I was wondering what to talk about this month and especially what I can give in the way of advice on presentations, then it came to me – NOTHING! Yes, that’s correct, absolutely nothing.
The point is that when delivering a presentation you need the audience to focus on your words and absorb your message but to enable this to happen you have to hold their attention and therefore it is a matter of SELLING YOURSELF as well as delivering the words.
Did you know that one of the many exams a cruise ship captain must pass, is to deliver a 20 minute presentation on a subject chosen by a panel just minutes in advance? How would you cope in that situation? By following basic rules you can ensure SUCCESS whatever the content:
This is a key area so make sure you keep the following in mind:
- CLARITY – don’t mumble, open your mouth and fully finish the words i.e. don’t miss the ‘G’ off ‘ing’.
- PACE – You may know your subject inside out but your audience needs to ‘TUNE IN’ to your voice and style so give them time to take in the message.
- PAUSE – again, time for them to absorb the salient points and time for you to think.
- VOLUME – no need to shout but understand your PERFORMANCE SPACE. Low ceilings, especially with indentations, will absorb the sound. Sound rises so you need to PROJECT to that person at the back of the room. In a tall vaulted ceiling you may find the sound bouncing around so your delivery will have to be considerably slower.
- PITCH – try for a medium level, not too high or low. A high pitch gives the impression you are not sincere and too low a pitch will lack impact. If you can, use your full range.
- MODULATION – variety is the key here otherwise you will sound monotonous and the message will be lost. Emphasis on key words is essential.
OTHER AREAS TO FOCUS ON
- STAND OR SIT? – standing is preferable. It allows you to breathe correctly which is the basis of correct vocal delivery
- MICROPHONE or NOT ?– this can be helpful as long as you test out the equipment in advance. Ladies should always watch jewellery as noisy bracelets will be heard when you gesture and I know from experience the problems that dangly earrings can cause with a head mic! You will be fine without amplification as long as you use correct breathing (intercostal diaphragmatic!)
- POWERPOINT– Generally, yes, but only to enhance the words or help visualize a technical point. DON’T let the slides take over or be too ‘busy’ – you need the audience to keep their prime attention on YOU. Remember that humans subconsciously lip-read as well as listen, so open your mouth.
- MOVEMENT – Too much movement can be distracting and stepping from one foot to the other can actually make an audience feel a bit seasick! It is good practice to use the body to help emphasise the words but not too much jumping about.
- EYE CONTACT – Imperative. Try to hold eye contact at all times but don’t stare at any individual – keep you eyes moving around the audience.
- HUMOUR – Can be useful if you want to keep your presentation light but please DON’T try to tell jokes unless you’re a natural stand-up comedian.
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – I’ve heard of a famous politician who tries to have a few words around the tables with his audience before his presentation so that he can get a ‘feel’ for the room.
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Now, remember what I said about talking about nothing? Well, have a look at this short video and see whether you can spot any of the above. Good luck with your presentations. And remember:
Speak Loud & Clear!