I’m very excited to be a guest presenter for a webinar hosted by Harvard Business Review and Citrix. The webinar focuses on remote presenting, with tips from Nancy Duarte, author of Slide:ology, Resonate, and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. Spread the word and click here to register for the complimentary webinar!
Can we just talk about how much I enjoy giving presentations and public speaking? It’s just fun for me, it really energizes me, and I am generally in a great mood after a successful presentation. I know a lot of people hate standing in front of a large group of people to talk about things, with all eyes focused on them, but I live for these moments in business and academia. I had a presentation last week, and if I do say so myself, we kicked butt. So, how did we go about kicking butt and having a class session that made me happy in my soul?
It starts with the subject matter. Our professor gave us free reign over the subject of the presentation, so doing the research was challenging, engaging, and I’ll go ahead and say it: FUN. Thus, when we stood up to present our findings, we were having fun. I know we don’t always have the luxury of choosing the subject matter and the medium to present, but there’s always an interesting angle, a new statistic, or a new way to make the material applicable to your audience. What gets your juices flowing? It’s much easier to excite and engage the audience if you’re excited and engaged about the material.
We looked the part. I’ve been very surprised at the number of students that show up for a scheduled biggest-project-of-the-semester presentation in jeans and a t-shirt! This is not professional, and I don’t care how great you are at speaking, you lose a few credibility points if you don’t look the part. My entire group showed up in business formal attire, and we looked sharp. Standing up together in a suit and tie or a well-tailored sheath dress immediately set us apart. The professor commented that we all looked nice, and several students noted that we looked so professional. I don’t completely agree that clothes make the man, but I would argue that clothes can definitely break a man in situations that call for a commanding, authoritative presence.
We were practiced and prepared. This sounds like common sense, but it goes beyond just having a group meeting to run through the important points and hand-offs. All of us are seasoned presenters, and we’ve examined our own presentation style with face-to-face criticism, web cams, and mirrors. You might think this is overkill, but you don’t get great presentations by accident. I hate vocal fillers (the ahhs, umms, and uhhhs that punctuate presentations), so I’ve made a point to cut those out. During undergrad, I asked a fellow classmate to count the number of times I uttered a vocal filler. He asked me to give him honest feedback after his presentation as well, and we both honed our skills. So, in addition to the “who’s doing what” conversation, practice alone, and get brutally honest. Watch tapes or look in the mirror… you might be surprised at what you see.
I enjoyed working with this group on this presentation because we had great synergy and work ethic. Everyone did their part, and everyone came to the table prepared and professional. Then we stood up and nailed our presentation. Man, it’s a great high 🙂
I have another article on The Daily Muse today! Check out my tips in the post titled, “4 Creative Ways to Land the Interview”. I’ve posted on The Daily Muse several times, and you can view all of my articles here.
The Daily Muse is an excellent site aimed at young professional women (there’s some great articles for men, too!) They’ve assembled a wonderful team of talented writers, so make sure you browse through the rest of the site!
Las Vegas is a place of illusions, but as the city never sleeps, sometimes you get to peek behind the scenes.
First, Nevada is a desert, but you’d never know it when you’re walking down the strip. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a city with literally EVERYTHING you could need or want. When you start thinking about the amount of money spent on electricity, water, shipping, and shows, it’s staggering. Entertainment like that shouldn’t be available in the middle of nowhere… and yet, it is!
Second, everything is pretty clean and well-maintained, considering the amount of people that trample on the grass, sit in the seats, and lean against the walls. Most hotels and theme parks have a “down” period, where regular maintenance occurs. There’s no “down” period in Vegas, so the maintenance occurs out in the open. I came down one morning to see a worker re-painting the columns white, lawn men pulling weeds daily, and people spraying down the sidewalks. It’s just odd, because most bigger-than-life places try to keep up the magic by doing maintenance in secret. Not seeing the maintenance makes it feel like grass and shrubs just magically stay beautiful in a place like this. It contributes to the feeling that everything is a vacation in that place. See, the sand is just ALWAYS white! See, the grass is just ALWAYS green! If only I could live in a place where no work takes place! Aside from the fact that I was on a business trip, seeing all the maintenance and work going on in Vegas was actually pretty stressful (not to mention the crowds everywhere!)
Finally, you can just see the people on the street in morning after a looooong night. Vegas gives you the sense that it’s a party all the time, but the tired eyes and looks of nausea show that it does come to an end. Yes, I did see a guy lean out the window of a limo and throw up all over the street… clearly he partied a little too hard. I’m all for a good time, and Vegas certainly delivers a party atmosphere, but at some point, real life sets in. The body can’t handle excessive amounts of alcohol, rich food, walking, sex, and over-stimulation of the sense. Even good things should be experienced in moderation! The illusion of the high life comes crashing down in the bright light of the morning sun, and I think Vegas gives people a warped sense of their limits on partying.
Overall, it was a good trip, but I was definitely ready to come home after a few days. I think I’ve had enough Vegas to last me for several years! If you do take a trip out there, I highly recommend Blue Man Group and any of the Cirque du Soleil shows. My parents mentioned that Elton John was amazing, so maybe I’ll check out “The Million Dollar Piano” when I visit next time.
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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!
