Getting It Right: The Secrets of Presentation Success: Poorly Planned and Executed Presentations Invariably Waste Time and Money. Here's How to Brush Up on Your Presentation Approach, and Apply Just the Right Amount of Technology. (Corporate Presentations)

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How many times have you sat through a business presentation and thought "let me out of here"?

It's not so much that the message is bad; it's the messenger that needs shooting, and the technology used is inappropriate.

There are, thankfully, many proficient speakers who comprehend the basics of a successful presentation, and know just how to apply suitable technology. There is also plenty of expert advice and material available to help people improve their skills.

One of the better guides on presentation skills that I've seen came from Britain's Staffordshire University. It is based around a Planning Cycle, which begins with the parameters and works through aims and objectives, presentation content, method of delivery, and finally, evaluation.

First, know your audience (eg, what do they already know about the topic and what do they need to know?). Then know your venue, including the presentation equipment, and know yourself--your abilities and limitations.

Ask yourself what is the point of the presentation? What do you want to achieve? Make your objectives SMART--Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bounded.

When it comes to content, consider the main points you want to convey, and apply the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple). Break information down into manageable chunks; there should be no more than five key messages in a presentation, and only three in a 15 to 20 minute talk. Be brutally frugal with the amount of material you include.

Get back to the basics when structuring your presentation--work on a beginning, middle, and the end. The old cliche applies: "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them."

When deciding on the best way to deliver content, remember that we recall only 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see, 50 percent of what we hear and see, and 70 percent of what we do. So presenters must do more than just talk. You need visual aids, such as whiteboards and data/ video projectors, and if possible, interact with the audience.

Post-presentation evaluation is important--think back to what happened, without being too critical. Consider what worked, and what didn't? Get some feedback by handing out evaluation forms immediately after your presentation or, better still, get audience members to fill in a form a few days later, to avoid the skew of the `feel good' factor.

Lacking confidence?

Of course, all the best intentions in the world go down the gurgler if you haven't come to grips with the fear factor. In her book Speak Easy--The Essential Guide to Speaking in Public, due for release in early April, Maggie Eyre offers the following tips for improving your confidence in public speaking.

* Believe in yourself. The audience will believe you if you show them you are confident and comfortable in front of them. Be positive.

* Share true stories that will change other people's lives. Empower your audience, stimulate change in the mind of your listener--tell your own personal and professional story.

* Plan and prepare well in advance. Leaving preparation to the last minute will make you stressed, and the speech won't be as good as it could be. Serious speakers need to set aside at least 45 to 60 minutes of preparation time per minute of speaking time.

* Know what your key messages are. Weave these messages into your storytelling. Keep things simple and concise.

* Rehearse in front of a colleague or friend you respect. This is vital for your self-confidence.

* Seek out and accept training opportunities. Don't wait for a really important speech to practise your public speaking.

* Be well informed about world events and read the newspaper daily. By referring to current issues, your audience will see you are educated and well informed.

* Find a mentor. …


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