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Alright, I know I just did two posts about presentations last week, but I’ve got speaking on the brain! We had case presentations in one of my classes last night, and unfortunately, it spurred me to post once more about presentations. I truly believe that public speaking is a non-negotiable skill in the corporate world, and it was a little disconcerting to see some of the presentation behavior from my MBA classmates. I started my presentation well by dressing the part, which many of classmates chose not to do. However, I want to get into a few more tips on the speaking, since I’ve already addressed appropriate presentation attire.
Look at your audience. I was shocked to see members of several groups turn their back on the audience during yesterday’s presentations. I was also shocked to see people holding notes up in front of their face, or just looking straight down at the notes. Generally, there’s at least one friendly face in the crowd, so if nothing else, at least speak to that person. I don’t recommend looking people directly in the eye when you first start presenting, as it can be a distraction if you’re not used to such direct feedback. Rather, look at their hairline, as this will appear more like eye contact, without the harsh “staring into my soul” effect that can ensue with direct eye contact. Practice in front of a mirror to make sure that you’re not speaking into your notes.
Be cognizant of the time. We had a strict and short time limit for our presentations last night, and most groups managed to adhere to the cut-off time. However, one group had a huge faux pas during their presentation. A group member was plowing through their portion of the presentation, completely oblivious to the time keeper’s hand signals. Another group member saw the time keeper give the “wrap it up” signal. Seeing no end in sight, he politely and briefly interrupted the group member that was speaking to thank the class for their time. Instead of sitting down, as it was clear their time was up, the group member started speaking again to make their point! When informed that in fact, they were out of time, this person turned to the class and said, “Can I just say one more thing about The Subject?” Awkwardly, her other group members looked at the class. Don’t be this person… when your time is up, your time is up! Plan your presentation and make sure that you speak at a rate that will meet the time limit.
Practice the transitions. I generally prefer to speak with a clicking device, so that I can move the slides forward at the same rate at which I speak. However, this is not always possible, so make sure you practice the transitions with your team mates. Is one person going to move the slides forward, or will each member move to the keyboard to advance the slides? What order are you speaking in, and do you plan to introduce the next speaker, or just move aside to let the next speaker take over? Who will lead the question and answer session; will it be one speaker, or will each person answer based on their specific portion of the presentation? It’s the “little things” like transitions that take a group from disjointed to polished, and it makes a noticeable difference in the level of professionalism exuded by the team.
Utilize your visual aid. I saw full sentences and paragraphs written on some of the PowerPoint slides last night, and it makes the visual aid overwhelming and unclear, instead of helpful. Also, state your point up front! Several groups arrived at the end of their presentation, and I still had no idea about their stance on the issue at hand. Open the presentation with your stance, and then utilize bullet points, charts, and pictures through out the remainder of the presentation to support your stance. Don’t forget to proof-read! I saw typos and text running into graphics on some presentations, which distracts from the overall message that should be enhanced by the visual aid.
I know I’m picky, but years of public speaking have taught me that the seemingly unobtrusive quirks really hurt a person’s ability to convey their information during a presentation. I hope these tips will make your next presentation clear and compelling! Like the outfit? See more details here!