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Talking Points: Three Keys to a Great Presentation

| April 16, 2011 | 1 Comment

public-speaking

Is there anything worse than sitting through a long, boring, and ultimately pointless presentation? Yes, and that’s giving one. Many people give presentations and conduct meetings on a regular basis, but few actually do it well. Leaders need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively. Not every business executive is an eloquent speaker, but most can at least hold their own when put in front of a group. The ability to speak in public can significantly impact a person’s professional success. Whether addressing a crowded auditorium or a small team of executives in a board room, there are three simple principles that will pave the way for a winning presentation.

Prepare

This is the most critical part of any presentation. It’s common sense, but preparation is often neglected, especially in a fast-paced work environment when we are moving in many different directions and don’t make the time to stop and give our speech some uninterrupted thought. We have this tendency to think we have more time than we actually do, so we wait until the last minute and “wing it.” This often leads to a lackluster presentation at best. We bring nothing to the table that our audience or team didn’t already know, and many speakers will ramble on, repeating what they’ve said over and over, leaving the audience bored and desperately waiting for a conclusion.

Furthermore, the lack of preparation will erode our confidence level, causing us to um, um, um, stutter over words and second-guess ourselves, which tells the audience we are uncertain about our material. Former Basketball Coach Bobby Knight once said, “Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.” Everyone who gives a presentation wants it to be a success. But those who actually perform well, are those who are willing to prepare. Preparation equips us with the right information, mitigates our uncertainties, and lends us the confidence to deliver a powerful speech.

Keep it real

Be professional, yet be yourself. Authenticity is paramount when it comes to connecting with an audience, so make every effort to speak in a conversational tone, instead of robotically reciting a list of talking points. This suggests that you really mean what you’re saying. We’ve all sat through meetings when the presenter reads off the latest financial information, policy changes, or company news as a mere formality. It doesn’t take long before the snoring begins, if not physically, definitely mentally. So just talk to the people in the room. Even a dull topic can be easy for listeners to digest if the speaker engages the audience and communicates the message in a genuine manner.

Finish strong and finish on time

The final minutes of a presentation are critical. You want to end on a powerful note because this is what your audience will walk away with. Also, a strong ending can redeem you from any mishaps that took place earlier in the presentation. It is wise to briefly re-state the main purpose of your speech and review the key points. Be careful not to ramble, and for the love of everyone, don’t repeat the entire presentation. Wrap it up.

There’s a saying that goes, “If you’re on time, you’re late.” There are usually time constraints to every presentation, meeting, or speaking event. As part of your preparation, find out how much time you have in advance, and honor that time allotment with reverence. An outstanding presentation can go sour very fast if the speaker goes beyond his or her time limit. If you have until noon, finish by 11:55. Not only does punctuality demonstrate competency, but it gives you more credibility. When a business presentation ends early (if only by a couple of minutes), the audience will be most grateful.

So the next time you are called upon to give that presentation, whether it’s before a large-scale audience or a select few, take it seriously but don’t fret. If you prepare, keep it real, finish strong and adhere to the time limit, then there’s a good chance you’ll generate a warm applause and a satisfied audience.

Joe McLeod is an Instructor of Speech Communications at Keiser University. He has taught public speaking and business communication courses at the University of Central Florida. He can be reached at jmcleod@keiseruniversity.edu.

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