Ardaman is frequently asked to serve as a sub-consultant on large public works projects. The procurement process for these projects most often requires that the prime consultant make an oral presentation to a selection committee. Over the years our engineers have had the opportunity to sit in and observe hundreds of such presentations, and our view from the “cheap seats” has afforded us a unique perspective on the factors that make presentations effective.
We thought it might be helpful (and fun) to share a Top Ten list of presenting.
1. The First Rule – No one is as interested in what you are saying as you are. You can’t count entirely on the material (the facts) to make your point . . . it takes much more.
2. Passion is most important – The way you make your point is as critical as the point itself, and you have to speak with the passion that comes from caring about the topic and passionately wanting others to care.
3. Know where you are – Body language is important, so be aware of yours. Always face the audience, keep your hands out of your pockets and don’t cross your arms unless you mean it!
4. The eyes have it – Eye contact is important, but don’t land an extended stare on anyone . . . that is creepy.
5. Hand it out – Hand outs are not as important as you think, and if you give the audience something to look at ahead of time you will likely spend your presentation staring at the tops of heads.
6. Reader Rabbit – Resist reading a presentation from notes (or 3” x 5” cards) as this is not very passionate. Never read the content of the slides . . . most of your audience will likely know how to read.
7. Can you see – Don’t overvalue the visual aids. The key player in any presentation is the speaker, and the slides should not be designed to continually move the audience’s attention from you, but should support what you are saying.
8. Kinetics – It is hard to be passionate when you are frozen stiff. Don’t be afraid to move around to engage the audience. (Hint . . . watch Steve Martin in the movie Leap of Faith.)
9. Practice – Appearing spontaneous (and passionate) takes practice, so resist the urge to wing it. Practice about three times (not much more) before a disinterested audience. Be aware of your time . . . actual presentations will be longer than practice runs, and exceeding the allotted time is the cardinal sin.
10. The end – Avoid weak endings (“Oh, looks like my time is up.”) by restating the main points, asking for agreement and challenging the audience to act.
Hope this helps, and feel free to comment.
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