Essentials of Oral Presentations

Many speakers, even mature, well-educated people come on to the dais but fail to make an interesting presentation of their ideas on the given topic. Such poor speakers bore the audience so much that the audience yawns and struggles to stay awake. Quite sadly in some presentations the audience cannot recall at the end of a lecture what they have learned though the speaker has delivered copious amounts of information and given its analysis. Usually the purpose of a presentation is either to inform or convince or entertain, but an unskilled, ill-informed speaker can achieve none of these. An analysis of the factors responsible for the failure of a presentation of a hypothetical speaker is made in the following paragraphs. It is needless to say that the rectification of those factors leads to success.

Assertion of the speaker’s authority and a proper body language: Some speakers don’t give the impression that they are the right people to talk on the given topic, either by their nervous behavior or their failure to inform the audience of their credentials on the topic. Quite strangely, some speakers all through their talk either rivet their attention on a single listener or don’t look at the audience at all, giving their full attention to the notes they have brought. Some stare absently at the objects or look around the room for no reason or play nervously with objects like pen or note book which not only annoys the audience but elicits their distrust also.

Voice Modulation: Another important reason for the failure of a speech is a voice which is terribly monotonous, lacking in the modulations and reflects neither the feelings attached to each piece of information nor the inferences made from such information. (Fast 108) Such presentations make it difficult for the audience to understand; similarly in some presentations, the voice of the speaker and his point are mutually contradictory. A clear, modulating voice is a tool to make meaning clearer, but an improper use of it leads to confusion and irritation. (Jehan 105)

Introduction to the given topic: The audience has to be walked into a context. Listeners who have taken the pains to come to a venue are definitely interested in a speech. But the first and foremost factor defining the success of a lecture is the way the topic is introduced: its importance has to be explained, its relevance to the life or career of each member of the audience has to be properly connected, and the basic concepts related to the topic have to be explained. Many speakers are not aware of this essential requirement of a lecture and hence focus more on the quantity of information – a lot of statistics, numerous references and scores of examples- while failing to lay a foundation for the audience to understand those reams of information.

Fewer Perspectives rather than many: Many speakers deliver their speech with a false notion that many perspectives and many ideas make it a success. But the listeners can neither remember nor refer to all the contents of speech some time later like one does with the written material; meaning of a speech has to made on the spot; they can not postpone it just because there is a lot of information; A speech where its meaning is postponed is definitely the one whose purpose is ruined. The hallmark of a good speech is that the audience understands it on the spot as they listen. For this to happen, the entire speech no matter how big it is should center on very few principal ideas-three or four. Too many ideas leave the audience wondering where they are being led.

Preparation: A speaker who is comfortable in his presentation and having adequate control over what he is going to talk about can deliver his message effectively. That he is comfortable in his job is reflected in his voice, which is well-modulated and exactly tuned to the level of the audience – neither loud nor low-and in an appropriate facial expression. A ‘comfortable’ speaker makes the audience comfortable. A ‘comfortable’ audience receives the message correctly and nothing can stop them from rating the lecture highly. A comfortable audience of the lecture forgets all of their other concerns and is lost in the lecture only. At the end, it carries home a pleasant experience as well as an insightful learning. But the key to such a level of success is preparation. A presentation can be successful only as much as its preparation is. During preparation, a speaker chooses everything that he has to deliver: information, experiences, stories, examples, visual aids, order of points, jokes, and even words too!

To sum up, many experienced, educated people are poor speakers; the success of a speech depends primarily on the preparation, introduction, voice, and body language. It is a false notion that a successful speech requires many perspectives and several ideas; three or four principal ideas are enough.

Works Cited

Fast, Julius. Body Language, New York: Pocket Books, 1970.

Jehan, Gorge W. Persuasive Speaking. Surrey,U.K: Elliot Right Way Books Limited, 1972.

Presentation Skills – Presenting with PowerPoint – Where’s the Power, What’s the Point?

