The ability to make good presentations is a key ingredient for career advancement. When you present well, you gain the respect and support of others. You’re seen as being more authoritative. People seek you out and enjoy being around you when you’re at ease in front of an audience. And upper management sees you as someone they want to develop as an important representative of the company.
The value of being a good presenter can’t be overstated. Because it’s such a comparatively rare skill, it’s all the more important that you develop your abilities in this area. However, don’t mistake the ability to make excellent presentations with being a great public speaker. The two are miles apart. In fact, making excellent presentations is far easier than most people assume.
The following guidelines will help you turn a mediocre presentation into a stellar one every time.
- Use visuals as much as possible. Studies have shown that the average reading level of employees, including college graduates, is between a sixth and eighth-grade level. Although you’ll have to use words, you’ll be much more effective if you intersperse those words with effective graphic images.
- Be thoroughly prepared. Know your subject well. The quickest way to look unprofessional and incompetent is to wait until the last minute and rush into a meeting with a handful of scattered notes to sort out in front of your audience. You don’t impress with flash; you impress with preparation, knowledge and a message that’s clearly stated.
- Know your audience. What do people need to hear? Remember, you’re selling something and the attention span of the buyer is short. Most great salespeople say they know in the first five minutes if they’ve made the sale. You have to hook your audience, and you have to do it early. If your presentation is to senior-level execs, that’s one audience. If you’re presenting to other managers at your own level, that’s another audience, and if the audience contains line workers, that’s a different audience too. Plan your presentation accordingly.
- Have a goal for the presentation. Know what you want to accomplish and then gear your presentation toward accomplishing that goal.
- Avoid jargon. Use clear, specific, declarative, short sentences. Back up your assertions with well-researched data. When presenting, leave your opinions behind. Audience members have their own. Convince them instead with facts and well-supported ideas.