I talked about presentation attire in yesterday’s post, so today I want to talk about actually giving the presentation. What makes a great presentation, and how do you ensure that you give a stellar performance? Great presentation are engaging, informative, and provide clarity for an idea or strategy. Speakers should not distract from the message by fidgeting or using vocal fillers (those pesky “um” and “er” words), and visual aids should be clean, clear, and concise. Today’s post will address the speaker’s role in creating and giving a great presentation.
Stop fidgeting! When I was in high school, I wore rings on 4 fingers, and I played with them constantly. People were always commenting on the fact that I was fiddling with my rings, and that slight movement of my hands distracted my companions in nearly every conversation I had. My mom always worried that I would be messing with my rings during a singing performance, but that was the one place I managed to quell the incessant fidgeting. How did I do it? I kept my hands at my sides, loosely hanging straight down. I made a point to just leave them there, at all times. Granted, it turned out to be a little boring, but it helped me learn to keep my hands still while performing. Effective presenters use hand motions with purpose. I recommend letting your hands and arms remain at your sides, and practicing use of hand motions only to make a point. It might even be helpful to over-exaggerate until you are comfortable that your hands aren’t distracting, but strategically placed during a presentation. Practice not touching your clothes or accessories, but only touching either your other hand or a specific point in the air (for example, directing toward your visual aid).
Stop shifting listlessly! I mentioned wearing comfortable shoes to avoid shifting and moving aimlessly. To further prevent random movement, I suggest planting your feet firmly on the floor, about shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other. This forces you to move intentionally, as swaying or shifting is difficult in this stance. If your weight is balanced as it should be, it will take more effort to move it off balance, making your movements more intentional. I also recommend picking a path and a rhythm. For example, practice saying point number 1 to the middle of the room, turning to the left, walking 3 steps, and saying point number 2 to the left side of the room. Repeat this process back to the center, to the right of the room, and back to center. With enough practice, it will be more natural to move during your presentation.
Stop “presenting”! I’m always annoyed when people “act” like a presenter. It’s as if they woke up and decided to “play pretend” presenter today, just like we’d play house or high-school when we were younger. You don’t have to alter your voice to “sound like a presenter”. If you speak slowly and clearly, your message will be understood. Fake confidence is almost worse than no confidence, so “playing” enthusiastic presenter just looks cheesy. To avoid acting like a presenter, I don’t think you should over-practice. Don’t memorize a speech or read directly from note cards, but tell your colleagues about your idea in the way that you discussed it among your team. You know the information… you wrote it! You’re the expert, so practice flexibility within structure when presenting.
Stop using “vocal fillers”! I was taught that silence is better than “um”, so I do my best to weed out the vocal fillers during my presentation. You may not realize how often you use these types of words, including, “er”, “you know”, “ok”, “uh”, “soooo”, and the list goes on. It’s eye-opening to ask someone to count the use of these types of words during a presentation, and I highly recommend making that request during your practice sessions. If you need a moment to think, simply stand quietly until you are ready to speak again. It seems awkward at first, but it’s much better to let other process during the silence than annoying them with vocal fillers.
Public speaking is often cited as one of the most prevalent fears, but it can be overcome with practice. Using the afore-mentioned tips will help you become a confident, engaging presenter.
Necklace: NY and Co.
Belt: Charlotte Russe
Heels: Old, don’t remember
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I love presenting, let’s just state that from the start! What’s not to love… you are the center of attention, you get to be the expert on the subject at hand, and you get to convince everyone that your idea is the best! I know, it makes me sound a little childish, but let’s be honest. What actor/marketer/motivational speaker doesn’t have some kind of ulterior motive when they stand up to present? It’s a rush! Being back in school affords more opportunities to do “formal” presentations. Most of my day-to-day presentations are much less formal, and often involve lots of computer mock-ups, so I end up sitting near a keyboard instead of commanding the room from a podium. So, what does one wear for a presentation, and is there any rhyme or reason to the presentation dress code?
First, wear comfortable shoes, especially for the long presentations! It is distracting to see people rocking back and forth or shifting on their feet because of obviously uncomfortable shoes. For women, I would also recommend wearing a slightly lower heel, since you won’t be paying much attention to where you’re walking. For example, I saw one girl’s heel get caught on a slight snag in the carpet, almost toppling her during the presentation. It completely threw her off her game, and for the rest of the presentation, she was looking at the floor, trying to avoid snagging her heel again.
On a related note, wear well-tailored clothing. Again, it’s very distracting to see a blouse that’s about to pop open, or a suit jacket that looks constricting. Make sure you can move in your suit, so that hand gestures and pointing to the presentation materials don’t look or feel awkward. I realize that some people don’t wear suits on a regular basis, so I recommend spending some time “breaking in” a suit to feel comfortable.
Finally, dress the part! I’ve talked before about how I sometimes wonder why we buy into the illusion of “business formal”, but the fact is, we do! You don’t want to be the one person in a room full of suits wearing jeans and a t-shirt. To command authority and improve the perception of expertise, formal business wear is the first step. It also helps you look and feel more confident, which will translate into the speaking and body language areas of the presentation.
Getting dressed for a presentation is just the first step to success, so check back tomorrow for some additional ways to make a successful presentation! Like the outfit? See more details here!