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Giving a Presentation

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 5 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Giving A Presentation Business

Before looking at how to give a presentation it would be worthwhile you taking a look at the related article on this website entitled ‘How To Make A Speech’ as many of the skills you need to be able to give a good presentation are very similar to those needed for effective speech making so, in terms of considering your audience, the topics you’re going to discuss, rehearsing and how to project your voice etc., please refer to the speech making article for more tips on that aspect as they would be very similar for giving a presentation. This article, however, will look more at the kinds of issues that tend to be more specific to presentations as opposed to speeches with two of the most common factors being the use of visual aids and audience participation.

Using Visual Aids

Technology has become so advanced these days that presentations can often be just as exciting and drama-packed as watching a theatre production. They can incorporate pyrotechnics, sound effects, background music and much more to create the effects the presenter wants to give. However, if you’re asked to give a presentation at work you’re less likely to be going too far ‘over the top’, yet there are still many ways in which you can add value to your presentation and to keep your audience’s attention more effectively than you might be able to in making a speech.

PowerPoint presentations can be highly effective by putting the focus onto key elements within each section of a presentation with the use of frames containing bullet points which can swoosh in from the side or explode in to the centre of the screen and there are all sorts of other effects in between. Then you can use a slide projector, overhead projector, flip charts, posters and several other things besides. The important thing to bear in mind when using visual aids is to ask yourself, “does the visual aid add to an understanding of the information I’m trying to get across?” If you can say ‘yes’ to that, then a visual aid should be used at that juncture but if you can’t, don’t use one. Whilst they do liven up a presentation, they should be used carefully to simply illustrate a particular point, as opposed to being the focal point of the presentation. An obvious example of where you could use a visual aid would be where you are explaining sales figures and growth trends within your company, where just verbalising a load of sales figures will have little impact. However, if you have a visual aid which demonstrates a graph of these figures, then your audience are much more likely to understand the importance of the figures you’re conveying to them.

Logical Running Order

Most of the best presentations run in a logical sequence, beginning with point A going on to Point B and so on and so forth. To keep your audience in touch with the significance of what you’re talking about, it’s often a good idea to relay to them the order of events before you begin. That way, they can adapt their minds in knowing the sequence which will help them better understand how all the pieces fit together.

One of the best quotes about giving presentations re-emphasises this point. Unlike a speech, a presentation is often more of a set of jigsaw pieces which all interweave to form a complete whole and this is why, when giving a presentation, it’s often important to refer back and relate something you’ve already mentioned to something you’re talking about 10 minutes later so, try to remember this famous quote as it will help you when structuring your presentation.“Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then re-iterate what you have already told them.” It might sound confusing but once you get to put a presentation together, you’ll see the validity of this quote.

Common Problems

Try to ensure that all of your visual aids are set up and in the order they are meant to be used before you give your presentation. There’s nothing worse than, say, using a slide projector to illustrate the points you’re making only to find as you turn the projector on that all of the slides are in back to front order. Your biggest nightmare will be if your visual aids are powered by electricity and the supply fails or the machine malfunctions. Obviously, this can never be predicted but it’s a good opportunity to think on your feet and it’s also something you should make a contingency for during your preparations. In other words, try to have a back-up or rescue plan. The graph you’re displaying on a PowerPoint presentation? Well, you could always have that drawn up on a Flip Chart as back up, for example. In other circumstances, you may simply have to think on your feet. For example, if you were going to demonstrate certain facts and figures using a visual aid, are you able to take out the numbers and simply use words to describe the points you are making in terms of general trends instead of referring to specific figures. People will be able to tell the difference between ‘huge growth’ and a ‘slight increase’.

Often, a good way to get around a power failure or a machine malfunction is to have prepared a handout in advance which you can give to each member of your audience before you make your presentation. Of course, don’t forget to keep one for yourself. That way, if you can’t use your visual aids, each member of the audience should still have a hard copy version containing the same kinds of diagrams, graphs, pictures etc. that you intended to show and therefore, the presentation can go on in its original form. Therefore, although highly effective, always think of visual aids as a ‘complement’ to your presentation but don’t rely on them.

Group Presentation

In a group presentation, it often gives you the chance to get out of the spotlight for a while and put others into it. However, there are still issues you need to consider. Things like how you’re going to introduce the next speaker and effect a smooth transition from one speaker to the next will be important in maintaining the flow of your presentation. Does each person also know what the other person is going to be talking about? You don’t want to be duplicating information. It’s also important that each person knows how long they have to speak and not to run overtime as that will hamper the next person’s presentation.

Q&A

Finally, unlike a speech, a presentation will usually involve a question and answer session with the audience. This is often the trickiest part as you, as presenters, are not likely to know exactly what questions you might face and your responses will have to be totally unscripted. All you can do is to consider beforehand what questions you think you might get asked and to prepare answers as best as you can. And, if you’re part of a group, then you also need to ensure that any answers you give as individuals do not conflict with the answers another group member might have given as you’ll lose your credibility if you’re not all ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’.

So, similarly to a speech, preparation is the key to giving a good presentation. Don’t overdo the visual aids but use them effectively and have a back-up plan prepared in case the visuals fail.

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