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October 11, 2007

Successful Presentations - 8 Easy Steps

By Amanda Rice

If you’re anything like most women, standing in a room full of people and commanding their attention makes you nervous. And chances are you don’t want anyone to know that you’re that nervous.

But if you have to give a presentation, whining and complaining to try to get out of it isn’t going to cut it, so you need to buckle down and prepare yourself for one of the most successful presentations that your audience has ever seen.

In order to accomplish this feat, you must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. To make sure things don’t go the way of Murphy’s Law, here’s what you have to do.

Successful Presentations Tip #1
Practice out loud

Not only should you be looking over your notes, you actually need to practice your presentation out loud. And if no one wants to hear what you have to say, then you need to tape yourself and play it back to hear the kinds of ticks you may have.

If you say “uh,” “like” or “you know” too often, you may want to work on that. At the same time, if your voice is too low, you may want to raise it so that the people in the back can also hear you.

Successful Presentations Tip #2
Don’t ramble
When it comes to business, more often than not, people say a lot more than is necessary. It is your objective throughout your presentation to avoid digressing from the topic at hand and using filler.

As well, time yourself. Don’t forget that the average adult attention span is 20 minutes, and probably less if you’re presentation is about how bee pollen can improve the climate.

At the very least, make sure that the first 20 minutes of your presentation contains the most important information you divulge, thus ensuring that your audience will walk away remembering it.

Successful Presentations Tip #3
Avoid cheap laughs
Chances are you aren’t familiar with everyone in your audience, which means that you cannot ensure that what you think is funny, will be funny to them. That said, do your best to avoid opening with a joke because if you crash and burn off the bat, there’s no recovering.

And if you begin to feel them out and they seem like the “happy hour” type, then feel free to crack a joke, but at no one’s expense but your own. Do not poke fun at anyone under any circumstance.

Successful Presentations Tip #4
Get them involved

The easiest way to keep your audience interested, or at least awake, is by getting them involved in the presentation. Ask questions, supply handouts so they can follow your presentation, and break them up in groups and get them involved in a brainstorm session about trapping more bees.

Successful Presentations Tip #5
Switch your pitch
Whenever I think of a monotone voice, I remember the teacher (Ben Stein) from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off saying “Bueller, Bueller,” over and over again. You do not want to sound this way during a presentation. Or ever for that matter.

Speak up, walk around the room, lower your voice, do whatever it takes to keep all eyes and everyone’s attention on you. And don’t read your notes, you want your presentation to come off as natural, not as though you’re a robot on playback.

Successful Presentations Tip #6
Call ahead for equipment

If you’re giving a presentation elsewhere, don’t assume that all the equipment you need will be there. Call them up to make sure they have a spare laptop or slide projector if that’s what you need.

This is where things have the biggest chance of going wrong so a Plan B is always a wise move. And if things just continue to head in the direction of crap, just laugh it off. It is not the end of the world. Work with what you have and wing it.

Successful Presentations Tip #7
Prepare for questions

This is tough to do because it’s possible that you are so focused on one angle of your presentation that when someone inquires about some other point, you are left stumped.

So what do you do?

Well, for starters, show your presentation to a mentor or someone in the know about what it is you’re doing, they may provide a variety of angles for you to think about.

As well, if there is a question you do not know the answer to, own up to it and tell the person that you will find out the answer and get back to them. And then admit that as perfect as you seem. Alas, you are not.

Successful Presentations Tip #8
Look the part

You are standing in front of a room full of people that come from all walks of life. While you may not suit everyone’s tastes, you can make sure that you look presentable.

Make sure your hair is clean, you smell clean (without smelling like you bathed in perfume) and your appearance is neat. Don’t go crazy with makeup or dress too provocative, the last thing you need is to feel like the guy in the corner is picturing you naked. At least not until after you’re done.

Perfect your presentation

It’s not easy to get up in front of a crowd and talk about business, but if you arm yourself with the right information and prepare yourself beforehand, even on your worst day, you will still come out looking like a winner.

And that’s just another step in the direction of success.

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