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Are presentation skills important?

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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Are presentation skills important?

By Elizabeth Soos, Founder of Auersmont School of Etiquette & Protocol

My boss requested that I speak at a Rotary breakfast, network, and present the business offerings.  At the time, I worked in human resources.  I didn’t think much about it and thought I could go and just present!  I got there and started to get a little nervous.  I remember being chosen first.  It started strongly in the first 30 seconds, then went downhill.  Despite the warm reception from the Rotary members, the experience underscored a critical lesson: effective presentation skills are indispensable.

Focus On Core Message – “For any great communicator or leader, storytelling is essential.  Stories allow us to visualize, empathize, and connect like statistics never could.” – Simon Sinek.  Great communicators, like Simon Sinek, say facts and figures only get you so far.  You want to create interest.  You will want to capture attention by using a story piques the audience’s interest.  You could use a new item, your own experience or a question.  Powerful stories tap into our emotions and imagination.  They let us experience something firsthand, making us more likely to remember, care, and take action – much more than dry statistics ever could.

Crafting Your Message For Your Audience – I’d appreciate it if you could write down why you are there, what people expect you to talk about, and the problem you are solving for them.  Once you have this, you can start crafting your main message.  Your audience is there to gain valuable insights and solutions.  They expect you to address their challenges and equip them with knowledge or tools to improve their situation.  Your message should have an introduction, middle and conclusion.  It doesn’t matter if your talk is less than five minutes or half an hour.  The talk should expand on what you are ‘presenting’ and can help them personally.

Picture Conversational Manner – To help dampen nerves, it’s best to write your talk out and practice repeatedly entirely.  Record yourself and listen to it or send it to a trusted friend to evaluate it.  It’s best to remember the talk rather than reading it off your phone or paper.  Practising it will help you remember the key points and then insert your personality into it, creating a conversational manner with your audience.

Body Language – Developing stage presence can be intimidating at times.  Here are a few tips to help you relax.  Do specific research on those in the media, turn off the sound and watch their body language…what did you note?  Their facial expressions?  Hand placement?  Body positioning?  Good speakers will show open body language.  At the same time, you speak, smile, and make eye contact, moving your head occasionally from one side of the room to the middle and then to the other.  Hands are contained and moving with the body.  “Body language is the unspoken part of communication that we use to reveal our true feelings and to give our message more impact.  Communication is made up of so much more than words.  Nonverbal cues such as tone of voice, gestures and posture play their part.” – Mindtools.com.

The Powerpoint Presentation 10-20-30 Rule – After sitting through hundreds of pitches, Guy Kawasaki, marketing guru, entrepreneur and former Apple brand ambassador, surmised that when using PowerPoint, use the 10/20/30 Rule.  What is this exactly? You can use ten slides.  Using more than that can overload your listener, especially when pitching.  Twenty minutes should cover the display of the slides.  If you give an hour’s appointment, make leeway for those who are late, need to use the restroom or make urgent calls.  Your PowerPoint slides should contain a thirty-point font, so you are only typing in the main points and filling in the minor issues while speaking.

That Rotary breakfast became a turning point. The experience highlighted the importance of preparation, even for seemingly casual presentations.  Since then, I’ve learned that I always appreciate the power of a well-crafted message and audience engagement.