3 Essentials to Developing Powerful Presentations – Part 2

Powerful presentations are vital to building your credibility when communicating with colleagues, senior leaders, board members, clients, or staff. In Part 1 of this article, I focused on the preparation phase, and action steps that need to be taken in advance to ensure success. The next two phases include the presentation itself, and feedback to refine your skills following the presentation.

Presentation (Your Delivery during the Meeting)

It’s OK to be nervous. However, the best way to overcome nervousness is to be prepared and know your topic better than anyone else. Eventually the nerves will subside.

Speak clearly and with confidence. Pace yourself, so as not to speak too fast or too slow – because both drive audiences crazy. If you have difficulty enunciating certain words, do not use them. Also, be careful not to speak in a monotone manner; it will put people to sleep.

Be mindful of your body language. A genuine smile is a great way to warm a group up, so be very conscientious of your facial expressions throughout your presentation. Your body language should be relaxed to convey confidence, and throughout your presentation be sure to scan the room with positive eye contact and a periodic smile. If your eyes focus solely on your presentation notes or the PowerPoint slides on the projection screen throughout the entire presentation you will lose the audience, and you will not be able to assess whether they are embracing your message or are board stiff. Also be extremely mindful of your posture and hand gestures. Remember, not only is the audience listening to you – but they are also looking at you.

Make your presentation memorable. Start with a strong opening, typically interesting facts and figures are a good way to get the audience stirred, or with a little taste of humor. Next, make sure you have an impactful middle — this is where your knowledge and expertise of the subject matter will make all of the difference. Don’t lose the audience with too many big words, but at the same time don’t talk down to the audience. There is a fine line between a presenting your information with confidence and finesse, and totally missing an opportunity to “wow” your audience. Prior to closing your presentation, allow a few minutes to take a few questions. And, if asked a question that you cannot answer, don’t fake it. Respond appropriately indicating that you will find out and get back with them a.s.a.p. Most important, end with a memorable closing, usually a great supporting quote helps round off your presentation.

Walk the room. When presenting to small groups, using the opportunity to walk around the room is extremely effective. Periodically gaze across the entire room, using positive eye contact and smiling as often as possible to convey a sense of confidence. Of course, walking the ballroom is not effective if you are presenting to a large group in the 100′s because then everyone cannot see you. In these instances, stay on the stage or at the front of the room, periodically pacing from one side to the other to keep everyone’s attention. When presenting to large groups, I always prefer and request a wireless microphone for this very reason.

Be mindful of the time. If there is a clock in the room, periodically glance at it to ensure you stay within your allotted timeframe. I have been in meetings where the speaker went over their allocated time and participants started leaving. My suggestion, respect people’s time. That’s why handouts are so helpful. If you are running out of time, you can always advise participants to review the handouts later for more details.

Feedback for Refinement (After the Meeting)

Solicit audience feedback. The manner in which you solicit feedback depends on the audience you are presenting to. When I’m facilitating a training workshop, I always handout participant feedback forms. When I am presenting to small groups, I usually speak with the meeting planner afterwards to get their feedback on the effectiveness of my presentation and suggestions for improvement.

Use feedback to improve your skills. It’s tough accepting constructive criticism and feedback when you have worked so hard preparing for a presentation or to facilitate a training workshop. However, you must take it all in stride and use what you learn to improve your presentation style. If you continue to hear the same criticism over-and-over again (you use your hands to much, you pace too much, you let the audience take control too much, you didn’t use eye contact with the audience, etc.) then it is a chronic blind-spot that you need to work on eliminating. It’s OK to be sensitive, but use this type of feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow over time. When you begin to hear the same criticisms less over time, you’ll know that you have mastered them.

In closing, my list of tips for a powerful presentation is not all inclusive. However, hopefully it has gotten your creative juices going and in the future you will consider some of these tips to improve your presentation skills. There hundred of other tips to help you improve. I give hundreds of presentations each year, but I still review books and other self-help resources to refine my skills. Believe me, your first, second, or maybe even fiftieth presentation will not be perfect – but the more you do over time the more confident you will become.