Public speaking is an increasingly important skill in today’s economy. Whether you work in the public sector, private sector, or for a non-profit organization, you can benefit from developing strong presentation skills.
Entire books and courses are dedicated to this topic alone. We’ll briefly review some of the fundamentals needed for a strong presentation.
Remember that you are the expert. Your skills, experience, or training make you the ideal person to present the information. And, your audience needs what you have to say.
View each presentation as an opportunity to enrich the lives of your audience. Imagine yourself a mentor, helping audience members as opposed to merely lecturing to them.
It’s OK to be nervous. Channel that energy to help you display your interest in and passion for your topic. Remember that for the most part your nervousness doesn’t show. Consider your presentation a conversation with your audience as opposed to a speech to your audience. You may find yourself calming down and speaking more naturally.
Elements for a successful presentation
A few ideas to keep in mind as you develop your materials:
* Consider your audience. Who are they, and what do they know about your industry or field? Use words and terms they understand. A person in the financial services sector, for example, speaks differently to colleagues than to retirees.
* Tailor your message to their needs. Talk about profits gained, losses curbed, increased job security, more comfortable retirement, and so on. You may use the core of a presentation for different audiences – the essentials of your message usually don’t change – but make sure you include examples and other elements unique to the latest audience. Your presentation shouldn’t be so generic that it could be used as-is in front of any group. Do your homework so you present insightful and useful information.
* Factor in your strengths. Perhaps you attended a workshop, conference, or seminar; worked on a special project; or developed a fascinating solution to an unusual problem.
* Include a call for action, if appropriate. That may be to place an order or to accept your budget, plan, or other idea. On the other hand, your goal may be to inspire, motivate, or educate. Either way, make sure you have a goal in mind before crafting your presentation.
Try a process known as visualization prior to speaking. Imagine yourself successfully presenting your material. You will think of additional questions and objections to address, and be even more prepared.
Pump yourself up with power quotes and other motivational thoughts. You will enter the room confident and assertive.
Always use notes or a script. Don’t risk forgetting important details and the embarrassment of having to send follow-up messages.
You must rehearse your presentation, especially if you’re using equipment. We’ve all attended meetings that failed because a laptop simply refused to work with the digital projector. Iron out those bugs in advance to avoid ruining your presentation.
A good presentation requires effort, but is worth it. Make that effort the next time you’re asked to give a presentation.