BEFORE THE PRESENTATION
Rehearsing Your Presentation
Effective speakers recognize the value of practice. Rehearsing will enable you to detect bugs in your presentation, look and feel more comfortable, improve the effectiveness of your gestures, reduce annoying mannerisms, ensure a powerful start and finish, help present your visuals smoothly, and finish on time.
If possible, try to rehearse your presentation several times in the same way. Do it exactly as you will when speaking. Look out for words or expressions that you stumble over and find easier substitutes. Use bold verbs instead of heavy, boring nouns. Use a variety of words and do not repeat unusual vocabulary more than once. For example, if you say there are myriad reasons for doing something, don’t use the word ‘myriad’ again in your presentation. Rehearse in front of a mirror and watch yourself carefully. Smile, make any adjustments and keep fine-tuning till you feel satisfied. The effort will pay off.
If you’re rehearsing alone, pull out questions from a hat and practice answering them at random. If you can find someone to assist you, have the person role-play some questions and situations that may arise. You could also have your assistant point out any flaws in the logic of your presentation or any typos that need correcting on your visuals.
Visiting the Venue
Try to visit the presentation site in advance, if possible. At the least, arrive much earlier than the crowd to check up on arrangements and to avoid anxiety. You don’t want to get stuck in a traffic jam while people are waiting for you. Once you arrive, check the facilities, identify light switches, get acquainted with the maintenance person, arrange for necessary equipment and adjust the temperature in the room so it will be comfortable for the attendees. Try out the podium before your talk. Arrange to raise or lower the microphone or get a booster step if you are short or tall. Position the podium so that you can see the screen shots that your audience will see.
What you do in the last thirty minutes before your presentation can greatly affect the quality of your presentation. Check your appearance and use the washroom. Find a quiet place (perhaps in the toilet) and collect your thoughts. Visualize yourself giving a successful presentation. When you step into the presentations room, hotel lobby, or training centre, start building rapport with your audience long before you begin your formal presentation. The members of your audience will start forming an impression, based mostly on body language, as soon as they see you in the room. While walking around the lobby or having coffee before your presentation, take the opportunity to meet some of your audience members. Walk around confidently, introduce yourself and try to get to know them. Ask questions to show you are interested in who they are, what they do, where they came from, how they heard about the presentation or any other related information. Create empathy by showing you care about them. Smile, relax, and feel as confident as you do whenever you talk to people one-on-one.
DURING THE PRESENTATION
“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This well-known piece of advice underlines the importance of establishing rapport with your audience. By establishing and maintaining a personal and friendly relationship with the audience from the start of your presentation, you are more likely to receive a positive response. The question remains: how do you make this connection? We have all seen famous orators sway an audience. These talented speakers are using techniques which you too can learn and master.
The key to establishing rapport with your audience is emotion. However, not all emotions will work to your advantage. Consider what kind of emotion you want to evoke in your listeners. Your goal should be to get your audience members to feel as you feel about your argument.
In all cases, remember that a message delivered with sincerity and enthusiasm can succeed where the same words delivered without enthusiasm would fail. This is one of the most important factors in successful persuasion. If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic! If you cannot relate to behaving in an enthusiastic way, it may help to think of someone you know or admire who is enthusiastic and imagine that person is giving the presentation. Or imagine someone who is super calm and relaxed. Take on the calm but enthusiastic persona of that individual until your own self-image expands to allow in the “new you”.
Reading Audience Signals
During the presentation, remember to adapt to the needs of the audience whenever necessary. Look out for audience body language that signals exhaustion, confusion or disagreement. Interpret a quizzical look, a scowl or folded arms. If you pick up on such non-verbal signals, respond appropriately by providing more examples, breaking for a short question and answer session or requesting some feedback. This will enable any misunderstandings to be clarified earlier in the presentation and dissipate any growing frustrations.
In today’s informal business environment, another important factor in effective communication is how likable you are. This quality is hard to define or teach but the likable person generally projects an image of optimism, concern for others, the ability to see opportunities, the ability to handle stress, the ability to laugh often especially at oneself, the ability to perform well in a crisis, and the ability to be humble in success.
So, prepare well. Then, you’ll have every reason to be confident. After all, you are a likable person. You’re enthusiastic about what you’re doing. You know your material. You’ve rehearsed as many times as necessary to master the material and feel comfortable with the flow of words. You’re ready… and it shows!