Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Presentation Skills: What Does "Know Your Audience" Mean?

by Gilda Bonanno www.gildabonanno.com
When you give a presentation, it is important to “know your audience” – but what does that mean?

In order to tailor your presentation to the audience and make it easier for them to follow, you have to understand as much as you can about their background, how they like to receive information and what questions they might have.

If you know the people you’re presenting to and have presented to them before,  that can make it easier because you know what they’re interested in and what questions they might ask. 

But if you’re presenting to a group of people that you don’t know, such as colleagues from different parts of the business or remote customers, you may not have a lot of specific information about them.

Do what you can to research and gather data about them. Talk to people who have presented to this audience before. For example, talk to your customer service staff and ask about some of the issues that come up.  Talk the sales people to get an insight into what’s important to these customers.

Talk to a few of the audience members yourself.  Explain that you are preparing your presentation and ask what questions they have or what they’d like to know about your topic.

If you research your audience, to the extent possible, you will be in a better position to customize your presentation so they remain interested and engaged.
Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Presentation Skills: The Power of the Pause

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com

The pause is a powerful, though underutilized, presentation tool.

There are several reasons why pauses are effective in presentations.  First, pauses give your audience a chance to think about and absorb what you just said.  Pausing also gives you a chance to breathe properly. 

Pauses can also help you eliminate “ums” and “ahs” that tend to creep into your presentation when you are not sure what’s coming next.  If you replace your “ums” and “ahs” with a pause while you think of what to say next, you will sound more confident and the audience won’t be distracted. 

Additionally, pauses convey confidence – powerful people pause.  They have so engaged the audience that people are waiting eagerly for their next words.

How long should you pause? Enough that you can catch your breath and the audience can absorb what you’ve just said, but not so long that they will think you’ve forgotten what to say next. Keep in mind that it will feel longer to you than it does to the audience - record yourself so you hear long it sounds.

And if you smile confidently when pausing for a few seconds, the audience will see that it’s just a pause and that you didn’t lose your place. If you do it well, they won’t even be conscious that you’re pausing and it will just be a natural part of your presentation.

The next time that you have to give a presentation, try pausing rather than rushing from one sentence to the next - you’ll become a more powerful and effective presenter.

Also see my blog posts:

Presentation Skills: Non-Verbals – Use Your Voice Effectively

Presentation Skills: How to Project Your Voice & Project Authority
Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Presentation Skills: How to Project Your Voice & Project Authority

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com

Someone in a recent presentation skills training program asked, “How do I project my voice and also, project authority?”

It's a great question because your voice is an important part of your presentation and should communicate that you’re confident, knowledgeable and engaging.

Here are 7 tips for projecting authority using your voice:

1.      Breathe
In order to project your voice, breathing is crucial.  The more that you can breathe deeply and support the breath from your core and diaphragm -- as opposed to taking shallow breaths from your chest - the more you can support your voice and project it.

2.      Don’t shout
Shouting can offend your audience and leave you with a sore throat, laryngitis or vocal cord damage.  Projecting your voice means supporting it with breath from your diaphragm and core so that your voice sounds strong and supported rather than high-pitched and breathy.

3.      Use a microphone
Used correctly, a microphone make it easier for the audience to hear and understand you, even while you are speaking at your normal volume.  Practice using it so you will be comfortable with it in front of an audience.

4.      If presenting over the phone, avoid the speakerphone
A speakerphone will pick up all the background noise in the room and make it harder for the audience to hear you clearly.  Use a headset or hand-held phone rather than a speakerphone, if possible, so it can easily pick up your voice without you having to shout. 

5.      Stand up
If you stand up, you automatically have better posture and it’s easier to breathe fully and project your voice.  You sound more awake and energized and are less likely to slouch and cut off your air supply.

6.      Eliminate “ums” and “ahs”
If you have a lot of “ums,”  “ahs” and pause words, you don’t sound authoritative – you sound tentative and unsure.  Eliminating those pause words will help you sound like you know what you’re talking about.

7.      Avoid “uptalk”
“Uptalk” is when you voice goes up at the end of every sentence, so every sentence sounds like a question, as in, “Welcome? My name is Beth? I will present the third-quarter results to you?” Updalk makes you sound hesitant and timid.  Be mindful of how you speak, and particularly how you end sentences.  End with your voice pitch staying the same or going down slightly, so the audience knows you are making a statement rather than asking a question. 

