Renee Prejean-Motanky

Delivering a Great Presentation — Ten How-to’s

In Business Development, Communications on November 6, 2009 at 1:48 am
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Finding a personal style and feeling comfortable as a presenter comes with experience. Nothing can boost your business like being able to present well. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t born without the presentation gene. I have no idea why, but for me and many others, getting up in front of folks to talk isn’t easy!

 If you’ve ever sat through a presentation that was so bad it felt like torture, you understand how painful a bad one can be….you know those with a bezillion PowerPoint slides that the presenter just reads?

At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, if you’ve ever experienced a presentation that was so good it motivated you..maybe even changed your life, you know that’s the kind of presentation one should strive to deliver!  As a presenter, you can either open a door or set up a roadblock to growth – your growth, that is!

So what should you do?

Steve Tobak, a 20+ year high-tech industry veteran and former senior executive of a number of public and private companies. has been professionally trained as a presenter and he has had a few decades of practice. Here’s what I learned from him:

1. Developing the pitch. Start with your main point of view and a handful of take-aways. Then build a storyboard around that, one slide per thought. Keep the number of slides down and allow a few minutes per slide.  
2. The icebreaker. Start with something to break the tension (yours and theirs): a welcome gesture, an engaging or humorous anecdote, graphic or video, or some combination of those. Keep it relevant and appropriate. Don’t tell a joke.  
3. The old axiom. Old advice, but it works: First tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
4. If you Use slides, Don’t read what’s on the slide. Know the pitch cold (without having to look except for a brief cue) and speak in your own words. If you actually want the audience to read what’s on a slide, look at it and read silently along with them (only rarely.)
5. Engage the audience. Ask questions. If they don’t respond, try offering an answer and asking for a show of hands. Make the audience part of the experience.
6. Be accessible. Don’t stand behind a podium. Use a wireless microphone if one is needed. Get close to the audience and move from place to place while maintaining eye contact. Don’t overdo it and bounce around like a ping-pong ball. This will be distracting!
7. Pause for effect and emphasis. Practice being comfortable with silence for two or three seconds. It’s the most dramatic way to make a point. Avoid “ahs”,” uhs”, and other verbal crutches used to fill uncomfortable silence; they’re annoying and detract from the message.
8. Make eye contact. But only for a few seconds per person. Too short and you’ll fail to engage; too long and it becomes uncomfortable. Don’t bounce your eyes around constantly.
9. Use hand gestures. They’re engaging and interesting. But when you’re not, keep your hands at your sides. Don’t fidget, hold onto things, or put your hands in front of you, behind you, or in your pockets. Avoid nervous habits.
10. Don’t block the audience’s view. Don’t step in front of the screen or block it from view, except for the occasional walk-across. Gesture with your hand, but don’t touch the screen. Don’t use a pointer unless you must.

Very few of us are natural presenters; it takes practice. So stand in front of the mirror and practice, videotape yourself presenting to an empty conference room, or get someone with experience to watch you and provide feedback. If you can afford to hire a coach, do it. 

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