!

Presentation Check List:

1. Purpose: Why am I here, why is the audience here? Answer these two questions and you can have the group in the palm of your hand. Do your homework and you will connect with the audience. Send e-mails to at least 8 people prior to the presentation to understand their current issues, problem, challenges and wants. Tell the audience you know what their needs are because you asked.

2. Close: Call to action, next steps. What do you want them to do, think or feel that is different than the way they came in to your presentation? Also note that this is not the last step of planning the presentation but number two. If you know exactly what you want and what they want, the true content will flow and save time in the presentation development time. Also, when you say 'in conclusion, …' you should wrap up in 3 minutes or less! Include what you want them to remember, the key point, the hot tip, the number one step they must take. Memorize the close. This can be a nerve racking time and if the material is memorized, you stay one step ahead by ending with power rather that weakness.

3. Opening: The opening must be powerful and thought evoking because this will capture attention and create interest. Start with a starteling statistic, not information on how cool you are. The audience wants to know what they are going to hear and why they should listen, then maybedeliver a sound bite on the messenger. Also, if you are going to be introduced, give the introduces EXACTLY what you want them to say and tell them to please deliver the introduction with enthusiasm.

4. Body: State the case and support with evidence, facts and examples. It is easy to use stories we are comfortable with, just make sure the tale relates to the point. We have all heard some terrific stories, and wind up thinking to ourselves…'And the point is?' Unless each participant has a handout, I recommend keeping the body to three key points. No more. The literary masters figured this out a long time ago. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs and so on.

5. Add Spice: Re-engage the audience every 6-8 minutes. Tell a story, relate a surprising figure, use a quote, have the group do something, ask a rhetorical question but the pace must be changed. If you are working with teens or children, add spice ever 3-4 minutes. Think of Sesame Street. They change themes every 30 - 45 seconds. And how about MTV - it gives me a headache! Changing the pace every 6-8 minutes will keep your audience on the edge of their seat. By the way, we like our information short and sweet. There were many nay sayers when USA Today hit the news stands. We all know the success they have had.

6. Visuals: They clarify information and enhance the presentation. Whether a flip chart, overheads or PowerPoint, visuals can add spice on a regular basis. Caution: some presenters allow their visuals to become the presentation. You are the presentation and the visual aids are exactly that - a visual aid! Don't over clutter handouts, or visuals. A good rule to follow is no more than six lines of copy and two colors - preferably primary colors. Leave at least 40% of your slide empty. Behavioral scientists have coined a new term - the Rainbow Effect. Too much visual color and clutter pushes the listener away from the material and into the beauty (I use the term loosely) of the visual. If you want really good information on what works and what doesn't work read Olgivy on Advertising by David Olgivy, the guru of great ads.

7. Notes: Use index cards, a notebook, key words, visual aids but NEVER memorize your entire presentation. This is the kiss of death. I know one speaker that does this well but she has done it for 20 years. She has trained herself that if interrupted, she can start exactly where she was. NEVER read, unless it is a specific quote or statistical information. Or unless you want the audience to sleep.

8. Q&A: Set ground rule in your opening as how questions will be handled. If you have a limited amount of time, tell the group to hold their questions and you will answer them at the end of your presentation. Always remember to ask for the questions and answer them before you close. You want the audience to walk away with your gem, your nugget, not the answer to the last questions.

9. Rehearse: At least four times without interruption. That means you will probably have to find a conference room and get out of your office. Record yourself during your practice session. Listen for any acronyms that are not explained, words the audience may not understand, or any parts of the presentation where you sound unsure, and change them. Also, hear your vocal variety, new ideas, old ideas stated differently and examples that hit a home run to your point. Do not to make any changes 24 hours prior to your presentation!!

10. Environmental check: Be sure that all controllable parts of the environment are set correctly well before the group enters the room. Temperature, lighting, number of chairs, bulbs for equipment, microphone check, water, batteries, business cards, outside noise, phone in room and anything else that may be a distraction to your presentation. There are many distractions and events that will occur that are out of your control. Make it easy on yourself and your group. Preplan when you can!

Think of one of these steps that you can employ more effectively when you speak. Make a note of it or better yet set a goal the next time you present. Good luck and remember Sparkle when you speak!


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