It’s Friday afternoon, after lunch and you are about to watch a colleague’s presentation. As the lights dim and the dull purring sound of the projector lulls you into a semi-comatosed state, feelings of despair begin to take over, as the presenter introduces their 30 slides. You brace yourself for the endurance test that lies ahead.

Recognise the scene? It is becoming an increasingly common scenario in the business environment and we now need to take stock and ask ourselves of PowerPoint – “what is the purpose of this presentation aid?”

At first, PowerPoint seemed to be the answer to all our presentation concerns. To the less experienced presenter it became a great way to put a presentation together. With its neat gadgets and easy-to-follow structure, PowerPoint provided a ‘quick fix’ solution to our presentation anxieties – all the presenter needed to do was to ‘deliver’ their slides.”

So why then doesn’t the audience evangelise about it in quite the same way? I am often asked by those who attend my workshops how can they engage more with their audiences when they are presenting with PowerPoint and why do their audiences seem indifferent or even disinterested in what they are trying to present?

One reason for this emerging reaction lies in the presenter’s misinterpretation of the verb ‘to deliver’. Only too often this word has become replaced by the phrase ‘to read out aloud’ and even by the phrase ‘to hide behind’.

Who wants to listen to someone reading out aloud – don’t we all know how to read already? Wouldn’t it be easier if we just give the slides to our audience to take away and read at their leisure -in more amenable surroundings?

The slick and polished nature of PowerPoint has weakened the human input in presenting to such a low level of insignificance that now, the presenter’s role is often reduced to no more than the ‘PowerPoint Operator’.

So where has it all gone wrong and how can we re-address the balance?

One of the key factors in the demise of the art of presenting is down to our basic human phobia of public speaking and our lack of motivation to address this issue. Public speaking is in fact one of the most common public fears – almost as strong as fear of death!

So PowerPoint became our knight in shining armour – it gave us the crutch we needed to get over our fears by hiding behind the technology. The screen became our shining armour – it protected our feelings of insecurity by taking the audience’s attention away from us – the presenter and directing their attention to the big screen behind us which was something far more ‘exciting’ to look at.

Unfortunately, the shine of the screen diminishes very rapidly when you start to see the eyes of your audience take on a fixed glazed expression – and you are only on your third slide out of thirty. You think to yourself “It is time to mount my steed and flee” – if only you could – but you still have twenty seven slides to battle through.

So we need to go back to basics – we have to learn to get over our fears and anxieties and re-gain control of our presentations. We don’t need to ditch the PowerPoint but we need to start using it rather than abusing it – the latter – which has become more the case in recent years.

Going back to basics requires us to return to the first golden rule of PowerPoint which almost everyone ignores. This is to remember that you are the presenter leading the PowerPoint not the other way round.

But – as we have already said, nerves play a crucial role here. Because we are nervous we cling on to our PowerPoint for dear life – as if we are clinging to a rock in a stormy sea. We therefore need practical techniques to allow ourselves to let go without fear of drowning.

Good delivery skills will provide us with this much desired confidence. We have to re-learn the meaning of ‘delivery’ – that it is not reading off the slide or hiding behind your laptop. It is all about the art of communication whereby to learn to command and engage with your audience. These are skills that can be learnt – in fact most good presenters spend a lot of time practising their delivery techniques to help them develop into confident and effective presenters.

You voice is a crucial element in the success of your presentation delivery. Very few people use their voice to its full potential. When we work with people on their vocal technique they are surprised at how empowering this is in helping them to deliver with greater confidence.

A strong presence is also very important. Poor stance, irritating habits, lack of eye contact will all inhibit your ability to engage with your audience. Often, the PowerPoint presenter remains too close to or even attached to their laptop. It is as though they are saying to their audience “Don’t look at me – I’m not important – I’m just an accessory to the equipment.”

I always advise the presenter to move away from the equipment when they begin their presentation. By moving closer to the audience at the start you are saying to them “I am in control of the presentation and welcome you to listen.” Using a remote rather than the mouse will encourage you to move more. The more you move, the more you command your space and engage with your audience

The next issue concerning the abuse of PowerPoint is the construction of the slides. Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you didn’t look at each other at all? You may have done so but chances are there wasn’t a lot of rapport between the two of you. We do need to look at people – give eye contact to them if we want to engage with them and build rapport. This is also the case when we present to our audience. But how can we do this when we are reading off our slides – and often looking at the screen behind us – leaving us with our backs to the audience?

