Refer to the attitudes section for clarifications.
Attention to tone of speech.
- Be polite and welcoming.
- At the beginning of your presentation, introduce yourself and acknowledge your audience as is appropriate.
- Comment on their professional setting, asking about how this is similar or different from yours.
- During your presentation, encourage comments about their experiences and how they relate to the points you are making.
- Single out a reaction, i.e., a nod or a smile, and elicit a verbal response.
- At the end of your presentation, thank them for their presence and attention and encourage questions.
Attention to word choice.
- The words we use in our communication are defined to a large extent by our social, ethnic and cultural background and heritage.
- The words we use are also determined by our education and training.
- Stereotypes that are acceptable to one group of people may be insulting to another.
- Enter “political correctness”. It can be defined as a conscious attempt to avoid racist and sexist language, and comments that can be detrimental to your effort to convey your real message.
- During your presentation, identify character attributes and social values that are considered universal such as honesty and health.
- Use neutral terms as far as possible.
- Be firm but not dogmatic.
- When in doubt, ask a question instead of making a statement.
Attention to enunciation and loudness.
There are two solutions to this:
- Practice and then practice some more.
- Record yourself and play back the recording.
This can be an intimidating experience.
Alternatively, you can rehearse your speech enlisting the help of a colleague.
This process will help you identify which words or sentences or any combination of them causes difficulty.
- Is it rate of speed?
- Is it intonation?
- Is it tone of voice?
- Is it loudness?
- Try different variations and have a colleague help you out.
When rehearsing, always practice standing up.
- Focus on a point that is furthest from you and speak to it.
- If you are recording your practice, place the machine as far away from you as possible and then check that it can audibly capture what you are saying.
- At the beginning of your presentation, check with those sitting at the back if they can hear and understand you.
- If you are using a microphone keep a safe distance between it and your mouth and definitely speak more softly than you would without one.
In either case, make certain that you speak facing and looking at the audience.
Attention to jargon.
In particular, use of technical terms or strings of initials.
- Their use is the natural development of common thinking among members of the same social, cultural or professional group.
- Their use may offer a feeling of common understanding, of solidarity.
- Their use can also be inhibiting to initiates or outsiders. When preparing your presentation, make certain that you use them sparingly depending on your audience.
Technical terms or strings of initials are both prime candidates for inclusion in your slides.
- Read your audience’s reactions and be prepared to offer a short definition or an example.
- As a rule of thumb, rehearse with a colleague and/or an acquaintance.
- When in doubt, explain.
Identify your abilities.
Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses as a speaker and as a professional.
- The former should reflect how you deliver your content; the latter should reflect the content itself.
- When preparing your presentation, go through the list of strengths and identify how they are evidenced in your content.
- During practice, repeat the process focusing on delivery.
- Can your listeners identify all your strengths?
Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect presentation.
- Everybody makes mistakes.
- This is why drafting and redrafting your presentation is paramount.
- This is why practicing and rehearsing is important; they provide you with a perfect opportunity to minimise your mistakes.
- During your presentation, simply, do not let them take over.
- If you feel comfortable about being human, your audience will focus on the positive aspects of your performance.
- If, on the other hand, you stall, if you constantly apologise or correct yourself, then you will stress the negative aspects of your performance.
Focus on contribution.
Think of who you are and how hard you have worked to reach this point in your professional life.
- These are the reasons people have come to your presentation.
- They have come to appreciate what you have to offer.
- Focus on the members of your audience and what you have to present rather than on yourself and what you are getting out of this particular presentation.
- How can you make your massage more effective and more pleasant?
- If you were not there, would they be any wiser?
Even if your presentation triggers a series of reactions or a series of objections, you have provided an opportunity for debate.
- This is not personal, it is professional.
- What is the basis of their comments?
- Could it be that you offered them too much too soon?
- Or is it the case that you offered them too little too late?
In either case, it is all about them. Adapt and adjust during practice. Remember: the more you contribute to the world the more you’ll be rewarded with personal success and recognition.
Focus on your main points.
During planning, identify the main points you are trying to make and share them with colleagues to test repetition and redundancy.
- Can your listener progress from one point to the next effortlessly?
- To what extent can they anticipate what is coming next?
- What is the ratio of points to be made compared to the time available?
- What are the explanations, examples and supporting data required?
- How many of each do you need?
- Do you need all three of them (explanations, examples and supporting data)?
Be ruthless with your plan when considering overlaps or redundancies. Remember your storyboard. It can be an invaluable tool during this process.
Use as few words as possible.
During practice and rehearsing, stick to the following principles.
- First, keep your sentences short (with as few words as possible).
- You will know your sentences are longer than necessary if you are stating the obvious.
- Second, do not get sidetracked or distracted.
- You may have just thought of what you feel is the most interesting story or comment; however, is there room for it?
- Most importantly, can you find your way back to the point you were making without the help of your notes?
- Last, and perhaps most important, give your listeners what they can digest.
During your presentation:
- If your audience is interested in more details of a particular point they will ask you for them.
- If you feel they might miss a particular point, ask them for an example, an explanation or their personal experience.
- Then you will know how to adapt to their expectations.
- Raw up a list of points that you like about yourself professionally: e.g., attention to detail, as well as a list of points that you can develop.
- Ask a colleague or an acquaintance to do the same for you.
- Compare the two lists.
- It will give you an insight into how others see you.
- Check the points you agree with and the points you disagree with.
- Ask for clarification(s).
- Compile a final list prioritising the points from your friend’s and your personal list.
- Capitalise on the positive aspects of your character/ performance.
- Check those points that you can improve on.
- Are they within the range of your personal skills and values?
- How will they both help you achieve your targets?
- How do they influence the way others see you?
Delivering your presentation.
- During practice make certain that you allow the real you to emerge.
- Avoid reading aloud a scripted speech. This will alienate you from your audience and quite simply “put words in your mouth”.
- Try building on key words that appear on your slides.
- Expand on them and illustrating the points you are making using examples from your personal or professional experiences as if talking to yourself or a colleague.
- During your presentation, do not hesitate to deviate from your plan depending on what reactions or responses you are getting from your audience.
Acknowledge your audience.
Here is a list of tips that you can use to achieve this. Consider them as general guidelines rather than a set plan.
- Use eye contact as much as possible.
- It will encourage your listeners to look at you in return and also give you the opportunity to read their reactions to what you are saying. However, do not stare at the same person all the time since this may have the opposite effect.
- Use inviting language and gestures when someone is making a comment, e.g., nodding.
- It will confirm that you are really paying attention and you are not just pretending. Open the question to the rest of the participants to gauge their interest and buy time to formulate an answer.
- Rephrase a comment that has been made for the benefit of everybody in the room.
- Link it to one of the points you have made or direct their attention to one of the points that are going to follow. Ask for possible alternatives to this comment. Thank that person accordingly.
- Do not interrupt or change the subject.
- Address the point as objectively and directly as possible based on the interest level of the other members in the group.
- If you feel that this comment concerns just one member in the audience ask them to see you at the end of the presentation so you can discuss it further.