MAKING PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATIONS
“Our mind starts working the moment we are born
and stops the first time we get up to speak in public!”
The above may be an exaggeration but for many people it is a daunting prospect to speak in public and be the centre of attention. The mind goes blank! The throat dries up! The palms become sweaty! The hands shake!
It can be a stressful experience – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
We can put unnecessary pressure on ourselves, which can be avoided through structured planning and preparation and learning some techniques to help in delivering our presentations. The end result will be a much more enjoyable experience and a noticeable increase in self-confidence.
A key leadership skill is the ability to communicate effectively and adapt our communication style to different situations, including one-to-one; small groups; large groups; online platforms; formal and informal. Although the underpinning principles of effective communication will apply in all situations, the delivery will be different.
The aim of this module is to give you structure, skills and confidence to enable you to prepare and present information in a way that projects a professional image and impacts positively on your audience. You will understand the importance of selecting appropriate information in line with the objectives of your presentation. You will learn how to logically structure the content of your presentation, use appropriate presentation techniques and encourage and use feedback to continue to develop your presentation skills.
Some general points about Communication
The ability to actively listen to others, is probably the most important component in communicating effectively, because if you show you are listening, others are more likely to listen to you. How good are you at listening? Are you more likely to listen to understand what the other person is saying, or do you sometimes listen for the opportunity to interrupt and get your own point across?
It is more likely that as soon as we hear something that we feel we must respond to immediately, we stop listening at that point and as soon as an opportunity presents itself – usually when the other person hesitates or pauses briefly to take a breath, we “jump in” to retaliate, give our opinion, etc. We don’t give the other person the opportunity to finish what they want to say. Has anybody ever said to you, “I was just about to say that” or “ if you could just let me finish ” ?
What does it feel like when someone does it to you? Frustrating? Irritating? Of course, it is challenging not to respond immediately, but if we are to have a meaningful and constructive communication, we need to understand not only what the other person is saying but also why.
Sometimes it is difficult for us to understand why a person thinks differently to us, (“How can they possibly think that?) However, what a person perceives to be true is their reality. If we want that person to have a different perception, just telling them will never be enough. We don’t have that power to change their perception, but we can provide evidence, explanations, examples, behaviours to help them to alter their perception – but they will make that decision for themselves, based on the knowledge and understanding they have; the actions and behaviours they experience and, probably most importantly, the level of trust they have in others.
Here are some other general points to think about when we communicate with others:
- Unless someone listens to what we have to say, there is no communication.
- We do not communicate with just words – the person that we are, comes with them.
- When we talk to people in terms of their interests, they will listen to us.
- When we have difficulty in getting through to people, it is a sign that our own communication and thinking may be confused, not theirs.
- When we fail to communicate it is not the words that need straightening out, it is the thoughts behind them.
- Understand what our listeners expect to see and hear before we start to talk.
- Our communication is always more valuable when we appeal to the values and aspirations of our audience.
So, what has all this got to do with making effective presentations?
When we present information to others, be it informally or formally, individually or in groups, virtually or in person, our focus should always be on our audience. When we are aware of and sensitive to the needs of our audience, we are more likely to have a successful experience. Whether the purpose of our communication is to inform, persuade, inspire, explore, discuss, review, coach – the principles remain the same:
- Be clear about our purpose.
- Understand our audience.
- Research our information.
- Plan and structure our content.
- Deliver our information with honesty, enthusiasm and confidence.
- Act positively on feedback.
One final important message before you begin this learning journey,
Complete all objectives in this section: