Presentation Skills Advice
Chances are very good that at some point in both your educational and professional career you will need to give a presentation. Whether you are asked to present a research report, persuade the audience to your point of view, or present the latest sales figures for your company, you'll need to know how to develop, write, and deliver an effective presentation. In some professions, like sales, an effective presentation can mean the difference between success and failure. That's why it's important to possess good presentation skills.
When most people think about presentation skills, they usually focus on the delivery aspect and work to develop good delivery skills. Having good delivery skills is definitely important, but it's just one small part of developing good overall presentation skills. Think about it. The best delivery in the world can't overcome a poorly thought out and written presentation. You must also know how to develop and write a presentation that meets your goals. First of course, you'll need to think about what makes a presentation effective. An effective presentation is usually one that captures and holds the listeners' attention, and that is a presentation skill you'll need to develop.
An effective presentation also depends on the specific goal you want to accomplish. If your goal is to present information, you'll need to do so in a way that interests your listeners. If the goal is to persuade your audience to buy a product, you'll have to gain the listeners' trust as well as interest.
Once you know your goals, you'll need to know how to develop your presentation, and then how to deliver it in such a way that the audience can relate to your topic. In many presentations you'll also need to know how to incorporate visual aids such as PowerPoint slides and other graphic elements. You may also want to know if and when you can use humor in a presentation.
In fact, there are many things you'll need to know when you are sharpening your presentation skills. You'll find many articles here that will give you information and ideas that will help you do just that. In fact, there are several articles that will help you take your presentation skills to a new level. So make sure to read all the content that's offered here, and you'll be well on your well to mastering your presentation skills.
Understanding Your Audience to Maximize Your Presentation Skills
Whether you’re in high school, college, or even on the job, the occasion while often arise for you to deliver a presentation. The more you prepare for your presentation, the better it will be. Part of that preparation involves understanding who your audience is. Of course, first you’ll need to have figured out what kind of presentation you’re giving, and the goals or end results you want to accomplish with it. Once those are all clear, it’s time to really think about your audience. If you will be speaking in front of a small group of students, you will develop your presentation differently than if it was for a group of hundreds of students, plus parents, teachers, and other guests. Let’s take a look at what you need to consider when thinking about your audience.
- What are the ages of your audience? Are the students you’re presenting to traditional college or high school ages? Or are you presenting to a class of older adults who are going to school while working? No matter what kind of presentation you are giving, you need to keep in mind the audience’s needs. Also remember that younger audiences are used to quick bytes of information. If your audience is young, cater to this preference by keeping your sentences short and to the point.
- What is the audience expecting from you? This is an essential question that must be answered. First and foremost, you must deliver what is expected. If you’re planning to give a presentation on the latest nanotechnology products and your speech doesn’t present those until the last few minutes, you’ll lose your audience. Also understand that your audience expects you to honor their time and hold their attention. You might think a classroom presentation doesn’t have to be interesting. Think again.
- Understand the mood of the audience. You can’t write several versions of your presentation that adjust to your audience’s mood. However, you can adjust your tone, style, and some of the content if needed. For example, if the speaker ahead of you droned in a monotone and nearly put the audience to sleep, you’ll have the opportunity to make your speech as lively as possible.
While you can’t anticipate or meet the needs of every audience member, knowing your audience and taking their needs into account when you’re writing your presentation can strengthen it.
Q&A: When to Ask for Questions During Your Presentation and How to Respond to Them
For most kinds of presentations you’ll be required to ask for questions from your audience. There are rare exceptions, but most of the time this is an essential element in every presentation. So when do you ask for questions? Do you let people raise their hands throughout, or ask for questions at the end of the presentation? Most speakers do not ask for questions from their listeners until they are done presenting. That is because stopping to answer questions throughout a speech can be distracting for both the speaker and the audience. However, when you are presenting very technical material or a lot of data, it may help to stop more frequently to make sure everyone understands what’s being presented. Whenever you decide to ask for questions, you’ll need to communicate it to your audience. For example, in your introduction you could say, “Please hold your questions until the end of my presentation, and I will be happy to answer them at that time.”
Here are some tips for when you do invite audience questions:
- If you only have time for a few questions, say so. Let the audience know when you’re taking the last question.
- Ask the person with the question to stand up. This allows you to see and hear the person better, and your audience will too.
- Acknowledge the person in some way, by either thanking her for asking the question or saying something along the lines of, “That’s a good question.” Just be sure you do the same for other people who ask questions. Otherwise someone might think, “Hey, she thought his question was good. I thought mine was good too.”
- Repeat the question. That way you, the questioner, and the audience will know you understood it correctly.
- Keep your answers short and to the point. You usually have a very limited time for questions and answers, and you want to be courteous to everyone who has a question. After you’ve answered the question, ask the person, “Does that clear that up for you?” before going to the next person.
- If you don’t know the answer, say so. If you will be able to seek out the answer, tell the person you will try to find out and get back to him or her.
Keep Your Listeners’ Needs in Mind to Further Your Presentation Skills
If you really want to make a winning impression on an audience (which will definitely take your presentation to the next level), keep their needs in mind. What does that mean? It means, put yourself in their place, as you probably have been many times.
Here are a few solid examples and ideas that will illustrate this point and help you understand how to keep your listeners’ needs at the forefront of your presentation.
- When you’re writing your presentation, think about your audience. If you know the basic information about them—their average age, income, likes, etc., keep them in mind when preparing your presentation. If your listeners will be young, you must keep your ideas short and flowing. Older audiences are more likely to enjoy longer stories and details.
- Think about your audience when preparing your visual aids. If you’re speaking in a very large room in front of hundreds of people, you will need to use a large screen for your visual aids, and they will need to be large, bold, and to the point. A smaller number of people sitting closer to you may be more receptive to a more intimate means of displaying information, like an easel or a flipchart.
- When you’re delivering your presentation, think about whether your listeners can hear you and about their comfort. First, if you’re using a sound system, test it in advance to make sure that the person sitting the farthest away from you can hear you. Also, if it’s possible, adjust the temperature in the room if it’s too hot or too cold. And if you’re the fifth speaker of the day with no breaks in between, consider giving your audience a five minute break before you begin.
- Time is money, or at least so we all believe, whether we’re employed or not. To everyone, time is a precious commodity. No one wants to think he’s just wasted his time. Make sure your presentation addresses the goal or topic you intended or were assigned. Don’t wander off topic for long periods of time, or miss the point entirely. And most importantly, end on time. If you include questions and answers or material that may extend your presentation beyond the time allotted, make sure you’ve asked someone in the audience to signal you when time is up, so you can wrap up on time.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013