Sunday, July 31, 2016

When Presenting, Don’t Go Over the Time Limit

When you give a presentation, you have a certain amount of information you’d like to convey, centered on one core message, but you also have a limited amount of time in which to communicate it.

We have all been in presentations where the speaker exceeds the time limit and keeps speaking.  Or when he is given the five-minute warning and is not even halfway through the presentation, so he rushes through the rest of his slides at full speed. 

It is disrespectful to the audience (and to any project managers following you) to go over your time limit.

If you are given ten minutes to present, plan to speak for eight.  If you are given 60 minutes to present, plan for 50.  You should know enough about your topic to speak for longer, but you should prepare your actual presentation to be under the time limit. No one will complain if you end a few minutes early.

It takes preparation, practice and focus to stay within the time limit.  After you organize your material around your core message, practice giving the presentation and time it. If you are over the time limit, cut out something.  Repeat this process until you are well under the time limit. 

If you do nothing else differently other than to end your presentation before the time is up, you will automatically be a better presenter.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Giving a Virtual Presentation? Don't Wing It

Whether your virtual presentation is a teleconference or webinar, it’s important that you prepare and practice it so that you can be successful.  Just showing up and “winging it” – delivering a presentation without preparation - will not work. 

One of the factors that makes a virtual presentation more challenging than an in-person presentation is that the audience can’t see you (unless you are doing a live streaming video) so you lose all the elements of body language which normally would help them understand your presentation.  All you have is your voice.

Also, you can’t see the audience to determine if they understand you or if they have any questions (or even if they are paying attention).

And technology glitches, such as a poor internet connection or static on the phone line, often occur and interfere with your ability to communicate to the audience. 

Here are 6 strategies for ensuring that your virtual presentation will be effective:

1.     Shorten your presentation.  If it normally takes you 1 hour to deliver it in person, condense your content down to 45 minutes because it is more difficult for people to pay attention virtually when they have so many other distractions.  And don’t assume it will take you 45 minutes; actually practice and time it.

2.     Have a laser-like focus on your audience and your message.  Since you can’t see the audience’s reaction, you need to be unambiguous about your purpose and state it clearly and directly in your opening.

3.     Add more variety to your voice.  A monotone voice can be deadly in a virtual presentation.  Speak louder, more slowly than usual (without speaking too slowly) and with more enunciation.  Record yourself during practice and the live presentation itself and also get feedback after the presentation.

4.     Energize your presentation.  Even if there is no one in the room where you are presenting, standing up and smiling will give your voice more dynamism and help to keep the audience’s attention.

5.     If you want audience engagement, prepare for it.  Let people know that you will call on them by name.  Or if your software has a polling or Q&A feature, learn to use it. If several people are gathered at a remote site, ask them to discuss something as a group and then have a spokesperson share the results.

6.     Be prepared for what can go wrong with the technology of a virtual presentation.  Know what you will do to handle any situation, from the call getting disconnected to the webinar software crashing.  

The next time you have to deliver a virtual presentation, use these 6 strategies to ensure that the virtual medium doesn’t interfere with your ability to communicate your message to the audience.

For more help with how to persuade, influence and communicate with people even when you’re not in the same room, check out Gilda's course  Virtual Presentations: How to Develop and Deliver an Effective Presentation Over the Phone 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Toastmaster Magazine: When You Are the Emcee

I'm excited to share my article that appeared in Toastmaster Magazine in October 2015, "When You Are the Emcee," which provides 12 steps to achieving excellence onstage when you are the emcee of an event for a company, professional association or nonprofit.  It's based on my experience as both an emcee and a professional speaker.  

Read it here: 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

7 Quick Tips for Presenting Via Teleconference

With the rise of global teams and telecommuting, many people now have to present over the phone via teleconference to audience members who are not in the same room with them, and in fact, may be in different countries or time zones. While the essential rules of presentations still apply, there are some specific things to do to ensure that your presentation via teleconference is effective and that you can convey your message within the time limit.  