If you follow these 7 tips, you will make able to use your voice to project authority so your audience will listen to what you have to say.
For more on this topic, see my blog post, Presentation Skills: Non-Verbals – Use Your Voice Effectively  http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2013/04/presentation-skills-non-verbals-use.html

Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Presentation Skills: Non-Verbals – Use Your Voice Effectively

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com

Your voice is a key component of your presentation delivery.  Like all elements of body language or non-verbal communications (eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture and movement), your voice should help you confidently communicate the content and emotion of your presentation

Your voice should project confidence, energy and authority through your volume, variety, pitch, rate of speed and pausing. 

How will you know if your voice helps or hurts your presentation? I recommend that you record yourself to really hear what you sound like.  Most computers and many phones now include an audio recorder and even a video camera. 
Record a minute or two of yourself speaking, preferably delivering part of your presentation.

Then listen to it a few times and put yourself in the shoes of your audience: Does your voice sound energized? Does it sound confident? Is it interesting? Is there variety - are there highs and lows in terms of volume, emphasis and intonation? Does the variety help the words make sense? Is it slow enough to be understood and loud enough to be heard, without sounding like you’re shouting? Are you speaking so fast that it's hard to tell where one sentence ends and another begins?

And all of these elements depends on the environment that you’re speaking in, including room size, audience size, ambient noise, etc. 

For example, how loud is loud enough will depend on whether there is a lot of background noise and whether you are using a microphone.  

What is slow enough will depend on the language skills of the audience - if you’re presenting in English and there are many non-native speakers of English in the audience who will be translating in their heads, you might need to speak more slowly.

You have the ability to convey meaning and emotion using the incredible range of your voice, which is an integral part of your non-verbal communication.  Learning to use the power of your voice can help you become a more confident and successful communicator.

For more on using your voice effectively, see my blog post, How to Project Your Voice & Project Authority http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2013/04/presentation-skills-how-to-project-your.html

Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Monday, April 15, 2013

Presentation Skills: What Should You Include in Your Slides?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com

If you’ve decided to use slides in your presentation because you believe they will help your presentation, it’s crucial to think about what to include in your slides.

Resist the temptation to write your script out in the slides. Not only is that boring for the audience to see slides full of complete sentences, but they can read faster to themselves than you can read out loud so they will finish reading the slide before you do. 

Instead, use fewer words and provide the voiceover that gives meaning to those words. Even better, use graphs, charts, spreadsheets, photos or images that will visually explain your points.

Graphs, Charts and Spreadsheets
Use graphs, charts and spreadsheets if the information they contain will help the audience understand your message. 

Avoid putting up a chart or graph and saying, “I know you can’t read this.” (When I hear this, I am tempted to shout, “then why are you showing it to us?!”) Make sure it’s legible and that the colors are easy to distinguish.

And rather than just showing the whole chart or spreadsheet, highlight and zoom in on one section of it.  So, first show the overview and then on the next slide, show a bigger version of an excerpt, for example, just the 2010 numbers or just the line that shows customer growth over the past three years. Having just one section on the screen makes it easier for the audience to see, read and understand what you are focusing on.

Also use your words to highlight the important points. Orient them to what they’re looking at and then focus in on what’s important. For example, say, “What you’re looking at is a graph showing 2010 sales.  On the x-axis, you’ll see the months.  On the y-axis, you’ll see the sales, in millions of dollars.  I’d like to draw your attention to the last bar, December, where you will see that sales are double any of the previous months.”

Use Photos or Images
You can also use high-quality photos or images in your slides to communicate a point. 

Make sure they are clear, easy to understand and relevant.  Use high-quality stock photos or take some photos of your own.

For example, if you are introducing your department and office location to clients who have never seen it, use your camera phone to take some photos of your office and co-workers and include them on the slides.  If you’re presenting outside the country, include a map of your location so the audience can see where you are in relation to a city or landmark they are familiar with.  Photos and images used in these ways can help you bridge the gap between you and your audience.

Use As Many Slides As You Need
I know that some companies have rules about how many slides people should have in their presentations.  And I realize these rules are in place because the CEO doesn’t want everyone presenting to him or her with 300 slides that are going to take three hours to deliver.

However, I think these slide limits are arbitrary.  I could give a one-hour presentation without slides (in fact, I would prefer it).  I could also give a one-hour presentation using 20 slides, and I could give a one-hour presentation using 150 slides.

