We have all had to give some sort of presentation in our lives. Whether it was at school or at work, it may have been for one of these purposes:
- To inform about a subject matter
- To teach about a topic
- To persuade others of a project or idea
- To aid decision making
- To motivate a group of people either at work, at school or during a sports activity
WHY ARE PRESENTATIONS DIFFICULT FOR MANY OF US?
Now, if we are perfectly honest, we must admit that we don’t love to stand up and speak in public. The reason for this may be that it involves standing in front of a group of people talking about a subject as if we were experts. Interestingly, even if we are, in fact, experts, the moment we have to stand in front of a group, many of us lose our aplomb.
Another reason why we do not enjoy this kind of activity is that we know people will not necessarily be listening to us one hundred percent of the time. It is difficult to catch a listener’s attention and even more difficult to hold it for a number of minutes.
A third reason why we don’t love speaking in public is that we are afraid that we will mess up.
So, how do we deal with this situation? After all, giving presentations is a common activity and it may even be an extremely interesting and desirable part of our professional life.
“SUCCESSFUL PRESENTATIONS ARE UNDERSTANDABLE, MEMORABLE AND EMOTIONAL” Carmine Gallo
In order to catch the attention of your audience, you must of course know who your audience is. Then you can decide on the kind of presentation that will be suitable for said audience. If you know who you are talking to, and you choose the correct way to address them, your presentation will reach them on a personal and emotional level and they will remember what you said.
Let’s take a look at different kinds of presentations:
- Visual presentations. A great number of people are visual learners. This is the reason most presenters opt for visual support when giving a presentation. The problem with this style of public speaking is that some speakers prepare a very complete powerpoint presentation and then they devote their time to reciting the exact information that they are showing their audience. This turns a presentation redundant and makes the audience wish they had received all this information via email instead. If you decide to rely on visuals for your presentation, make them brief, relevant and entertaining.
- Short verbal presentations. This kind of speech is also known as an elevator pitch because it is supposed to be short enough to fit into an elevator trip. It is more commonly used as a sales pitch. It is brief, clear and to the point.
- Educational presentations. Most presentations should teach something to the audience. We must be careful, however, not to fall into the trap of preaching or lecturing. If we want our audience to learn, they must first stay awake and tuned in with what we are trying to say.
- Coaching. These presentations have the goal of awakening and inspiring our audience. They are first and foremost about making contact and exciting people and moving them into action.
- Story-telling. A very effective way to capture our audience’s attention is to tell them anecdotes. Once again, we must remember that if we do not know our audience, we will not know exactly the kind of stories that will be meaningful to them.
- Synergetic presentations. When instead of lecturing for ten minutes, we decide to ask questions and allow our audience to answer, we are sure to have their attention.These presentations tend to work very well because they keep the audience active and involved.
POINTS TO REMEMBER:
- Attention span. Most people do not pay attention longer than three minutes. Sometimes not even that. Try to make your presentation brief and varied. This does not mean you cannot speak for longer than three minutes, but you need to change your pace and vary your tone of voice. Sensing our audience and adapting to their reactions is also important.
- Preparation. Remember, the more you research and practice, the better you will feel about the topic you are presenting. Once you feel self-confident about the subject matter, you will be able to enjoy what you are doing.
- Simplicity. Do not over prepare either. If you try to create a superproduction, you will get lost in the details and will end up losing your audience. Don’t forget that it should not be about showing off. It should be about people getting the message and learning something from your words.
“IF YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN IT SIMPLY, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND IT WELL ENOUGH” Albert Einstein
TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR BUSINESS ENGLISH
The beginning of the year marks a time of renewal for a large number of people. And most of the time, our objectives lean towards professional growth. The vast majority of us measure growth by our position in a company and by material success. We think about leadership and self-confidence, which are mirrored in practical situations that will help our supervisors and managers notice us. In the case of entrepreneurs, we want our businesses to thrive. We want results. But in order to obtain results, we first need to foster the qualities that will push us to work more effectively and to deal with others in a more positive way.
POSITIVE COMMUNICATION AND SOFT SKILLS AS STEPPING STONES
When it comes to the development of soft skills, most of us lean towards becoming more self-confident, articulate and overall strong leaders. However, it is important to prioritize the soft skills that will help us build ourselves first. Some skills are practical and some are scaffolds to build upon.
You will only become a great leader when you are a good team player, and you will not be a good team player if you are not empathetic and organized, and so on.
Let’s focus on some skills that work as a foundation for other more practical skills. They will give us the strength to grow and the wisdom to communicate better, and they will eventually show the results we would all like to see in both our personal and professional lives.
- OPTIMISM. If you don’t give yourself any other gift this season, the gift of positive thinking is one that will make all the difference. A good exercise in optimism is to allow yourself to look at things from all angles until you can find solutions for everyday problems. A practical suggestion: take a look at two obstacles for your work performance and analyze them from the point of view of “opportunities for growth”. Think about it: What if our qualities were vices? What if our flaws were opportunities? It is all in the way we look at things.
- CREATIVITY. We must remember: having ideas is not enough. An idea simply represents imagination. It is not creativity until you put it into practice. What does this mean? When you communicate, find words and images that will help others see your vision. Use examples, anecdotes and synonyms in order to convey your meaning more vividly.
- EMPATHY. Allow yourself the room to discover other perspectives. Before you have a difficult discussion with an everyday co-worker, family member or friend, take three minutes to consider their circumstances. Remember that our temperaments and personal situations affect our points of view. When you communicate your ideas, try to connect with the other person. Help them figure out how they will benefit from having you in their business and in their lives.
- CRITICAL THINKING. We are bombarded with all kinds of information in our everyday lives. Do not allow yourself to accept any of it, no matter how much it compliments your own opinions without double-checking it first. Ask questions to help yourself understand and analyze. Respect your mind as you respect your body, and avoid consuming junk-food for the brain.
- CONSISTENCY. Remember, you are not what you say. You are not even what you think. You are what you do. And only what you do consistently throughout your life. So, whatever you communicate with words must also be conveyed through actions.
Optimism, creativity, empathy, critical thinking, consistency. These soft skills are powerful stepping stones. They constitute leadership and strength. Once we know how to think positively, analytically and empathically, we won’t have to make a sales pitch on our character. Leadership and self-confidence are a mere consequence of these qualities and this, of course, helps bring success.