by Dr. Lori Vinikoor/ Published March 2015
You’ve researched the topic of discussion, and you know the facts and supporting material. But will your presentation be effective enough to win them into accepting your recommendation? Whether discussing bids or budgets, maintenance or management, these five steps will put you on the path to a powerful presentation.
STEP 1—STRUCTURE YOUR PRESENTATION
First, present the topic and purpose. Be concise using no more than two or three sentences. For example, “three lake maintenance companies have presented proposals. We now need to decide which vendor’s services to include in next year’s budget.” Second, get to the point by presenting the supporting material. In the case above, provide ample copies of the proposals and walk through the bidding process with supporting materials such as charts, data, and photos. Third, conclude with a call to action or a suggestion such as asking for direction or suggesting a vote from the group.
STEP 2—USE STORIES TO MAKE YOUR POINTS
Stories assist the audience in understanding and retaining information, and they are an effective way to persuade. Even financial data can come alive with stories. Mastering the art of inserting a story into your proposal will set you apart from others. In order to be most effective, use gentle persuasion by determining the point that you want to convey, telling a story about a similar concept, and allowing the listeners to make the connections. Using the lake maintenance example, you might explain to members of the group why having more than one proposal is a good idea with a story about how having a bidding process for choosing a pool maintenance service worked out in a “win” for the community.
STEP 3—COMPLEMENT YOUR PRESENTATION WITH VISUAL AIDS
Display boards and other visual aids can enhance your message. PowerPoint can be a helpful medium especially when photos are required supporting material. To follow through with the lake maintenance example, showing aerial photos of community waterways and photos of the actual weirs or culverts that require regular maintenance will educate the group and enhance discussion of the proposals.
Use “bullet points” to outline your main ideas and limit points to five per slide or display board/paper tablet. Each bulleted line should contain no more than five or six words. Use the largest lettering possible, and utilize the entire working surface (slide or paper) for the wording. When possible, convert data reports to charts, which the audience can easily visualize. Keep charts to one per slide or page unless a comparison is required. Printed handouts are useful when the data is detailed, and they are excellent back-up if there is a technical malfunction of your electronic equipment.
If the presentation concerns repairs or the purchase of items that can be displayed to the group—for example, rusted piping that needs replacing or handheld devices to be purchased—bring a sample of the item for everyone to view first hand.
STEP 4—KEEP THE AUDIENCE ENGAGED
A smile conveys friendliness and confidence and will enhance your presentation. Whether standing or sitting, avoid fidgeting with writing implements, keys, or change in your pockets. The best thing to do with your hands is to keep them at your sides and in a relaxed stance. Use a pointer with display boards or Power-Point to avoid turning your back on the audience while speaking and to provide extra motion to keep the viewer engaged. Asking a question to which the listeners could raise their hands in agreement will draw the audience in and keep up the momentum of your presentation. The proper use of your voice can empower and add interest to your words. Speaking conversationally with a relaxed pace, some vocal variety, and generous pauses exudes confidence and provides the listeners the opportunity to think about what you are telling them.
STEP 5—ARRIVE EARLY DRESSED FOR SUCCESS
Arriving early allows for you to set up and test audio visual equipment and adjust lighting. You also have the ability to practice relaxation exercises and chat with audience members one-on-one and learn more about the needs of the group. This also provides the opportunity to get to know individuals, survey, and find points that may support your goal or recommendation. Establishing eye contact during your presentation with those friendly faces that you met on arrival will improve your delivery and minimize any fear of public speaking that you may experience. Dressing professionally will add to your success. For men, a shirt and tie is preferable to a crew neck pullover. A jacket is always an asset for any speaker. Avoid wearing shorts even if the audience members do.
You have now learned the five steps to a powerful delivery. Practice prior to your next presentation using concise wording, persuasive stories, and clear visual aids. Add appropriate body motions, vocal variety, and professional dress, and you will win them with your speaking skills.