Content and time limit should be more important than the number of slides.  Use as many slides as you need. 

It shouldn’t matter how many slides you have, provided that the slides enhance your presentation and help you clearly communicate your message within the time limit.

For more on this topic, see my blog posts:
3 Ways to Use Images in Your Presentation, Inspired by Daniel Coyle, Marjory Abrams & Garr Reynolds - http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2012/12/3-ways-to-use-images-in-your.html

Don’t Present to the Screen and 5 other FAQs on presenting With Slides http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2010/08/dont-present-to-screen-and-5-other-faqs.html
Do You Really Need PowerPoint Slides? http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2013/04/presentation-skills-do-you-really-need.html

Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Presentation Skills: Do You Really Need PowerPoint Slides?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com
When you are preparing a presentation, an important question to consider is: Do I really need to use slides?

The answer, of course, is it depends. It depends on your purpose, your message, the time limit, the audience and the technology available.  Consider the question carefully before you automatically assume that you have to have a slide deck. 

In the days of overhead projectors, we used the term “visual aids” to refer to the projector or other things that were supposed to aid your presentation.  Unfortunately, with the prevalence of presentation software, we’ve come to the point where the slides are becoming the presentation rather than helping the presentation.
YOU should be the presentation. The slides are just the visual aids there to help you.

Slides can actually get in the way of your presentation, interfere with your ability to connect with the audience and distract from your message.

If we had a choice between you or the slides, we would choose you because you are the content expert. You’re the one who has the knowledge. The slides are just there to help -- to enhance, not to replace you.

So before you automatically start creating slides, consider these questions: Will your presentation be enhanced by slides? Will the slides really help? Is there information that needs to be communicated in a slide format?

If you are an interior designer presenting at an industry conference, for example, filling the slides with high-quality photos of your designs can be very helpful. They would enhance your presentation by showing people what you’re talking about in terms of color or placement of objects in a space.

On the other hand, if you’re a project manager presenting for ten minutes at an internal department meeting, will slides of bulleted text and sentences really help your presentation?

Perhaps it would be better if you handed out a project plan, or sent an Excel spreadsheet before or after the meeting, or drew something on the whiteboard.  And then you focused on speaking directly to the people in the room, engaging their attention and answering questions, rather than going through a “group read” of the slides.

(I understand that there are some companies where, for better or worse, the corporate culture expects you to use PowerPoint or Keynote.  I would still encourage you to question whether slides will enhance your presentation and if not, then challenge prevailing corporate culture. However, I realize that unfortunately, you may not win that battle.)

So the next time you have to deliver a presentation, consider carefully whether slides will help you communicate your message more or less effectively.  And if slide will not enhance your presentation, then speak without them.

For more on this topic, see my blog post,  What Should You Include in Your Slides?  http://gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2013/04/presentation-skills-what-should-you.html
Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Presentation Skills: Organize Your Material Around Your Message

by Gilda Bonanno LLC www.gildabonanno.com

When you are preparing a presentation, it’s crucial that you focus on your message, the one thing you’d like the audience to remember from your presentation. State it in one or two sentences - think of it as fitting on a headline of a newspaper or a billboard.
And everything that you include in your presentation needs to relate to your message.  As you organize your information, you may think of data that you like to talk about, or an interesting story – but if it does not relate to your message by supporting it or enhancing it in some way, do not include it in your presentation.

The culling and editing process can be difficult, but it is worth your time and effort.  If something doesn’t relate to your message, you waste the audience’s precious time by muddying the waters.  Providing extra material that distracts from and clouds your message will make it harder for the audience to extract what it is you’re really focusing on.
What can you do with the extra material?

  • Have it ready, in case there are questions where it would be appropriate to include it.
  • Provide it as a supplement either before or after your presentation – email it, post it on a website or hand it out.
Apply the “message test” to every part of your presentation -- every story, every example, every fact, everything that you want to include.  Ask yourself: “Does it make sense? Does it fit my message?” If it fits, keep it in your presentation.  If it doesn’t fit, cut it out.

Don’t make the audience dig through all your material to unearth your message. 
The more you can craft your presentation so that it is clear and uncluttered by “extra stuff,” the easier it will be for your audience to stay focused and understand the point you are trying to communicate.

For more on this topic, see my blog post Presentation Skills: What is Your Message? http://www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com/2013/03/presentation-skills-what-is-your-message.html 

Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com