10 Steps to Being Presentable: Giving Great Presentations

I’m getting ready to train a client group on delivering effective presentations and thought I’d revisit this sometimes scary topic.

Gary and his trusty cheat sheet. Notice how big the font is? That makes it easier to read at a glance.

Gary and his trusty cheat sheet. Notice how big the font is? That makes it easier to read at a glance.

We’ve all been on the other end, in a room with someone standing rigidly at a podium next to a screen where a PowerPoint is about to bore us to tears. Slide after slide filled with data we can’t read and a monotone speaker who looks at the screen more than the audience. We gain nothing more than we could have gleaned from a report and just can’t wait for it to be over.

So when it’s your turn to give a presentation, how do you make it a good one? Here are a few tips based on more extensive advice (and video training) I’ll be sharing with my client:

  1. Know your audience. This helps in so many ways. Make sure your material is geared toward their needs, not yours. If necessary, find out what they want to know in advance.
  2. Get over your nerves. How? Practice so you know your material. The more you know your stuff, the more at ease you will be. But don’t practice in front of a mirror. That just makes you feel weird.  Videotaping yourself, on the other hand, works. Also, don’t worry about perfection. That’s putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Just try to be engaging and interesting. If so, you’ll be better than most.
  3. Nail the open. But how? Unless you are absolutely certain your joke will work, don’t do it. Instead, ask your audience a question. That engages them and is an easy way to get moving in the right direction. And please, don’t try to memorize your opening. Again, that’s too much pressure to be perfect.
  4. Make sure your technology is fool proof. If not, don’t use it. A funny video from a popular movie or television show can be a great icebreaker. But show it to others first to make sure it works. And if the video, PowerPoint or audio is not tested in the facility where you are speaking, just skip it.
  5. Speaking of PowerPoint, it’s not necessary, too often boring and takes away from what the focus should be – your words. If you have important data to share, send it in advance or use it as a hand out. Just hit the high points in your speech.
  6. Make it interesting. That means you don’t read from a script or use big words or jargon. Instead, use stories, case studies, examples your audience can connect with. And tell your audience why they should care about what you’re saying. That is why they’re there.
  7. Don’t get hung up on verbal tics, like uh and um. Many people do it and you should learn to avoid them. But that’s a daily self-training (I heard one trainer recommend putting “uh” in a circle with a line through it and leave it on your desk. That way, as you are talking all day, you are conscious of it). But when you’re presenting, just let it go and keep talking.
  8. Create a presence. We’re not all gifted speakers who can walk the crowd and feel comfortable. But you should use your hands, use your voice so it’s not monotone and at least move a few steps and shake that icy grip you have on the lectern. Try it, it feels good.
  9. Prepare for problems. You go blank? Keep a one-page cheat sheet in front of you so you can quickly glance and find out where you are. You have technical difficulties? Go in with a back up and just move on. If you don’t dwell on the technical problem, neither will your audience. You’re audience does not seem interested? Then ask them questions.
  10. Speaking of questions. Many people ask the audience to hold questions until the end. Why? Because they don’t want to get sidetracked and lose their place. But if you have a cheat sheet, you have no worries.
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Stress management in the PR industry

PR manager ranked No. 5 as one of the most stressful jobs in 2013

Looming deadlines, hectic daily schedules, constantly connected to your phone are standard in the PR industry. So, it’s no surprise PR managers ranked as one of the most stressful jobs in 2013. “For the third straight year, public relations has landed on CareerCast’s annual list of the most-stressful jobs in America. For 2013, public relations manager is No. 5 on the list, inching up two spots from last year.” (via PR Daily) Though PR professionals face many stresses, there are ways to manage.

net_efekt / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Tips on how to manage stress in the PR industry

  • Change your setting. If you work in an office setting, try working at home once a week if permitted. If you work remotely, switch up your location once a week.
  • Disconnect. We’re all guilty of having our electronic devices attached to our hips, but it’s healthy to disconnect from your laptop and mobile devices every so often.
  • Take a lunch break. According PR Daily’s Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey, 69 percent said they eat lunch at their desks on most days. It’s important to take a lunch break and disconnect from everything even if it’s just for a short time.
  • Take a 15 minute break. Take a 15 minute stroll around the block or take 15 minutes to exercise each day. Taking some time to exercise can greatly reduce stress.
  • Use your vacation time. It’s important to take time for yourself. Taking a few days off can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the next project.
  • Bring your dog to work. According to an article in The Huffington Post (Slide 2), research shows that pet owners have lower blood pressure.

Which tips will you incorporate into your hectic work schedule to stay stress-free?

Photo credit: net_efekt / Foter / CC BY-NC