September 25th 2014

Financial Times and ft.com

What you need to know about delivering an important presentation.

Presenting is not my strength. How can I develop my confidence and get my message across effectively, as well as keep my audience engaged and manage my nerves?

Marie Lester, Executive Communication coach at Professional Voice, says:

Steve Jobs was probably the nearest thing the business world had to a pop star. He made presenting look effortless, but what was the secret to his winning style? 

 

He spent hours preparing. And he left nothing to chance.

When you have just one opportunity to get your message across, to engage and persuade your listener, it’s crucial to get it right. To create a winning presentation you need to consider four key components:

1. Structure

2. Storyline

3. Visuals

4. Delivery 

Allocate a portion of your available preparation time to each of these elements.

1. Structure

Be clear about your overall objective. What do your want your audience to believe and do after your presentation?

Think about your audience. What do they already know and what can you tell them that will establish your credibility and be persuasive?

Create a key message – the distillation of your presentation in a single sentence. This should sum up what you are talking about and why this is of interest. This will crystallise your thoughts and help your audience to follow you.

Then assemble your content. Discard what is not relevant to your objective, audience and key message – and be ruthless about this. Superfluous information will distract from your message. Structure your content in a logical and cohesive way.

2. Storyline

Write out what you want to say. Don’t wait until the day to start formulating your words.

Use a short sentence when you have an important point to make.

Write to speak: it doesn’t matter if you don’t remember every single word. At least you will have thought what you want to say in advance which will give you more confidence and credibility.

3. Visuals

Once you have worked out what you are going to say, consider exactly what you want your audience to see. Use a slide to:

• Explain complex points that you can’t explain easily through words alone

• Provide evidence to back up your business case and make it more persuasive

• Make your message more memorable, for example with a thought-provoking or emotive image

4. Delivery

Last but not least is your vocal delivery. The voice betrays nerves and tension which diminish your presence and authority. A natural and confident delivery style requires good posture and breath management. Make sure that you don’t breathe into your upper chest (a common tendency caused by nervousness). Deep belly breathing will enable you to reduce tension and power your voice.

Use a pause or a change in voice pitch to make key words and numbers stand out, and add variety to your delivery style.

Consider your tone. Do you need to enthuse, impress, or reassure your audience? Your tone should be a response to your audience's needs. It also helps you to inspire different emotions in your listeners. You should change your tone to match your intention.

And finally rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Confidence comes through knowing what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Preparation is imperative for success. If you don’t prepare properly – you will reduce your chances of success and let yourself down.

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