Monday, 9 October 2017

How Good are Your Presentation Skills?



Presenting effectively is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. Very few people are born with the natural ability to deliver effectively. Enjoy it or not, it is part of daily business. For those of us who were not born with natural eloquence, especially in languages which are not our native tone, public speaking can be difficult in the beginning. However, with enough planning, preparing, and practicing, one can become as effective as anyone. Here are are a few simple tips I can share based on my experience.

Connect with your audience in the opening
Call your audience’s attention by asking the audience a question, giving a challenge, referring a key point from previous speaker, connecting with today's news to put your presentation in a context that the audience care. Humors and stories can and often fall flat with international audience. We all love to laugh, just not always about the same things.

Have an agenda so that the audience can follow
As your presentation progresses, keep referring back to your initial agenda by using highlights to show where you are up to. Otherwise, use appropriate transition to remind audience where you are in the flow and where you are going.

Give your conclusion first
Your audience will appreciate knowing at the beginning your key conclusions. The rest of the presentation is to validate your conclusions. 

Focus on your audience, not yourself
If you are talking about your product, your wonderful technology, start the conversation by imagining you are in the audience’s shoes and describing the issues or problems he or she has to deal with before you present your solution. Otherwise, half of the audience may have no clue what problems you are trying to solve.

Keep your slides simple - make one key point each slide
Human tendency is to have more, not less. For slides, less is more. Use short phrases, use charts, pictures. Use animation only if absolutely necessary. After you think you have cut enough words out of the slides, cut another twenty percent.

Know your stuff so you can be yourself
The best way to sound like you know what you are talking about is to know what you are talking about. Get to know your topic well and use the slides only as cue for your presentation. Remind yourself the two or three key messages you really wants to emphasize and repeat them.

Answer questions
If there is a question during presentation, give a brief answer. Do not worry that you are going to run out of time by answering a question. Take the opportunity to engage the audience and lead the conversation to one of the messages you want to convey if make sense.

Prepare a question for yourself
It can be awkward if no one is asking questions in the end of your presentation. You can always ask yourself a rhetorical or hypothetical question to warm up the audience. Once started, you will generally have more questions coming.

Develop a contingency plan

Things do not always go as planned. Keep a backup copy and a paper copy of your slides. Come with a plan for presentation by assuming you will have no projections for the first five minutes so that you do not get into a panic mode when faced with technical difficulties. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that it is not a bad idea to start presentation without the slides for the first few minutes after all.

Finally, relax and be calm. Take a deep breath or slow down if you need to. Be confident and enjoy.


Written by:
Xinjin Zhao
Venture Executive, ExxonMobil

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