To find out 7 quick tips to use when presenting via teleconference, check out my latest guest blog post for Susan Solovic's website:

7 Quick Tips for Presenting Via Teleconference

THE Small Business Expert, Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, top 100 and USA Today bestselling author, media personality, sought-after keynote speaker, and attorney.

Monday, July 25, 2016

When Presenting, Stay Within Your Time Limit

When you’re giving a presentation, it’s crucial that you don’t go over the time limit. 

Whether you’ve set it yourself or have agreed to a time limit set by the meeting organizer, you need to prepare so that you can coalarm clock 3.jpgver your topic within that time limit.  No one will usually complain if you end a minute early, but the moment you go past your time limit, people will get restless and impatient.

It’s disrespectful to ignore the time limit.  If you go over by ten minutes, what you’re really saying to the audience is, “what I have to say is so important that I really don’t care what it is that you’re missing while you sit here and listen to me.” And that’s not the message that you want to send to your audience and it certainly won’t help you keep their attention.

Check out the rest of the post on the Constant Contact Community blog:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Know Your Audience

by Gilda Bonanno

One of the main rules of successful presentation preparation is to know your audience. Here are some tips to consider when you're thinking about how to connect to your audience, whether it's an audience of 1 or 100:

·       Know what's playing on station WIIFM.  That's the station the people in your audience are tuned into - "What's In It For Me?"   They're focused on WIIFM (pronounced "wiff-um") not because they are self-centered, but because they are bombarded with information and have to filter it in order to stay afloat. They can only retain a small part of what you're saying and they need to find which part is most relevant to them.  State the WIIFM outright; for example, in a presentation about transitions, you might say, "If you understand the stages of reaction to change, you will be better able to understand what your employees will go through when the merger is announced next month."

·       Know their style.  Does this audience want to see the graphs? Do they want the big picture or the details? Are they geared towards defining the problem or hearing a solution? 

·       Know their background.  Are they experts in the field you're talking about or novices? Will everyone understand the industry jargon that you're using? For example, if you mention "AEs" in a presentation, salespeople may interpret it as Account Executives, while those in the pharma industry may interpret it as Adverse Events (which are negative reactions to medication). You have to speak in a language that everyone can understand easily and be careful not to talk down to them or over their heads.

·       Know their interest level. Are you trying to win over a hostile audience? Are you talking to an audience that is already passionate about the topic? Are they bored by the topic?  If you're a tax accountant speaking to small business owners about the tedious details of the state tax code, you might have to work harder to keep their interest than if you were talking to other accountants. Similarly, if you're the speaker standing between the audience and lunch, there is a greater expectation that you will end on time (or better yet, even earlier).

Sometimes knowing your audience is easy because it's made up of people you know personally or work with on a daily basis. Even then, you should  take a step back and rethink the audience in the context of this presentation. 

At other times, you don't know anything about them and you'll have to do some research.  Do an internet search for the company or the individual and browse their websites.  If they don't have a website, you can look for websites related to their industry to discover the hot topics or industry concerns. You also can get feedback from colleagues who know members of your audience.  Or ask to interview a few people in the audience a few days or weeks before you present.

What if you gather information about your audience, only to find out that they're a mix of different styles, backgrounds and interest levels? That situation is a challenge.  You should choose the "relevant" subsection of the audience to focus on - for example, the decision makers, or the largest identifiable group in the audience.  Be careful not to ignore everyone else.  No one likes to be ignored and you never know what roles the other people in the room might fill in the future.

The next time you have to speak to an audience, whether it's an audience of 1 or 100, spend some time doing an audience analysis, using these tips.  Then rework your presentation based on your analysis so that you can speak to them in language they understand and use material that makes sense to them. Ultimately, knowing your audience will make it easier for you to convey your message effectively.  And it will ensure that the people in your audience understand your message and act on it, which is the point of giving a presentation!

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