Many people are not naturally adept at public speaking. It’s interesting to note however, that whilst the figures vary depending on which study you look at, statistics show:
Excellent presentation skills are 70-86% critical for business success
Presenting persuasively to groups, influencing decision makers to take on new projects or ideas, and winning new business can all hinge on the strength of your presentation skills. So if you have a presentation coming up, don’t do this…
The audience does not want you to fail, they don’t want to be embarrassed for you if you stuff it up so help them relax by looking calm and confident (even if you don’t feel it!) because the audience will believe what they see. There are many techniques that can help you to handle nerves and it’s a good idea to utilise them as your audience are not going to be convinced or buy from someone who doesn’t look like they know what they’re talking about!
Stand up straight and tall, smile, make eye contact and use open palm gestures.
Use a boring or irrelevant opening
How many presentations have you heard that start with “We’ve got a lot of information to cover so I’ll try and get through it quickly” or those that start with a joke that has nothing do with the actual presentation. It’s not very inspiring is it?
Presentations should start with a hook – something that grabs your attention and pulls you in and this can be done in many ways: interesting statistics, anecdotes or quotes, a challenging statement, a visual image, a question etc the result should be the same though – gaining your audiences attention.
Waffle on with no clear structure
Presentations need to flow logically through the information you’re providing. They need to be easy for the audience to follow, ideally containing no more than 3 or 4 key areas. Each area can then be introduced and expanded upon before moving on to the next. Remember your audience has never heard your presentation before so anything that helps them stay on track is a good thing.
Again, there are a number of frameworks you can use for ensuring your presentation is clear, logical and well structured.
Focus on statistics and technological processes
Presentations that go into too much technical detail fail to inspire or engage the audience, neither do they attract funding or gain new business. Some presentations may indeed be very technical but there are ways to show and explain the information without it getting boring for the audience.
Ask the audience questions to break up the information and ensure they are engaged, use flow charts and graphs instead of raw data to highlight key points. Use animation to build technical slides so the information is easier to digest.
Show no enthusiasm or expression
If you speak in a monotonous tone, don’t smile or show much expression or enthusiasm for your topic what do you think the likely outcome will be? Exactly, the audience will drift off into their own thoughts and pay you no attention.
You don’t have to bounce around the room or grin like Tigger but you need to show some passion and interest in the subject. Also think about the language you use to introduce some expression; descriptive adjectives and imagery work well and be conscious of your facial cues.
Don’t acknowledge the audience
I remember attending a presentation by an eminent professor on a subject I was extremely interested in and the professor spent the whole time with his back to the audience, reading his slides. It was one of the most boring presentations I’ve ever seen!
Your audience want to engage with you, so make eye contact, smile, ask them real and/or rhetorical questions. Allow time for them to ask you questions too.
In this difficult economic climate businesses can live or die by winning or losing business. Effective presentation skills will equip you to influence stakeholders, win more business and engage your people. So next time you make a presentation, don’t make the mistakes discussed here!