Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dr. Lois Phillips offers timely advice, Perfect your Presentation Skills!

Communications Consultant Lois Phillips PhD* suggests that anyone, but particularly career changers, spend some time in a course or with a coach improving their presentation skills. Public speaking both is and isn’t about interpersonal communication, which happens when we are speaking to someone privately but we can build on a few of the same skills. Any person delivering presentations – whether technical, motivational, or persuasive- needs to be attentive to the audience. Where are they coming from? What’s on their minds? Today’s busy people are wondering: “What’s in this (presentation) for me?” Delivering a presentation to a small or large group with poise and self-confidence is a critical skill If you are changing your career and want to move into a supervisory, managerial, or a political role.

Of course, any presenter needs to know the topic well enough to be seen as an expert who has ‘done their homework’ and to have a single overarching message, but I’ve seen dynamic speakers fail because they didn’t predict what was inevitably going to happen when they were finished speaking. Predict the tough questions, whether the questions are coming from skepticism, competitiveness, or resistance to the change you are proposing. People are impressed by speakers who are ready for the Q & A and who can bridge from even the most irrelevant question back to the main message.

Speakers tend to over-prepare, wasting their own time and the listeners. It’s not necessary to share every single idea or bit of research on a particular topic. It’s best to be selective and focus only on the information that will be useful to your listeners. Are these people on the staff of a company about to be acquired or merge? Do they need reassurance about the process of change? Are you pitching a new extraordinary product or service that will require risk and new capital? Are you wanting to build trust in your ability to lead the change effort? Whatever your purpose is, after all, you’ll want the listeners to leave saying “that presentation changed my life.”

*Lois Phillips is the co-author of “Women Seen and Heard: Lessons Learned from Successful Speakers,” Luz Publications, 2004.


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Shalu Wasu said...

On Avoiding Death by Powerpoint!
1. Don’t use too many words. Better still, don’t use them at all! I don’t like to use words in my presentations. I use pictures instead. If I have to, I will restrict the number of words to 3-5 (in font size 100+).

If your slides contain the full text of what you want to say, you’ll be tempted to just read from them, rather than communicating with the people in the room, and most of your audience will be reading them instead of listening to you.

My personal challenge is to go through an entire presentation without using any words at all!

Don’t be professional. Get personal. I try to ‘connect’ with audience. I have found through experience that projecting a professional image that is workmanlike and stiff does not work especially if the presentation is long.

3. Don’t use PowerPoint templates. Use the blank screen like a canvas. I hate using ready-made PowerPoint templates. I feel that built-in templates are ‘tacky’ and most of them are not suited to my no-rules style of making presentations. If you use these standard templates you will necessarily end up with presentations that are clichéd, riddled with bullets (pun intended) and those that will induce yawns. Most of the times, I do not use any template. I don’t need to since I mostly use pictures and big font sizes.

4. Don’t dress up. Strip down. Stripping down means removing all the fluff and padding to get to the essence of the message. How to strip down?

■Be present 100%. Do not think of the consequences of your presentation, or the preparation or anything else. Not being present 100% in every moment of speaking is cheating the audience.
■Do not keep the focus on your performance. Instead focus on trying to sell, inspire, help, inform, teach, persuade, train, motivate, provoke…
■Do not present in a dark room where the focus is on the screen. The screen is just one component of the presentation. The audience came to see you as well as hear you.
■Be as near your audience as possible. Let them feel your energy and passion. Use a remote.
■Be yourself. Your core personality should come through in the presentations. Do not pretend to be someone you are not. Your quirkiest habits could turn out to be your strengths.
■Cut out the jargon. You fail the test if you have anything remotely close to the following phrases:
Proactively create enterprise-wide e-services without turnkey systems. Seamlessly enhance resource maximizing technologies for premier infrastructures. Objectively matrix revolutionary meta-services via optimal architectures. Credibly promote adaptive e-business without prospective innovation. Globally visualize worldwide e-markets vis-a-vis business solutions. Assertively disintermediate scalable materials with B2B platforms. Uniquely re-engineer progressive solutions for B2B synergy. You get the picture..... enjoy yourself!

Susan Levin said...

Good speakers become great speakers with the proper training. Investing in professional speaker training can greatly improve your bottom line.

Tap into your authenticity, innate creativity and spirit-
Position yourself as a credible expert and get to the next level-
Command-Brand your message with a phrase that pays-
Streamline your ideas into a well-organized presentation with a proven template systematic work plan-
Select irresistible topics and titles that grab attention-
Produce presentations that captivate and attract attention and motivate action and get results- Create a clear focus and deliver ideas effectively with confidence that inspire any audience to accept and remember your message and take action

This is from Susan's Speakers' Bootcamp