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Upgrading Your Presentation Skills
and How You Can Turn a No into a Yes
Presentations can make or break your proposal, interview or idea. A weak presentation represents a weak idea and, if you cannot capture your audiences’ attention, you will have failed to communicate your ideas, even if what you have is a winning formula.
When you’re presenting to a board or committee, you are most likely trying to push for something that you believe in, which makes your presentation a bid to convert them into believers as well - or at the very least, start doubting the current regime or system.
You want to make sure that they feel something aside from boredom during your presentation and here are seven ways to make your ideas compelling and your presentation convincing.
Timing is everything
If you are coming in after five other presentations, you will have to make an impact from the start. If you’re able to, try to find out when you will be presenting. If you’re the only person presenting, all the better. But this doesn’t mean you can take all the time you need. On the contrary, you want to come in fast, and leave just as quick.
A strong presentation doesn’t need you to dilly dally about your various points and explain too thoroughly. That’s one of the mistakes that presenters make - they feel the need to explain every single detail instead of sticking to the word economy.
What is word economy? While this is something more prevalent in the literature or written world, it’s also relevant in presenting. You want to say as much as you can with the least amount of words. If you’re going to drone on for 10 minutes on how your product functions, nobody wants to learn how to use the product. If it’s not efficient, nobody wants to hear about it. So be efficient with your words and simplify.
A popular method of efficiency is simplified to: K.I.S.S, which is an abbreviation of “keep it simple, stupid” or “keep it stupid simple”.
The idea is that you should speak to your audience as though they were simple-folk. This doesn’t mean talking to them like they are children, but rather, simplify your message to the point whereby anyone would be able to follow your train of thought, even if they aren’t paying attention. That’s the whole point of keeping it simple: so that anyone can follow with minimal effort. So, throw that jargon out the window and keep the words basic. Your big words will not impress anyone, and it will not help you sign a deal. Communicating your idea, on the other hand, is the end game, and you want people to know your idea and know it well.
Don’t try to be smart
Some presenters give in to the urge to drop snide remarks which might be off-color or political. They do this perhaps because it’s in their nature, or simply because they want to come off as intelligent, witty, and charming. However, this can blow up in your face and the people you’re presenting to might find it offensive.
The best thing is to walk that straight and narrow line. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and when you only have one shot to make your idea heard, don’t let it be botched by a poor attempt at a joke.
It might seem obvious but oftentimes, presenters get too comfortable and forget their place. Of course, it depends on the location and the audience, sometimes you can be a tad more casual. For instance, if you’re selling social media marketing, you can get into the linguistics that are native to that industry. Using hype terms show your audience that you are in the know. If there are questions, answer them courteously, even if it’s a stupid question. Showing others respect will automatically make your audience respect you. However, this does not mean you should be stiff and overly formal. If you come across a question that you are unable to answer, be truthful and say you will get back to them with an answer as soon as possible and make sure you follow up.
Being professional also means that you shouldn’t go over the top to curry favor with your audience. Compliments and little trinkets will not win you any awards: furthermore, it might give them cause to label you as a fake or brown-noser.
Practice, practice, practice
Life is not a movie and you can’t expect to get on the floor and come up with a moving speech on the fly. Even stand-up comedians write a script that they memorize, that they test out with various audiences during small open mics. While you don’t have to practice in front of a live audience, it could be a good experience. Get your siblings or friends to listen to your presentation and take any comments they might have to improve on your presentation. If you don’t have the luxury of a live audience, you can practice in front of a mirror and keep practicing until you’re bored with the topic.
Don’t be afraid of breaking the mold
Over at Amazon, they’ve thrown out PowerPoint presentations. The CEO claims that “PowerPoint-style presentations somehow give permission to gloss over ideas, flatten out any sense of relative importance and ignore the interconnectedness of ideas.” You don’t have to go the expected and conventional way of using PowerPoint slides. You can use brochures, cards or, better yet, let your ideas speak for themselves. When you watch a TED talk, you might notice the lack of slides, and yet they aren’t any less compelling as their entire speech is a sales pitch to get you to believe in what they believe in.
Aside from all these tips illustrated above, being a good presenter also means having good interpersonal skills.
Even someone without much of a social life can seem like the life of the party, and being able to generate that warmth during a presentation will win you brownie points. You can look up how to talk, gesticulate and articulate your words in order to make you seem much friendlier, charismatic, and genuine. This can also help you secure your audience’s attention and help you make your pitch unforgettable.