Engaging Ideas Newsletter • Summer 2010 • Volume 8 Issue 2 Topic of the month: Presentation Effectiveness

Presentation Effectiveness
Presentation Effectiveness can be a make or break skill in the workplace. At some point in your career you will be asked to present information to a group. It is your job to ensure that you are ready to step up to the call. An individual who can present confidently and effectively immediately differentiates themselves from the rest of the group. Whether you are a pro or a beginner with public speaking, this issue of Engaging Ideas will provide practical tips for improving your presentation and communications skills.

Getting Rid of the Stress of Public Speaking

Many people are terrified of speaking in front of a group. Many of us can accomplish it, but feel a certain amount of fear and stress. Speaking in front of groups does not have to be stressful or nerve racking; instead, the experience can help you stand out and get noticed. Here are some tips that will help you fight through your anxiety and deliver an effective presentation:

  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. If you have a complete understanding of your material, it will definitely give you an advantage during your presentation. Do not memorize your material; you just need to be familiar with it.
  • Open with Confidence. Your opening gives your audience a first impression of your presentation. Make sure not to leave anything to chance. Your opening sets the tone for your entire presentation.
  • Focus on a Few Key Points. Know the major points you want to make. This will help ease your worry and increase your confidence. You should also use electronic visuals, note cards, or memory techniques to outline your key concepts.
  • Support Ideas with Evidence. It is always important to provide evidence to support your main points. Supporting evidence will help your audience understand your points and will give you a chance to explain your points more fully.
  • Close with a Call to Action. This will be the last impression your audience has of you and your presentation. It is important to ensure the closing reflects the purpose of the presentation. Your closing should summarize your content and give your audience a clear direction.

Q&A: How to Think on Your Feet under Pressure

Have you ever watched a high-pressure press conference when reporters are asking tough questions and are receiving tough answers? Such high-pressure situations are uncommon, but it is likely that you will be asked at some point to participate in a question and answer session. Here are some ways that you can prepare for your next question and answer session.

  • Be mentally ready -- Avoid negative self-talk like, "I hope he doesn't ask me anything like that." Replace doubt and fear with a positive anticipation of a chance to make a positive impact and good impression.
  • Know your material - Being prepared to talk on your topic will go a long way to making you feel comfortable presenting.
  • Get into an example immediately - This will help keep your answers flowing freely. Personnel experiences are easy to recount, even in impromptu situations. Using an example will allow you to get into the swing of speaking and help eliminate jitters. An example will also help you immediately engage your listener's attention.
  • Speak with animation and force - When you speak with energy and forcefulness, your external animation will have a beneficial effect on your mental process. Once your body is animated, your mind will function at a rapid pace.
  • Keep on Topic - If the focus shifts off topic, make sure to bring it back to the main points of the topic.

Two-Way Communication: Feedback

Anytime a person speaks or acts, there is an opportunity to give feedback. We show we are listening and that the speaker's contributions are important by providing feedback. The ultimate objective of feedback is to strengthen progress toward objectives. Whether it is responding to a request or coaching an employee through a learning process, feedback is important in generating the results that we need to be successful in the workplace. This can be achieved by providing genuine constructive or encouraging feedback to the recipient.

  • Recognize a strength - Identify a positive that you see with an employee. Then let that employee know why that strength is important and relevant. This will encourage your employee and reassume them that they are making real progress towards their objectives.
  • Keep it brief - Try to keep your feedback to 10 to 20 seconds or less. Being short and concise will allow your message to be more powerful. You will have your employee's complete attention during this time, and you do not need to water your feedback down with a long-winded response.
  • Focus on the person and not yourself - Remember, you are trying to build confidence within your employee. It is important to shine the light on the person you are giving the feedback to and not on yourself.
  • Get the group to respond - When possible, provide opportunities for a group to encourage its members. Hearing from a peer will help boost an employee's confidence.
  • Ensure the response is person-centered - Try not to reiterate what the person already said or did. Instead you want to highlight a strength and relate that strength or quality to the person's real world.

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