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How to make effective presentations?

Presentations have become ubiquitous, may it be selection to a b-school or a company or even communication in corporate life. An effective presentation, however, becomes extremely critical for success in various careers. Too often, though, a presentation fails not because of image paucity, overcrowded foils, or a halting manner at the podium, but rather because of what didn’t go on beforehand; a thoughtful, deliberate analysis of the audience and their likely response.

To speak effectively in front of others one of the essential skills one must learn to cultivate is listening. ” Without listening, knowledge does not flow.” Listening is not a technique; it is a necessity and an instrument of growth. Those who cannot listen cannot think, and those who cannot think, cannot write and speak. As a manager, you spend 80 % of your time listening. Yet how much time do we devote to learning this skill? The major barrier to listening is that we get sidetracked; we lose concentration on what is being said. There are some techniques that we can use to avoid falling into this trap. You can try the following process:

  1. Think ahead of the talker – Try to anticipate what the oral discourse is leading to and what conclusions will be drawn from the words spoken at the moment.
  2. Weigh the evidence used by the speaker to support the points he is making.
  3. Review and summarise – periodically review and summarise the points of the talk completed so far.
  4. Listen between the lines – search for meaning that is not put into spoken words. Pay attention to the non-verbal communication (facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice) to see if it adds meaning to the spoken words.
Apart from listening, what else is required to speak effectively in front of others?

First, you have to know what you are talking about and you have to know whom you are talking to. Both of these require preparation, but once you have control over these two areas, a major part of your work is done.

How does one tackle the fear of speaking in front of a group?

First, no one is a born speaker. A certain amount of nervousness is necessary, for nervousness in the right quantity makes people strive. To be a good presenter, plan for nervousness and translate it into positive actions that augment and supplement your presentation. For instance, rather than wringing your hands nervously or letting them shake noticeably in front of a group, plan to translate that nervousness into energetic but controlled gestures. Move your arms, dissipating your nervous energy in arm and hand movements that punctuate your points. You can also translate another part of your nervousness, into facial energy. Smile, raise or lower your eyebrows, laugh – in short abandon that nervous deadpan look. The audience wants you to look animated and will certainly like it.

Certain points one must remember concerning body language while facing a group:

Posture

One must sit comfortably without folding one’s arms or crossing one’s legs. Crossed legs could be seen as being casual and are better to avoid. In a GD, the student should always be sitting upright with their arms open, so that they appear to be attentive and interested.

Gestures

Gesturing, even in a normal conversation is natural, and brings out the intensity with which the speaker is presenting his point. Speakers must use their hands to communicate their point and not indulge in theatrics.

Head Movements

Head movements can either detract from the presentation or support it, depending upon the movement you use.

Positive head gestures can significantly improve and support a presentation. A positive gesture is that of nodding your head up and down, a “yes” type of movement. A movement should not be so pronounced as to be obvious, nor should it be constant. A positive nodding of the head helps gain agreement from the listeners.

Hand Gestures

Inexperienced speakers often regard their hands as being useless, or worse, ” in the way” while speaking. As a result, they either try to hide their hands behind their back, resulting in a formal military stance, or they try to clasp them together in the front, resulting in a submissive stance. A good rule to follow is not to let your hands touch each other or any other part of the body. By keeping your hands away from other parts of your body, you can avoid tugging nervously at your collar, embarrassingly scratching your head, or running your fingers through your hair. Once your hands are forced away from each other and your body, they have a chance to do what hands are supposed to do in a presentation – make appropriate gestures to enhance your speech.

Eye Contact

Don’ts

  • If you look above the group, they will feel that you are aloof and do not care about them.
  • When seeking eye contact with a group, don’t move from one person to another in an organized pattern. Listeners will quickly realize that such movements are artificial and mechanical rather than sincere.
  • Don’t look and look away quickly

Dos

  • A person must look at a group and speak, and not look up and down. This will give the group a personal touch.
  • Establish eye contact with a person at one place in the room, and then move to another person in a different part of the room. Continue moving back and forth in a random manner
  • Eye contact does not mean just a glance, it means a long look. As a general rule of thumb, hold your eye contact for a minimum of three seconds.
  • Eye contact doesn’t have to be really eye-to-eye contact. With large groups, especially, if for some personal reason you find it distracting to look at someone directly in the eye, simply select some other part of that person’s face and concentrate on that. Oddly enough, people will believe that you are looking them directly in the eye.

Voice

Anyone who has heard monotonous timid – sounding speakers knows how important vocal technique can be. The most important voice characteristics are enthusiasm and energy. Many business and professional people speak too monotonously, so watch for this tendency as you analyze your voice. Some dimensions of voice, which you should pay attention to are the following –

Pitch

Pitch is the frequency level of voice, which can range from high to low. To keep the interest of the group alive, you should change the pitch per your message. A higher pitch range will demonstrate excitement and anticipation. But if the pitch is too high, it will imply anxiety and nervousness. A lower pitch seems to convey a feeling of seriousness. But a consistently low pitch can also lead to monotony of presentation.

Rate of speaking

Again, one must speak at the correct rate. Rate, of course, is the speed with which you speak. The rate problems seen most often are speaking too slowly (often associated with speaking too softly) and speaking at a monotonous rate (often associated with unchanging inflection)

Fillers

Avoid filler words or expressions such as “uh”, “er”, “um” and “you know” Everybody uses them occasionally; so don’t overact if you notice them when you speak.

Now that you have learned some tips on facing a group and presenting yourself, start practicing with a group of friends as practice is what makes a man perfect, so practice, practice and more practice are what you require. There is nothing called over-practice.