Prepare your presentation aids.



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Prepare your presentation aids.



One may be a very confident, fluent and eloquent speaker, but one cannot make a point as effectively as a picture or a diagram does. A visual conveys an idea faster and better. There are several visual aids you can use: pictographs, line graphs, photographs, diagrams, bar graphs, charts, blackboard, flannel board, transparencies, motion pictures, and so on. Some presentation aids are readily available for you to buy them. If suitable aids are not available, then you can use your creativity and imagination to produce those that suit your topic, audience, occasion, and purpose.

The usefulness of presentation aids can hardly be overemphasized. They have several advantages. They arrest audience attention, rekindle, stimulate, and sustain their interest. When the listener looks at the visual, she understands the point easily and effortlessly. A visual sticks the idea deep in the listener's mind and helps her remember it for a long time. A picture is more revealing than a hundred words, because it communicates an idea more clearly, quickly, and vividly than most other devices. It gives a presentation a strong punch and presents the idea as a whole at one time.

But presentation aids used in a wrong manner or used carelessly will create a poor impression. Therefore, it is important to use them properly, judiciously, wisely and sparingly. Excessive use of visuals can have an adverse impact on the audience. So, you need to handle PowerPoint visuals with great care. First, while using them, you should look at the audience and speak to them, and should not talk to the visual or the projection on the screen. Secondly, you should number the visuals so that they do not get mixed up. Their sequence should go hand in hand with respective ideas you are presenting. Thirdly, in case you are using transparencies, you should be careful while displaying them on the projector so that you do not place them upside-down or they do not drop on the floor.

In brief, presentation aids should be prepared carefully to match the available equipment, should not be too many or too complicated, and should be used skillfully to reinforce the message.

Rehearse your presentation.

Right! Now you are ready for the big moment. You chose the topic; prepared profiles of your audience, occasion, and location; you collected, selected and organized your material; and you created presentation aids. Now, you must ask yourself: "Would it be a wise thing to go to the podium and make the presentation? Shall I try it at home first?" If you are an experienced speaker, you can skip the rehearsal stage, but if you are a beginner or you are not fully confident, it is a good idea to rehearse your talk before you mount the platform.

At this point two questions are likely to surface to your mind. One, why should you rehearse? Two, where do you rehearse? Let me answer your second question first. Well, you can rehearse in front of a mirror or request some of your relatives, friends or colleagues to attend your presentation and be ruthlessly critical of the content and the manner. You can request a speechmaker, and a presenter to attend your talk. Or, you can do it by yourself: record your speech and play it again. Now, let me answer your first question. The advantages are obvious: practice makes perfect. Rehearsal improves performance. Your rehearsal audience can give you feedback on your pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and organization of ideas, body language, and time management. They can comment on the strengths and the weaknesses of your presentation. They can tell you which part of your speech was effective and which ineffective. In the light of their suggestions, you can edit your speech, refine your content and language, and get rid of faults in the structure, errors of logic, poor usage, irrelevant examples and quotations, and so on. Furthermore, rehearsal will help you check your timing and reduce your nervousness. Thus rehearsal helps you to improve your presentation skills through peer rating, self-rating and reflection.

Deliver your presentation.

Finally, the big moment has come! You find yourself standing on the dais. You have put in great effort; you have the cue cards ready to boost your confidence. You know you will not falter. The prompt cards will enable you to speak more freely, almost conversationally; they will also free you to look at your listeners. Your presentation aids are ready. The audience waits for the take-off. Luckily, your take-off succeeds in getting their attention; but you must use all your resources to maintain a grip on the audience. The two major resources that you have are language and body language.

Talking about these two resources, Tubbs and Moss observe, "For years two guidelines for effective delivery have been naturalness and poise. A speaker's delivery should not draw attention from the content of the message as it might, if it were overly dramatic or reflected lack of confidence…Good delivery involves much more than mere fluency in speaking. It includes the effective use of many visual and vocal cues: eye contact, hand gestures, posture, and general physical appearance as well as vocal quality, pitch, volume and rate of speech."

