Mastering Presentation Skills
15th October 2006
If I had a pound for every person who said 'I wish I was a confident presenter' I wouldn’t still be teaching presentation skills. The majority of presentations fail at some level; my research suggested as much as 80% of all presentations fail, yet the expectation for us all to present, and present competently continues, despite a complete lack of understanding what really works, and what doesn’t. In the first of five articles, we look at audiences, and what you should consider when putting your presentation together.
I always compare presenting competently to brain surgery; a surgeon studies for years before being allowed to take the stage on his own where the margin for error is miniscule, yet the presenter can stand in front of an audience of thousands and destroy the reputation of the company in a short twenty minute presentation, or even lose a major contract that could close the company by mis-understanding the needs of the audience, yet we expect the same level of professionalism and competence as the surgeon with perhaps a days presentation training in someone’s entire career.
The problem with mastering presentation skills is that these skills evolve over time and need constant tuning and feedback to ensure bad habits don’t evolve. Furthermore, it’s a skill that needs regular practice, six monthly presentations won’t cut it, and it’s a skill that needs to be visited as often as you go to the gym, or in most cases should go to the gym i.e. weekly.
There are no magic formulae for presentations, and there and for every hundred books you read, there are another hundred training courses or coaches who claim to have the perfect formula for the perfect presentation. The most important thing in any presentation is be yourself, present in a style that is comfortable for you, and not by emulating someone who you admire. Your style is something that will evolve, but start by asking yourself some key questions:
- Why am I presenting, is there an alternative? Can I just send an email?
Sounds bizarre, but why put yourself through the risk and anxiety of putting together a presentation that may be better received through a different medium like a management summary, telephone call or videoconference?
- Who are the audience and what do they want to hear?
Audiences are a fickle bunch, whose mood will depend on many factors within your control e.g. heat, food, content, and factors outside your control e.g. traffic jams, arguments with spouses etc. What they all have in common is a need to be educated or entertained, or ‘what’s in it for me’ i.e. what benefit will the members of the audience derive from giving up their valuable time to hear you present?
- Is the environment suitable for the audience to listen to you?
Have you been through the biological and safety checklists? Is the audience hungry, thirsty and free from outside distractions? – window cleaners, roadwork’s etc. Unless you fully consider these fundamental items you will always be pushing water up hill, manage the environment, ensure you are fully conversant with the room before the event, and put your self in the mindset of the audience, sit looking the stage, consider what it must be like to be sat on those hard plastic seats for hours at a time.
Notes to editors:
The Oatmeal Group is a UK company specializing in providing communication excellence to the executive workplace. The Oatmeal Group is served through four business divisions, consultancy, training, marketing and adventures.
More information on The Oatmeal Group can be found on the company website at www.oatmealgroup.com
Further enquiries to:
John Davies (Marketing) 0843 289 1249
Working with Oatmeal opened our eyes to the many pitfalls of poor presentations. In accessible language, they showed us what to do, and what not to do, and gave us a series of practical guidelines and tools to ensure we inform, educate and inspire our audiences.
Oatmeal’s commitment to providing a first class service to its customer has been second to none and I have been extremely pleased with their openness and commitment to understanding the needs of Equalities training in relation to Business Support in Wales.
Since working with the Oatmeal team our staff have increased their productivity but more importantly their confidence and self worth has really improved. The business has benefited in financial terms with increased revenue coming into the club as a direct result of adopting the Oatmeal way of working.
As a company that has benefited from Oatmeal’s marketing consultancy I can say unreservedly that they are second to none with regard to their knowledge, flexibility, good advice and strong management.
Oatmeal opened our thoughts and got us to work in a new, better, more exciting way. The results for the business have been beyond our expectations. Our sales presentations are now twice as effective as before. We now regularly work with Oatmeal to ensure we don’t lose the edge.
The level of service has just been outstanding and John’s wealth of knowledge and experience has just shone through. The Oatmeal group not only come up with great ideas but work very closely with you to implement and evaluate them.
From the outset, the Oatmeal Group,has enlightened our views on what marketing really involves. I would not hesitate to recommend the Oatmeal Group and as a company, we are looking forward to a long and fruitful business relationship with them.
The Oatmeal Group came highly recommended to us. Their direct approach and commitment gave quick and tangible results.
John Davies of The Oatmeal Group has delivered a number of training workshops on 'Creating Presentations with Impact' for WIBF. These workshops tend to be hugely successful with an attendance of approximately 70, these events were very well presented and exceeded my expectations.