Presentation Skills: Know Your Audience

Do you dread having to make an important presentation? Do your hands sweat? Does your mouth go dry? When you start to speak, does your brain freeze up?

There are few people who don’t feel some nervousness when they speak to a large audience in a formal environment, but once you know how, you can control nerves in many ways. One of the most important is to be well prepared, and to have confidence that your material will be well received by the audience.

Your first step should be to decide on the objective of any presentation. Are you informing the audience about something? Do you want to prompt a debate on a topic? Or do you want to motivate and persuade people to buy something, make a decision or approve a proposal?

Your second step should be to find out exactly who will be in the audience, and what they need to hear so that you can achieve your objective. Then you can design your presentation to meet the needs of the audience, and to anticipate their concerns, questions and any objections they might have to what you propose. For example, a presentation to raise awareness of HIV AIDS to a group of social workers would be very different from a presentation on the same topic to a group of teenagers, or to a group of their parents.

The more receptive an audience is to your presentation, the more people will nod, smile and send positive signals back to you. Their enthusiastic response and positive feedback will make it difficult for you to remain nervous.

Careful preparation of any presentation is one of the best ways of making a presentation more effective and dealing with nervousness.

Advanced Presentation Skills Training

Being able to communicate effectively is a great asset for any employee and can help build your
career. To present at an advanced level is easy when you know how. Following these 12 points will
help you get started:

Think about your structure: remember to tell us, tell us and tell us. That means getting your message over 3 times. Once is not enough if it’s important. You’ll receive a circular on average 4 times before you ‘see’ it. In the same way you need to repeat your main message at least 3 times if you want your audience to ‘hear’ it.
You will need a good opening to grab our attention. Please don’t start with ‘hello my name is…and I’m here to talk to you about…’ This is a thoroughly over-used start.
Say what your purpose of this presentation is and what you want to achieve; it helps you if you use an agenda slide.
Put your main reason (to persuade us) up front followed by your less strong arguments. Please remember there are never 7 good reasons for doing anything. Three is more than enough for the time you have.Avoid the formula, ‘method, result conclusion,’ if possible.
We are less interested in the ‘how,’ than the ‘why’ and the ‘WHAT’. If you are getting into the ‘how’ ask yourself, ‘does my audience really need to know this?’
Think about the words you use to emphasize your message. Your words reveal a lot about you. And we’ll make assumptions and have opinions based on the words you say and how you say them. When it sounds like a shopping list be sure that clapping is zapping.
Think about the pictures you create to support your message.Most of us use visual recall. So think about your slide deck – add pictures where you can. And remember that words create mind pictures too. So ask yourself what you want to leave us with.
The words you use affect the way you deliver them – and the way you are perceived. They also reflect how you think. So get personal – use “you”, “we”, “I”. There’s nothing more boring than long sentences with passive verbs. Your audience want to know that you are talking to them. So just do it and they’ll love you for recognising them.
Try to stick to the timing. If you are asked to prepare a 30 minute presentation then prepare 25 minutes only. This allows for questions, mishaps and delays.
Try not to end with, ‘thank you any questions’. Everyone does this; how do you differentiate yourself?
Words are not visuals, and visuals are not cue cards. Try to avoid whole sentences on your visuals otherwise you will be tempted to read them. Please try to use font size 28 to limit the information on your slide.
Try to prepare a maximum of one slide per two minutes. Or if you prefer no slides. Or come with flip chart paper and try that instead.

Stories for Better Business Presentations

Tell a story, make a point. Tell a story, make a point. The founder of the National Speakers association, Bill Gove, is famous for this phrase he used to break down the art of making speeches for professional speakers. Whilst he delivered the advice to professional speakers, the advice still rings true for anybody giving a speech or presentation in any situation.

In offices, managers and sales professionals are relying on dry facts and statistics to make their point. And yes facts and stats are important, but they are boring! If you want to persuade, motivate, or educate your audience you need to illustrate your points in a way that connects with your audience at an emotional level. And, there are few better ways to do this than with a well told story.

A good story, one that illustrates your message so people remember what you said, and why you said it has several elements.

Purpose

Why are you telling the story? That may seem slightly confronting when I’m writing an article encouraging you to use more stories. But, I want you to use stories to make your presentations more effective. And, any stories you use must have a purpose that is relevant to the point you are trying to make. Telling a story, for the stories sake will only upset your audience. Your time is limited, and their time is precious so don’t waste it with irrelevant anecdotes. Instead examine the point you need to reinforce and ensure the story illustrates it appropriately. If it doesn’t – ditch the story and find another!

Real Life Experience

There may be a temptation to use a story that you’ve read. If you’ve read the story on the net or in a book, there’s a very real chance that your audience has read it too. This diminishes your effectiveness, and will damage your credibility. There is no reason to “borrow” a story. Look around your business or look back through your past experience and you’ll find plenty of experiences that you can recount to your audience that will illustrate the points you want to make.

Setting

Tell the audience and they may understand what you are saying; involve the audience and they will remember what you’ve said. Every story has a setting; it could be a situation, an office, or an activity. No matter what the setting if you can describe the setting and bring the audience into the scene with you. One of my mentors, Craig Valentine, is a master at this. He uses all of the audiences’ senses to bring them into his stories to great effect. The more you involve and immerse your audiences in your stories, the deeper their understanding will be of the point you are making.

Characters

Characters, with their emotions and dialogue bring your stories to life. Your audiences will relate to the situations your characters find themselves in and the emotions your characters convey through the words the characters say. Similar to setting, through your characters you can involve your audience in the story, enabling them to get a better appreciation and understanding of the point you are making.

Utilise stories to make your speeches more effective. If you apply the elements you will see a distinct difference in the audience understanding, and your ability to sell your message or products.