First, let’s talk about language. Language most shows a man: speak that I may see you. It springs out of the most retired, and inmost parts of us, and is the image of the parent of it, the mind. No glass renders a man's form, or likeness so true as his speech. Obviously, language plays a very crucial role in a presentation. Although the level of formality of the language will vary from occasion to occasion and topic to topic (for example, the formal expression 'bovine spongiform encephalopathy' and the informal term 'mad cow disease'), a good public speaker usually employs the familiar language of person-to-person conversation. She uses positive and polite language to bridge or at least reduce the distance between her and her listeners. The use of "I", "my," and "me" has distancing effect; on the contrary, "we," "our" and "us" have a zoom in effect. Thus her talk is personal and familiar like a chat. Everyone understands her meaning, because every sentence is plain and simple. She practices what Disraeli said: I make it a rule to believe only what I understand. I think this is a great idea! Your audience will not believe what they do not understand. Therefore, it is necessary to use short, simple words, and familiar examples. A good speaker uses technical language only when it is unavoidable. She uses words that say exactly what she means and uses images to sharpen her points. If her subject is abstract and complicated, she tries to present it in concrete and simple language. Occasionally, she can use sensual images and figures of speech. Her main guiding principle, however, is what Emerson said: "Speech is power to translate a truth into a language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak".

How about tone of voice? Is it significant? Does it play an important role in communication? Yes, it certainly does. The following anecdote is evidence of its impact. G.K Chesterton, the British writer and critic, tried an experiment to test the effect of tone of voice on the listener. One day he went to a fish market to buy some fish. On that occasion something very revealing transpired between him and the woman waiting on him. To the woman waiting on him, Chesterton said in a low, endearing voice: "You're a noun, a verb, and a preposition." The woman blushed, because she felt flattered that such a cultured person saw these qualities in her. After buying the fish, Chesterton said in a rough, higher voice: "You're an adjective, an adverb, and a conjunction." The woman thought that Chesterton had said something bad of her and so gave him a resounding slap.

In short, your words, accent, tone of voice communicate meanings and messages, feelings and attitudes. Your language can make people feel flattered or can infuriate them; it can interest them or bore them. That is why you need to be very careful while choosing words and tones.

However, language is just one aspect of communication; body language is another facet, which is equally important, or perhaps more important. Let us take the case of eye contact, for instance. Our eyes send messages and receive impressions from another person's eyes. What can we see in our audience's eyes? Well, we can read a whole lot of messages – interest, willingness, comprehension, satisfaction; incomprehension, boredom, irritation, etc., because all our souls are written in our eyes. The interchange of looks is the first step toward rapport. If you have to read your speech, your eyes are riveted on the text and you cannot look at the audience. Eye contact is like a lubricant; it reduces friction, acts as an adhesive and binds people together. Just as an accelerator increases the speed of your vehicle, your eye contact speeds up your listener's comprehension. When you look them in the face, they understand faster and better.

Gestures and facial expressions greatly contribute to the effectiveness of your speech. Nobody would like to listen to a speaker with a stone face, because a speaker is not a statue. Gestures and expressions help you illustrate your ideas, express your attitudes, and regulate your interaction with your audience. Moreover, gestures can emphasize, highlight, complement or contradict the verbal message.

 

Answer the questions.

What a relief! You have finished your speech and you might think that your job as a presenter is over. But wait a minute. Your audience has several questions, which you need to answer. He has a question here and she has a question there! Your presentation will be complete when you have answered their questions. Incidentally, not every question will be sensible. Only one in five may be an intelligent question. However, you cannot afford to lose your patience; you have to keep calm. Poise is very important, because poise is the ability to continue speaking fluently while the other fellow is picking up the cheque.

Just as there are several types of questions (factual, probing, etc.), there are different motives behind questions. As they say, "Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers". Someone raises a question because she wants people to notice her presence. This man here has a different perspective on the issue under discussion and so voices a question. That woman over there would like you to answer her question, because she has not understood a particular point you made. The gentleman sitting in the first row wants more clarification. That gentleman in the corner wants you to repeat a large chunk of your talk, because it was beyond his comprehension. In such a situation you should not say what a popular orator once said to one of his listeners. One day, one of his listeners said to him: "Mr. Speaker, it was a very good speech, but certain points were beyond my reach." The speaker looked up and said: "I'm sorry for you. I once had a dog that had the same trouble with fleas." (Reader's Digest, 1972, p. 506).

