Friday, October 31, 2008

Presenting to Win

London, UK

Alan Stevens, the mediacoach has a number of free articles available. This is one of them. If you are a presenter or like presenting you'll find Alan's article very useful.

Presenting to win

Your whole body is trembling with fear - but a stiff drink won’t help. Your voice has almost disappeared – but you don’t need a doctor. Your mind has gone completely blank – but you haven’t developed amnesia. The real reason? - you’re just about to make a presentation.

One of the certainties of corporate life is that you will be asked to make presentations, and the outcome could have far-reaching effects. Perhaps this is why many people show symptoms of blind panic when the dread day dawns. However, being given the opportunity to sell an idea, promote a business, or close a sale is something that you should jump at – so what’s the answer?

Very few of us are natural presenters. As Mark Twain used to say “It takes three weeks to prepare a good ad-lib speech”. Fortunately, learning how to become a competent speaker takes a lot less time than that, so find yourself a good trainer, and follow some simple rules.

The first consideration is your audience. You will be judged a success if they leave feeling that their time spent listening to you was worthwhile. Find out as much as you can about them; how many will be there? what are their interests? what went down well before? Imagine yourself in their shoes – what would you like to hear?

Your subject matter may have been pre-determined, but you’ll often be given a free hand. Give it a persuasive title – not “A survey of Anglo-German business readiness”, but “Companies from Germany that want your business”. Now consider the structure of your talk – it’s as important as the content. It’s a cliché, but the “business sandwich” (Tell them what’s coming, tell them about it, tell them what you told them) really works – so stick to it.

When you’ve put your talk together (often in the dreaded PowerPoint, of which more later), simplify it by taking out half of the content. Then try to take out half of what’s left. There – that’s better – now you have a good chance of getting your core message across (you do have a core message, don't you?).

Now – rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. The idea is not to learn your script by heart, but to ensure that you don’t look surprised when you turn over the next cue card. If you’re at all nervous, don’t write your notes on A4 sheets of paper – they amplify your trembling fingers both visually and aurally. Use low-tech file cards with a title and no more than four brief points. Punch a hole in the corner and tie them together with string – you might just drop them.

Now, if you must use PowerPoint (and I know many of you do), then use it to help, not confound, your audience. Never, ever, read your slides out – assume that all of your audience can read perfectly well. Keep your slides very simple. Put a blank slide between each section of your talk, so that you have the audience’s full attention. And be prepared to carry on even if the PC or projector fails.

Visit the venue beforehand, and make friends with the technician. If there’s a change of speakers, you’ll need someone you can trust to ensure a smooth transition.

Finally, check everything, and then check it again. At the launch of a new people carrier a few years ago, the vehicle was driven on stage by the CEO with three board directors as passengers. Unfortunately, none of them knew how to open doors fitted with childproof locks. Cue tears of laughter from the assembled hacks. Couldn’t happen to you though, could it?



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1 comment:

Lee Potts said...

Well I'm impressed. Very few articles about successful presenting mention the need to show up early and fewer still acknowledge the possible presence of the technician (much less highlight his or her importance to the speaker's success). Thanks!