Thursday, October 11, 2012

10 Tips For An Effective Presentation

Learning to give an effective presentation is probably one of the most important skills you will ever need. Yet the idea of standing in front of a room makes most of us a bit unhinged, especially if the group who is listening is a crowd of more than one.

Some of you may think making presentations is something other people do, but not you. Never. Not your thing. But if you think about it, you're always presenting something. Your wares. Yourself. Sometimes formally. Sometimes spontaneously.  It's a skill that translates into everyday life. It makes sense to get good at it.

So what makes a good presentation?

When I was asked to speak to a group of sports management majors at NYU in a workshop on Public Speaking last week, I made my list of what I think is most important.

1-Learn to tell a good story. The best speakers are nothing more than really good storytellers. They engage and connect with their audience. You never feel they are speaking at us, but to us.

2-Know your stuff. Inside out. Don't pretend to know it. Really know it.  Know your competition's stuff as well. Understand that spinning facts to your advantage does not mean outright lies.

3-Keep it simple.  We're all so overloaded with information today, if someone is not clear and concise with their content, we are going to tune it out. I call it systemic ADD.

4-Pause. We're all so afraid to stop moving, the last place we consider it is when talking. Yet used effectively, there is nothing better than a moment of silence to keep a crowd engaged.

5-Learn to speak without props. We're all a bit addicted to the razzle dazzle. Yet the most effective speakers don't need a PowerPoint behind them or a video intro. They are the true showstopper. Their story telling skills are good with or without the special effects.

6- Know your audience. Have an idea of who you are speaking to. Try and pull them into your remarks. If you can figure out a way to relate to them they will relate to you.

7-Smile. A real smile. A genuine smile. Not one that looks contrived or faked. One that comes from knowing your stuff and feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin.

8-Eye Contact.  Personally I never trust anyone who can't look me in the eye. Making eye contact is not easy in a large group, but it is also not impossible.

9-Prepare and Practice. You don't ever want to look like you are reading. It's boring. It's a sign you don't know your material that well. Practice. Especially for the really big presentations.

10- Be yourself. Have fun. If you're prepared and know your stuff this is easy.  If you're not, the audience will wonder who you are.  Kirstie Alley said it brilliantly a few weeks ago on Dancing with Stars, "I can only be the best me I can be. It's the one thing in the world no one else can be."

To see what these tips look like in action, I used the speech Bill Clinton gave at the Democratic National Convention. He is a master story teller, smart, articulate, personable, at ease, passionate and genuinely enjoying himself. The bar he sets is the one anyone wanting to learn how to be an effective presenter should strive to reach.

Let's see if anyone comes close in the next series of debates.

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