Magazine article Work & Family Life

Stepping Up to the Dreaded Podium?

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Stepping Up to the Dreaded Podium?

Article excerpt

Public speaking is still high on most people's list of fears. And though most of us will never be expected to deliver a speech in front of a large audience, from time to time we all need to make a conference presentation, state our case internally, propose a new idea or ask for something we want in order to do our jobs better.

Your "audience" may only be a committee, a task force, the other members of a work group or just one influential person. Whoever they are and whatever the setting, your purpose will be the same: to be clear, concise and convincing. Here are some suggestions:

THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE.

What do they already know about your subject? What do they care about? Is cost the most important issue? Are they looking for a short-term solution to a problem or the long-range implications of a new policy?

FACE THE GROUP as much as possible.

This is becoming harder these days, with computer-generated "visuals" a part of so many presentations. Try to position yourself so you can see the audience and also keep an eye on the screen. And if you're speaking to a large gathering, follow the advice of professionals: look directly at one person at a time, not a sea of faces.

WHAT ABOUT VISUALS? Ask yourself if those "visuals" (which can be distracting) are absolutely necessary to your presentation. Many people find that even though you check out microphones, power sources and your own electronic equipment before you speak, failures do happen. It's best to have a fallback plan.

SPEAK WITH A PURPOSE. Having a sense of purpose or mission gives you power. Focus on your desired outcome. What do you want your audience to do as a result of your presentation? Launch a campaign. Hire a new person? Sell more products? Open the cafeteria for the night shift? Say why your idea will work in practical terms. Support your argument with facts. Give good examples. List the benefits of your idea to the company.

EXPECT A SHORTAGE OF TIME. You may have been promised 15 minutes for your presentation, but many things can happen to eat up your allotted time. Be prepared for a time crunch by making your main points early on. If you're one of several presenters, be sensitive to the time allowed for the entire group if you're an early speaker.

BE UPBEAT AND TO THE POINT. State your ideas directly and positively. …

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