YOUR job as a speaker and presenter is to impress the audience and to get your message across clearly. Before crafting your message, find out who is going to be present. You need the support of the audience to achieve your goal. Try to gauge the educational level of the audience. This will help you to know what vocabulary you can use and what words to avoid.
Target especially the primary audience—the decision-makers, and others whose support is critical to the success of your proposal. The secondary audience is also important. These are people who will be affected by the project and who have some influence on the decision-makers. If you don’t get the support of all parties, there are some who may not cooperate to expedite the project.
Write down the main points you will make in the presentation. Your suitable approach will be to inform, sell, and consult. Think deeply about how the audience is likely to respond. There will be those who are supportive, another group will be neutral, while a third party will be hostile. Before the event, approach some attendees to gain their support. Your biggest task is to win over the hostile party. Listen to them and take note of their concerns.
During question time, there will be those who ask questions simply to seek attention. Don’t brush off their questions. Answer them patiently. Be gentle with hostile questions but avoid giving sarcastic answers. People judge the speaker on how well he/she handles the audience. Once in a while praise the questioner by saying: “That’s a good question.”
Determine the prior knowledge of the audience. Don’t bore them with things they already know. However, don’t pitch your presentation too much above the knowledge of the audience. If your subject is highly technical, use graphs and illustrations to help them understand better.
To gain support, concentrate on selling the benefits rather than the features of the project. The favourite question on their minds is: “What’s in the project for me?” If you can gain the interest of senior managers, the others will be won over easily. The audience can gauge the senior people’s interest if they ask relevant questions during the presentation.
Spend more time in the preparation of your slides. Use a readable font and pleasing colours. Don’t pack too much text into each slide. Use bulleted points and explain each point in detail. Rather than showing all the points at once, use animation to flash each new point that you refer to. If you feel that some points are complex, prepare some notes to elaborate on the ideas for those who are interested to take away at the end of the talk.
The bulleted points serve to remind you of your salient speaking points and to avoid missing them out from your presentation.
Learn how to use illustrations skillfully. Photographs create interest. Many tend to believe in photographs although they can lie as well. Graphs and diagrams help them to understand better. Relevant maps are useful to show locations or size of area covered.
Rehearse your presentation many times until you get your sentences right. During the rehearsal, you may want to time the presentation. Remember that the span of attention of the audience is limited. If well-prepared, a suitable time to present all your slides should be from 15 to 20 minutes at the most.
During the rehearsal, you may decide to throw away some slides that prolong the presentation. It is a good idea to invite one of two of your staff to sit in during the rehearsal to provide feedback.