This brings us to the second golden rule of PowerPoint, again – one pitifully ignored which is that ‘the sole aim of PowerPoint is to support our message not be the message.’

Reading your slides verbatim is not the answer -take a look at what is on your slides and ask yourself if this is audience friendly. The concept of ‘friendly’ has got rather confused and slides have now become less of a friend and more of a foe. Who needs a friend who throws an endless stream of words at you with the sole consequence of boring you to death?

Slides have to be kept clean. Clear out the unnecessary words. Fewer words say more and have far greater impact. Use punchy phrases that grab attention and are easy to read at a glance. Remember the more the audience reads off the slide, the less they are listening to you. And reading is tiring – especially on a Friday afternoon after lunch – soon your audience will adopt that glazed expression and their minds will drift away to thinking about their plans for the weekend.

“But how will I stay on track if I don’t have all my notes on screen?” – is the typical cry of alarm I get from people when I give them this advice.

It is actually easier to present with cleaner slides. Slides with just short phrases and key words provide an effective prompt but also give you the freedom to become more spontaneous and conversational with your audience. Remember, the slides are there for your audience, they are not your notes – do not confuse the two – they have different purposes.

A good PowerPoint presentation that stimulates and inspires – is this possible? Yes – if you have the power to deliver with confidence and yes- if your presentation makes the right points. Keep the PowerPoint in perspective and don’t allow it to dominate. Always remember – you are the presenter and you are your best visual aid.

Christmas Presents For Parents Guide

Once you get to a certain age, finding Christmas presents for your family and peers becomes far more difficult. When you’re younger, most people have plenty of things they need – whether it’s kids wanting the latest toys or teenagers hoping for a new wardrobe. But as you and the people you know get older, you’ll increasingly find that most people have sorted out the essentials for themselves and this makes it much harder to find them presents they actually want. This is true more than ever when it comes to your parents.

When you’re a child all you need to give your parent for Christmas is a picture you drew yourself or some sweets you saved up to buy, but when you’re all grown up you’ll want to show your appreciation in new ways. If you’re an artistic person you’re slightly ahead of the game, as you’ll be able to give your parents art work no matter what age you are. But if you’re not particularly talented with a pencil, it’s a good idea to turn your attention elsewhere.

With the majority of parents of grown up children tend to have most of the normal bits and pieces they need, many people turn to practical gifts and gadgets as a way to fill the hole. While this can be a great choice if you’ve a real gadget lover in the family, it can be a hard balance to get right. There have been plenty of Christmas days spoiled over the years thanks to a gift wrapped ironing board or trouser press. Steer clear of such presents unless they directly relate to a hobby your parents enjoy or they are gifts you’d enjoy yourself. For example, a flat-screen TV is likely to go down far better than a toaster.

If you’re keen to find presents that won’t end up sitting on a shelf in the hall cupboard, then choosing food or drink can be a great option. Make sure you chose wisely however, as Christmas is a time for enjoying special dishes and treats anyway and you don’t want to buy your folks a bottle of booze or fancy box of chocolates that they’ve already bought to celebrate the occasion themselves. What’s more, you need to be careful that they don’t start sharing their new gift with the whole family -especially if your premium snacks were particularly expensive.

One gift you can be sure your parents won’t be able to ignore or give away is a few nights in a nice hotel. Instead of filling up their house with more bits and pieces, why not consider booking a short break as a Christmas gift that is sure to be a real treat? The price of such a gift can easily be scaled to suit your budget and their tastes, with weekend breaks readily available everywhere from a family hotel in Blackpool to a boutique hotel in Edinburgh.

Whatever kind of present you choose for your parents this year, be sure to pay attention to their reaction when they open it – that way you can take note and be certain you’re one step ahead when it comes to next year.