Asking intelligent and probing questions is an art; answering them convincingly is an art too. The first thing you should do is to welcome the question. If necessary, compliment the questioner on her question. First, say that it is a probing, intelligent, good question and then answer it. If you do not know the answer, tell the questioner you do not have the answer and apologize to her for not being able to provide a satisfactory explanation. There are several ways to assure the questioner that you want to help her. You may appeal to the audience to try to answer her question. I am sure they will not mind helping out at all. In fact, they will be glad to help out. In case they do not have the answer, you may leave your email address with the questioner and request her to email the question to you. Alternatively, you can direct her to a particular article in a specific journal where she may find an answer to her question.

There are several ways to handle questions. Things will be easier if you are a ready-witted presenter. That reminds me of an anecdote about Einstein. As you know, Einstein used to be invited all over to talk about his theory of relativity. Because of extensive traveling and busy schedule he sometimes felt terribly exhausted. One day, he was so fatigued that he was in no mood to deliver a talk. Seeing his plight, his chauffeur, Hans, asked him to relax and volunteered to deliver a speech on relativity. When the surprised Einstein asked him how he would manage to talk on such a complex scientific topic, he said that he would be able to speak on the topic as he had heard Einstein so many times that he had the theory by heart.

Done! Einstein sat among the audience while Hans roared on the stage and was given a thunderous applause after his speech. But he saw a problem brewing when a naughty professor shot a knotty question at him. Hans could not have answered it as he had just parroted the theory of relativity without understanding even an iota of it. However, he did not lose his poise. He said to the professor, "Professor, that's a very simple question. My chauffeur, who is among the audience, will answer it." Luckily for Hans no one knew that the man sitting in the audience was Einstein who then got up and thundered a brilliant answer to rescue Hans! This could happen because Hans was ready-witted.

Conclusion

We have discussed the various stages to presentation. First, you need to select a subject of the presentation: it is the anchor of your presentation. Secondly, you need to be clear about the purpose of your speech: to give a general introduction to lay people, to describe findings to experts, or to engage in a dialogue with the audience Thirdly, you need to familiarize yourself with the location, occasion, and audience. The more you know about them, the better. Is the presentation hall damp, smelly, noisy, air-conditioned? Is necessary furniture in place: a platform, podium, etc.? Is the public address system working? How about distractions and interruptions? Is it a quiet place or a noisy one? What kind of occasion is it? Is it a formal, informal, or casual occasion? You must find out answers to these questions. You need to familiarize yourself with your audience too, because your presentation is a joint venture, a common pursuit, and a co-operative endeavor between you and your audience.

Then, you enter the second major phase of preparation. You pool your ideas, views, statistics, etc. You need some incubation period to internalize the information. During this stage, you can test the validity of your ideas, think about them, and look for illustrations to support those ideas. You must take care to keep your material flexible; for example, you can use old material from earlier presentations, but you must remember that earlier occasion, audience, and objectives were different. This awareness will enable you to adapt your material to suit the new occasion and audience. Having collected your material, you need to structure your presentation in a manner that best suits your purpose: logically, argumentatively, or chronologically. You may present a case when your aim is to convince the audience of your opinion. Alternatively, you can present your ideas in a narrative way, in the form of a story. But, your story must be relevant to your objectives. Furthermore, it should form a part of an overall structure, make a particular point, and must be well told. Then, you have to introduce, develop, and conclude your talk. The introduction should be dramatic enough to whet audience appetite, arrest their attention and focus their thinking. The body of your presentation is the longest part and so you must use your resources such as humour to maintain audience interest. Finally, the ending should contain the THESIS (THESIS being an acronym for THE Speech In a Sentence) of your speech.

Wait a moment. Your preparation is not yet complete. You will require other resources such as graphics to enhance the impact of the structure of your presentation. It is common knowledge that presentation aids add spice to a presentation. You can use them to demonstrate a process or an event, to add a professional touch to your talk and to make it memorable. However, you should not show endless sequences of visuals. Moreover, you need to handle your presentation aids carefully. A video in a wrong order, or slides and transparencies in a wrong sequence will create an undesirable impression. Furthermore, you should use audio-visual aids as supporting materials; too many of them may take over your presentation. More importantly, you should check whether your presentation aids jell with your overall perspective, because it is occasionally the case that they present a differing emphasis.

