Take Your Presentation from Blah to Brilliant! 7 Successful Skills to Win Your Audience

by:  Lisa Shorr

21228718_editedHow many presentations do you give on a daily basis? This is a trick question. The answer:  all day! Whether we are at the office delivering the quarterly numbers, sitting across the table in a heated negotiation, teaching about Newton’s Law in Science class, or networking at a Business After Hours, you are giving a presentation.

Have you ever thought about presentations that way? We are trying to persuade people to buy, learn or foster relationships with us every day. Our ability to connect with our fellow team members, colleagues, students, or prospects is crucial to building that trust, respect and credibility.

Recently, my 6th grade daughter was assigned the fun project of delivering a presentation on TV of the 1960’s. We researched TV personalities such as Dick Van Dyke and Ed Sullivan, the coverage of the Civil Rights Movement, and the introduction of new cartoons including The Flintstones and The Jetsons “are you signing their theme songs right now?” She gathered her information, organized very simple yet colorful slides including images of each subject. Finally, she said, “Mommy since you do this for a living, can you help me with the presentation?” I was happy to help!

While not all presentations require a fancy PowerPoint and accurate Scientific data, they all have a special recipe to success. These are the tips that I shared with my daughter:

  1. Know Your Audience (Audience Analysis) – When preparing for a meeting, presentation, negotiation, it is crucial to know who your audience is. Once this is discovered, be sure to tailor your conversation so others will understand your message. Ex. If you are presenting to the CIO (Chief Information Officer) of a company, then your terminology can include technical jargon. However, if your audience is the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), then you will need to deliver your message in non-technical terms. This is the same for all audiences. Some want numbers, other just end results. Creative folks typically like a visual presentation. You get the picture!
  1. Hand Gestures – Many people are visual learners. Hand gestures are a wonderful tool to “reinforce” your message. If you are going through a list of items, use your fingers to demonstrate point 1, 2 and 3 and so on. If you are describing someone tall, show the hand gesture for tall. Note: Be careful not to fidget with your hands! This very useful tool can easily become a major distractor. The end result:  I can’t remember his/her message because I watched them fidget the entire time!
  1. Slowly Walk the Room to Make Eye Contact – So many people find solace behind a podium. A strong presenter liberates him/herself from this confining spot and knows how to “work-the-room.” Resist the urge to pace quickly back and forth! This looks and feels like a Tennis match of one! Instead, slowly walk across the stage (and back) making eye contact with audience members. They will feel acknowledged and connected to your message.
  2. Watch for Verbal Pauses – “I “ummm” want to tell you “ummm” about 1960’s.” Immediately the audience perceives that you are not prepared with your subject matter. Even though you may have done your research and practiced your speech, perception is reality! Verbal pauses such as “um, ok, like, you know” divert the listener away from your message. Try very hard to catch yourself and take these out of your vocabulary.
  1. Deliver Concise and Credible Information – Human fact #1:  We all have very short attention spans! Do not bore your audience with “Death by PowerPoint.” Even better, incorporate more visuals into your workshop to support your message. Take the time to really learn your material to decrease your dependence of “reading from the slides.” Your audience knows how to read, it’s up to you to elaborate using examples and stories.

Technology has given us the ability to instantly “fact-check” anything we want. Be sure to site sources and double check your figures before offering statistics and or quotes. I once caught someone I hired plagiarizing! Yikes, my reputation was on the line being associated with this person. Needless to say, our relationship ended quite abruptly!

  1. Dress for Your Audience – I told my daughter, this is the most important tip of all. Human fact #2:  The minute you walk into the room or on that stage, your audience is making a judgment of you all within 3-7 seconds. Sounds harsh I know. However quite true. What you wear sets the tone as to whether you are viewed as a trusted, detail oriented authority figure or someone who just woke up and threw clothes on. You will have a much harder time breaking that negative image of you and selling your audience on your subject matter than if you just took the time to put on a “tailored” yes, well-fitting outfit.
  1. Don’t Forget the Fun – The goal of any meeting or workshop is to leave your audience with a new idea, solution, feeling and most importantly a connection. Ensure your audience leaves with a great impression of you by adding games and/or interactive questions into your meeting or workshop. Rather than you talking the entire time, get them involved too!

Next time you prepare to speak, give your presentation an upbeat tweak. Nothing worse than being a bore, instead, leave your audience wanting more!

About Lisa Shorr, Shorr Success:

Lisa has spent over two decades in the sales and marketing arena. She owns two businesses, Shorr Style and Secure Future Tech Solutions, and has delivered Professional Development and Corporate Branding workshops and seminars across New England. Her numerous articles on style, career development and IT, have been published in notable magazines and newspapers including PC World, Providence Business News, Rhode Island Small Business Journal and Trade Secrets Magazine.


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