Delivering Powerful Presentations

The further you progress in your career, the more presentation delivery will become part of your role.

For most people, standing in front of an audience can be intimidating but with guidance and practice you can quickly master the process.

Consider your structure

Keep a logical flow by having a clear beginning, middle, and an end. To help establish a strong structure, ask yourself what 3 key points you’d like your audience to remember the week after your presentation and build your message around these.

Keep it short. A common mistake of inexperienced presenters is to try to say too much. As a result, the main message can get lost. Research conducted by Dianne Dukette and David Cornish (2009) shows that, on average, adults can only sustain attention for around 20 minutes. If you’re given 30 minutes to present, consider leaving the last ten minutes for questions and answers. If your presentation is scheduled for an hour, use the same 20 minute structure pausing for comments or questions between each section.

Engage with your audience

Learn as much as you can about your audience background and knowledge level so that you can tailor your content to them. Understand the issues they’re facing and draw on examples and stories that will be most relevant to them.

Weaving anecdotes and case studies into your presentation will help give it context and make it more interesting and memorable. TED talk speakers use this story telling technique very effectively – I’d recommend accessing their website www.ted.com to see examples of how it’s done.

Body Language

Emphasise important points of your speech with movement: your whole body, your arms, your hands, your head and changing facial expressions. Vary your tone and pace, pausing when you get to something important.

Eye contact is essential – both to connect with your audience and to create trust with them. The only way you can achieve good eye contact is by rehearsing your presentation in advance – memorising is a mistake as you’ll sound stiff and scripted but familiarising is essential.

PowerPoint and visual aids

PowerPoint is a great tool for focusing your audience’s attention on a particular point. However make sure you don’t overuse it by filling the slides full of text and then reading from them. Consider using slides with unique images – photographs, maps, quotes, diagrams or even hand drawings when introducing separate topics.

Questions

You should always leave time for questions and answers at the end of a presentation and anticipate difficult topics that may come up. Consider all the questions your audience may raise about your points and be prepared to answer them. If nobody asks a question, be prepared with your own questions by saying something like “I’m usually asked…” or “One thing you might still be wondering about is …”

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