By now your material preparation is over, but you need to rehearse the presentation in order to be mentally ready for the job. A main advantage of rehearsal is that you can overcome nervousness. You may be nervous, because (i) it is your first performance, (ii) you think you will not come up to audience expectation, (iii) you fear you will dry up in the middle and make a fool of yourself, or (iv) you are afraid you will not find the right word, remember a point, an example or a story.

Now you can claim that you are ready to for the task. The rehearsal is over and you can present your ideas. While doing this, you establish rapport and camaraderie with your audience, entertain them, and make them feel comfortable. You should see to it that you do not undermine your audience or threaten their image. You need to create a co-operative climate, be courteous, receptive, flexible, responsive and professional in you approach. You need to maintain a right degree of formality, control your enthusiasm, display a good sense of humor and move your presentation forward step by step.

It is equally important to use clear, precise, appropriate, dynamic and pleasing simple language. Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass, "The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity." Easy grammar and simple, concrete, specific, vivid and sensory vocabulary is listener friendly. Personal language (I, We, You, Sung, Shintaro, etc.) is better than impersonal language (one, somebody, a person, people, etc.). Moreover, verbs are more effective than nouns. Remember that tones, pauses, silences, sentence stress, gestures, facial expressions, and postures convey messages and attitudes. Finally, you should welcome questions from the audience and answer them. You can answer most questions using your common sense and experience.

If you follow the steps and tips offered in this article you will be able to make effective presentations.

 

SUMMARY

First of all, let's define what we mean by 'presentation'. For our purposes, we mean: ‘a short talk by one person to a group of people introducing and describing a particular subject (for example: a new product, company figures or a proposed advertising campaign)’.

This is a narrow definition. In reality, presentations may be given by more than one person, are not necessarily short and are not necessarily a 'talk' since they may be by video, Internet etc.

 

Basics of presentation

· preparation

· structuring

· language

· signposting & linking

· visual aids

· body language

· audience rapport

Preparation

Good preparation is very important. Good preparation and planning will give you confidence. Your audience will feel your confidence and have confidence in you. This will give you control of your audience and of your presentation.

Consider these points when preparing:

Objective

'Why am I making this presentation?'

Your objective should be clear in your mind.

 

Audience

'Who am I making this presentation to?'

How many people? Who are they? Business people? Professional people? Political people? Experts or non-experts? A small, intimate group of 4 colleagues or a large gathering of 400 competitors?

 

Venue

'Where am I making this presentation?'

A small hotel meeting-room or a large conference hall? Facilities and equipment? Seating arrangements?

 


Time and length

'When am I making this presentation and how long will it be?'

Will it be 5 minutes or 1 hour? Just before lunch, when the audience is hungry, or just after lunch, when the audience is sleepy?

 

Method

'How should I make this presentation?'

Formal or informal? Lots of visual aids or only a few? With or without anecdotes and humour?

 

Content

'What should I say?'

Include only relevant information. Create a title for your presentation. The title will help you to focus on the subject. Prepare your visual aids, if any.

 

Speech Preparation

Choose Topic Gather Information Research Select Organize Write Practice Revise Rehearse Present

 

Structure

Organise your presentation in a logical structure. Most presentations are organised in three parts, followed by questions:

Introduction

- welcome your audience

- introduce your subject

- explain the structure of your presentation

- explain rules for questions

 

Main body of presentation

- present the subject itself

 

Conclusion

- summarise your presentation

- thank your audience

- invite questions

 

+ Questions

 

Notes

Try to appear as spontaneous as possible. Do not read your presentation. Reading a text is boring and will send your audience to sleep! Use notes to remember everything you need to say. Some people make notes on small, A6 cards. Some people write down just the title of each section of their talk. Some people write down keywords to remind them.

 

Rehearsal

Practise your presentation two or three times so that you:

- become more familiar with what you want to say

- identify weaknesses in your presentation

- can practise difficult pronunciations

- can check the time that your presentation takes and make any necessary modifications

 

The presentation itself

Most presentations are divided into 3 main parts (+ questions):

- Introduction

- Main Body

- Conclusion

 

As a general rule in communication, repetition is valuable. In presentations, there is a golden rule about repetition:

"SAYWHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY, SAY IT, THEN SAY WHAT YOU HAVE JUST SAID."

In other words, use the three parts of your presentation to reinforceyour message:

In the introduction, say what your message is going to be.

In the main body, say your real message.

In the conclusion, say what your message was.

 



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