Sunday, September 7, 2008

9 Thoughts on Giving Presentations

You already know that giving presentations is a tremendously important communication skill. It's an opportunity to say something that's important to you in a conducive environment. In other words, it's a chance to say something to some people who are there to listen to you. Your audience is in front of you, relatively undistracted, it's your job to enjoy the moment.

Yes, enjoy the moment, this is a wonderful opportunity. If these people are gathered to listen to you, even if it wasn't their idea, it's because someone thought you had something valuable to say. And you do.

Here are some random but important tips to keep in mind in preparing your presentation:

1. It is said that attitude is 90% of your message. Even is attitude is only 55% of your message, it's still probably the most important part -- and it's certainly 100% under your control, unlike the sound system, or what's going on in people's heads.

Having a positive attitude probably doesn't mean you need to morph into a cheerleader, but if you already are one, that's fine, too. You'll agree that quiet people can give powerful presentations and they often catch people off guard.

2. While putting together your thoughts, and maybe your slides, think carefully about what you really want to transmit to this audience, in other words, your objectives for the presentation. If you're selling, are you interested in closing the deal today, or more focused on building a long-term relationship of trust? If you're presenting as part of a job interview, think about getting the job, but also think about telling people who you really are and what you'd like to do for them.

Earlier this year I made a presentation in front of 11 people for a job I didn't really all. I didn't get the offer, thankfully, but I got great practice and valuable business from one of the committee members afterwards.

3. Resist the temptation to overwhelm your audience with facts and figures. Your audience simply won't be able to take it all in. If statistics are important to you, use them sparingly, but repeatedly.

4. Prepare a handout, but don't give it out until the end. Make it memorable and attractive. Include your contact information.

5. Reduce your presentation to 3 to 5 major points, all supporting your thesis (e.g. My product rocks!)

6. Be visual, use symbols. Think beyond your corporate logo.

7. Be willing to walk away. Avoid the energy of desperation. If these people don't accept your proposal, there are plenty of people who will. If you detect significant resistance, move on.

8. Keep the WIIFM (what's in it for me?) question foremost. Answer it in many different ways. It's not about you; it's about them.

9. Have fun with it - be in the moment. Your audience can tell if you're with them, or just going through the motions. This is your time to connect.

Presentations are the medium for the flow of business ideas. Put in the effort and enjoy the process.