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Steve Marr Blog

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Feb 15

Making Better Presentations

Posted by: Steve Marr

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As a business leader, you will be called on to make presentations. Your presentation may be long or short, but to be effective, you must connect with your audience. Effective presentations move your career forward and improve your professional creditability.


Every single time you are asked to present, take it seriously.


First, establish the ground rules. Job said, "Hear my words, you wise men; listen to me, you men of learning" (Job 34:2 NIV). Ask that cell phones be turned off, not just placed on vibrate, to avoid people handling and looking at their phones determining who is calling. Also, ask that other hand-held devices, like BlackBerries, be turned off. If people are clicking on e-mail, others will become distracted and you can lose the audience. Explain what you are presenting (even if the topic has been explained in advance) and tell them how long you will talk (this gives the audience an important time reference).


Second, prepare well, even for short opportunities. King Solomon said, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit..." (Proverbs 2:15 NIV). Prepare an outline that includes what you want to communicate, and include each key point, with enough detail to keep you on track. Practice your presentation until you are comfortable presenting the material within the allotted time. Even short five-minute updates should always stay within the allotted time.


Third, keep your presentation on point. Every word, sentence, and thought needs to be succinct. Paul wrote, "Avoid empty chatter" (2 Timothy 2:16 NASB) and Solomon wrote, "Yet the fool multiplies his words" (Ecclesiastes 10:14 NASB). Presenters who are nervous and start rambling usually end up disconnecting with the audience. Attention is held when every word you speak is important. Stories can be helpful to illustrate a point if they relate directly to the subject and are of appropriate length. A three-minute story during a five-minute presentation is too long, but is fine during a 45-minute presentation. Never tell a story because it's a great story. Only use a story when it's on point and illustrative of what you are communicating.


Fourth, start a bit louder than your normal voice to grab the listener's attention and to establish your leadership, and then you can quiet down to your normal voice pattern. Establishing eye contact is important, so look around and establish that contact. A few people struggle with making and holding eye contact. In these cases, try to look at the foreheads of others to achieve the effect of communicating.


Fifth, use your best speaking voice. If you get nervous and talk too fast, practice slowing down to make sure everybody has time to catch each point. Don't be afraid to allow a moment of silence. A music composer uses the staccato technique in music of highlighting a note by allowing some space between the notes. Likewise, pausing after a key item draws attention. If necessary, practice inflection to avoiding speaking in monotone. Ask you spouse or another person to critique you.


Sixth, whenever possible, stand up when you speak, even if you are at a table. This gives you more perceived authority. Use good posture and avoid excessive hand gesturers that are distracting. If speaking for longer times, try moving around.


Seventh, actively watch, listen, and ask questions whenever possible while you are presenting. If you see attention is becoming lost, consider what future changes you can make. You can ask questions designed to ensure your message was heard and understood, providing you an opportunity to clarify and amplify as needed.


Eighth, whenever possible or appropriate, ask you boss or colleagues for feedback on how you did. Then make changes to improve in the future. If you were too brief, the next time when you speak, make sure you clarify and explain more completely.


Presentations can become career-enhancing experiences when you showcase your skill to staff, colleagues, and your bosses.


Truly, it is an art worth learning!

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach







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