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Presentations are a part of our everyday world. With over 3 billion active Internet users and nearly 2.1 billion people with social media accounts, the latest Generation Z culture is definitely a connected one. With the multitude of digital formats that can be used for delivering presentations, including web conferencing, podcasts, and social media, it has allowed presenters to be more personal and interactive with their ideas and material.  There are a ton of best practices for presenting.  In this article, I am focusing on basic concepts for executing a presentation no matter what type of training or speech you are developing.

1. Make a positive first impression.

First impressions are keys to a good presentation. Engaging your audience and getting started on a positive note is key because there is no opportunity to correct that first impression. Honesty, sincerity and making a connection to your audience are keys to a positive first impression. Be polite and grateful that you have a receptive audience listening to you!

2. Tell the audience what to expect.

Tell your audience what they are about to hear, but keep it at a very high level. Some accomplish this by reviewing an agenda, others accomplish this by identify a number of key points. They need to know what is promised in order to define expectations and follow the discussion. Make it brief and concise. The phrase that comes to mind is – tell them what you are going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you told them.

3. Focus on the audience.

Make sure you know the material you want to cover so you can look at your audience and not your notes or slides. When you are speaking to an individual you should look them in the eye and the same is true with a presentation. Look at the audience. Look at all the people throughout the room. Make eye contact with individuals. If you know the audience and you know certain topics relate to certain groups, look at those groups.

4. Move around.

Don’t hide behind the podium, walk around. Use the space at the front of the room or use the aisle between groups of chairs and move around as you speak. Also talk with your hands, use your hand gestures to emphasize a point. Don’t move so much that the audience has a difficult time following you, just make yourself and the audience comfortable.

5. Have fun.

Laugh and smile! Smiles and laughter are contagious. If the presenter is having a good time the audience will too! Make the audience glad they came to your presentation and spent their time listening to you.

6. Make it interactive when you can.

When the audience is directly involved, they are more attentive. Interacting with the audience and getting the audience involved isn’t always easy; however each group is different and with a little creativity it is possible! Here are a couple suggestions: ask questions where the audience responds with a show of hands, if you know individuals personally call on them, if you are teaching the group quiz them on the material, if nothing else give them a stretch break at their seat for longer presentations. Suggestions that involve more time or planning include: answer paddles for the audience to use when raising their hand, voting pads for real-time answers to your questions, social media tools such as Twitter or Linked In to push messages through the crowd, a general use of props to explain key points. Interacting with the audience by utilizing your creativity is possible!

7. Have a back-up plan.

Think about how often things go according to a plan. Since this is an important presentation, make sure that you have a back-up plan. Most presenters rely on some form of technology during their presentation. Be prepared with another option just in case that technology has a failure. Having a prepared alternative option will keep the presentation on course and may turn out to be the best plan in the end if you are prepared for that situation.

8. Review the key points at the end. Remember that phrase.

Tell them what you are going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you told them. Just as in the beginning the presenter needs to tell the audience what to expect, the same is true at the end of the presentation. Keep your summary brief and concise – this is what we promised and this is how we delivered that promise. Take-aways are very important. You can involve the audience by identifying their own take-aways. Be sure to supply them with electronic supplemental materials either through the conference website, conference tool or via email. Offer an opportunity to stay connected through social media, email, or phone going forward – be sincere in your offer to follow-up with them. If sending additional materials after the presentation, be sure to send them the same day when they are still thinking about your presentation.

In the end, successful presentations really are all about knowing what makes you most comfortable and doing that.  It is also about connecting with your audience to determine what will make them most comfortable and doing that.  Take a few deep breaths and go for it!  Your confidence will grow from each presentation and don’t be afraid to deliver what you know in new and innovative ways!

Resources & References

Author: Cari Filbrandt, Senior Consultant, Courtland Consulting

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