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Delivering Effective Presentations

Presentations and public speaking skills are useful in all aspects of work and life and effective presentations and public speaking skills are important in business, sales, training and teaching.

Feeling comfortable speaking to a group of people means developing self-confidence and the ability to stand up in front of an audience and present yourself or your business in an interactive and interesting way that engages them positively with what you are trying to get across.

Anyone can develop the skills to deliver an effective presentation to a professional standard – it just requires, preparation, planning and most of all practice.

The range of ways in which you can deliver a presentation to your target audience are many and varied. However, the format and purposes of presentations can also be very different and dependent on the message or information you are trying to get across alongside how they are delivered.

Whether you are standing in front of a live audience and giving a talk alongside using a PowerPoint presentation, delivering a training session for your team or group or creating a video for your vlog on your website or YouTube, they all require a level of professionalism, knowledge and confidence in your topic or situation to be delivered well.

Preparation and Knowledge - are the first element of creating a successful presentation. Your understanding and experience in your subject matter will give you more confidence and control, helping you and your audience feel more relaxed.

Presentation Style - as a presenter you need to maintain control and your enthusiasm, confidence and knowledge will allow you to do this. Be passionate and where possible entertaining about your subject matter, which will help your audience feel at ease and most of all listen to what you have to say.

Length of Presentations – apparently, the average attention span of an average listener is between five and ten minutes and for younger audiences it’s even less, so it is a good idea to structure your content so that it’s interesting and where possible interactive for them. After around 40 minutes, many people will begin to feel uncomfortable of sitting and watching or listening to a presentation, so if you’re conducting a seminar or even that requires them to do this for longer, it’s a good idea to insert breaks which give them the opportunity to get up and walk about, take a toilet break and/or get a refreshment.

Building Credibility and Empathy – when you make your introduction, it’s important that your audience also immediately feels your enthusiasm but also a genuine empathy in their well-being, so that they feel comfortable in their environment which will come across naturally if you show that you are also comfortable. Smiling will relax you and the audience along with helping you to look and feel calm. Avoid starting your presentation or speech with a joke unless you are very confident and you know it will go down well with your audience.

Making an Impact - research indicates that you have around 4-7 seconds to make a positive impact when you are delivering a presentation, so it’s important that your introduction is strong and well-rehearsed, but comes across naturally like it’s the first time you’ve said it. How confident you are will show in how well you are able to inform and influence your audience, after all in many cases they are listening to you because you have the information and knowledge they want to hear. Be bold when you need to and step back to invite interaction where possible. Make your audience feel involved and part of your presentation rather than it all being about you. Reinforce topics with reminders on why they are there, any issues you are looking to help them resolve and the benefits they can expect.

Using Humour - whilst this effect is not always produced spontaneously and you don't need to be a comedian to use humour in your presentation, there are interesting ways in which you can ensure your audience enjoys what you are saying and particularly if he subject matter is bland or dry which will hopefully allow you to break up the discussion and make it more palatable. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to inject a joke every second sentence and this isn’t something we would recommend unless you are a stand-up comedian, but how you deliver the presentation is definitely within your control, so make it entertaining.

Apologising to the Audience – unless you have made a serious error, it’s best to avoid apologising to the audience at the start of the presentation as this can affect the atmosphere before you’ve even really started. Don’t apologise for trivial incidences which may make your audience feel uncomfortable, but if a major problem has occurred acknowledge it then be clear and brief on what has happened then move on. Mistakes happen even to the most experienced speakers so just relax and be calm if you make one and try where possible to keep the atmosphere light and relaxed.

Presentation Content – if you can break your presentation into sections, ideally ensure that each topic takes just a few minutes or you could introduce something entertaining or amusing to keep the audience’s attention. Anything over ten minutes without some other interjection, may send them into a trance at which point they may stop listening. So breaking up your content to keep them engaged and interested in what you are saying is key to delivering your presentation effectively.

Using Other Media – as noted above, this is another way of breaking down your presentation and maintaining maximum interest and participation. Whether you show a video, a PowerPoint presentation, introduce a different speaker or get them to write things down that they see/hear or use props to emphasise what you are saying, a variety of content and communication tools that make your presentation engaging and interactive will also make it more memorable. The last thing you want is for them to leave and have forgotten everything they have heard or seen five minutes out of the door.

Closing the Presentation – anyway in which you can make the end of the presentation humourous or memorable will enable your audience to leave on a high and feel that they have spent their time well with you. Thank them for listening and being part of the presentation and send them on their way with a smile. Particularly for professional presentations, seminars or events you want to know what they thought to introduce your feedback forms or inform them that they will be sent a link via email for feedback which you would appreciate them completing. You may want to offer some sort of incentive for them to do this. In addition, collecting business cards or contact information is a good way of following-up which is always essential at the end of a presentation.

Practice makes perfect and when you feel more confident in delivering your presentation and have received great feedback, you can feel proud that you have developed a valuable life skill as well as an expectation of what people can expect from you at future events, l hopefully make them easier to deliver.

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