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Respond to the following question with a minimum of a 100 word response How can the intended audience affect the delivery of a presentation?
Presenting gives you an excellent opportunity to connect deeply with your colleagues, your clients, and your other contacts. It allows you to express your views in a rich, two-way environment. As you do with your written communication, you will aim to strike the right style and tone in your presentations. Moreover, you will strive to establish a “presence,” something great speakers and presenters are often described as doing. Having presence means commanding attention, garnering respect for your ideas, engaging your listeners, and even inspiring your audiences to action. In this section, we focus on strategies you can use to enhance your presence as you deliver your presentations.
LO15.1. Describe how presentation delivery impacts your credibility.
For internal presentations, you often present to people who know you well and who have already formed opinions about your credibility; they have a sense of your competence, caring, and character. However, internal presentations still provide you the opportunity to change others’ views of you. Without appearing self-serving, find ways to increase your perceived credibility. Use the presentation to show your thorough understanding of a business issue. Frame your ideas in ways that show clear benefits to your company, its employees, and its stakeholders. In every way, display honesty and openness.
For external presentations, you are often dealing with people who have superficial impressions of your credibility. You have opportunities before, during, and after your presentation to bolster your credibility. Before the presentation, you can make information about your background available or have someone introduce you with a brief statement.
During the presentation, you establish your competence by showing that you know the content well. You show your caring by connecting emotionally with audience members and adapting to their needs. You show your character by being open and honest. After your presentation, following up as appropriate with audience members shows your caring and character as well. Some audience members may raise issues for you to look into or ask for additional information. Comply with these requests promptly and you will establish a reputation for responsiveness.
LO15.2. Deliver presentations with authenticity, confidence, and influence.
Standing in front of an audience feels anything but natural for many business professionals. Yet, nearly all audience members are making judgments about you and your message based on their perceptions of your authenticity. One of your primary goals as you develop your presentation skills is to find ways to present your real self to your audiences. Barbara De Angelis, a well-known communication specialist and speaker, explained the importance of maintaining authenticity:
I often work with speakers who can’t understand why they aren’t more successful, or why they become so anxious in front of others. Often, they make the mistake of trying to imitate other speakers who they believe are more powerful or more skilled, or they mechanically follow learned formulas for successful public speaking. However, by doing this, they are unintentionally disconnecting from one of their greatest assets—and one of the secret ingredients for being successful: their authenticity. … People can sense when we are trying too hard, or faking confidence, or projecting an image that doesn’t feel natural. When people see us appearing inauthentic, it makes them uneasy. And we actually appear awkward or nervous.1
Principles for Establishing Presence
- Establish credibility.
- Maintain authenticity.
- Know your material.
- Speak with confidence.
- Focus on people.
- Start and finish strong.
- Stay flexible.
- Use the room to your advantage.
- Communicate nonverbally.
- Dress for success.
As you read this chapter about presentation delivery, focus on making a few changes at a time. Attempting to alter too many of your presentation techniques at once may detract from your ability to speak naturally and genuinely. Add new presentation techniques to your repertoire constantly, but also make sure to draw on your natural strengths.
By running through your presentations several times, you allow yourself to become more comfortable with the content, work out weakly connected areas, and identify parts that you want to emphasize through tone and nonverbal communication. Also, rehearsing allows you to time your presentation so you know if you need to add or remove content.
Far too many speakers and presenters avoid rehearsing. The presentation itself is often the first run-through. Executive speech coach Nick Morgan observed the following about this approach:
The sad truth is that when you wing it, the performance is rarely as good in the audience’s memory as it is in the speaker’s. The reason is that your heightened adrenaline literally makes you feel better—more energy, more enthusiasm, more acuity—and so you rate your own performance better. What the audience all too often sees, on the other hand, is disorganization, fumbled examples, and the vagueness that comes from not knowing your material thoroughly.2
Rehearsing may involve running through the presentation in your mind or out loud. Ideally, you do it out loud. Consider videotaping your presentation so that you can get a sense of the overall impact of your ideas, the flow of your content, and the delivery of your presentation.
Many speakers and presenters use notes. Notes are not necessarily considered a weakness; however, use them sparingly or, ideally, not at all. Rehearsing will help you determine if you want or need notes. If you use them, rehearsing helps you choose which notes you need and allows you to become comfortable handling your notes in a nondistracting way.
Nearly everyone gets nervous and even fearful of presenting in public, especially in unpredictable and high-stakes circumstances. Many polls show that adults fear public speaking more than death. Responding to these various polls, Jerry Seinfeld once joked, “At a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”3 Other polls show that public speaking is among the most serious phobias among adults, with the fear of snakes the only phobia surpassing it (see Figure 15.1).4
Figure 15.1 Top Fears of American Adults
Source: Geoffrey Brewer, “Snakes Top List of Americans’ Fears: Public Speaking, Heights and Being Closed in Small Spaces also Create Fear in Many Americans” (March 19,2001), retrieved from Gallup Polls online, http://www.gallup.com/poll/1891/snakes-top-list-americans-fears.aspx. Copyright © 2001 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved. The content is used with permission; however, Gallup retains all rights of republication.
Experiencing some nervousness as you speak and present is normal. Even experienced speakers get stage fright from time to time. Unexpected circumstances, for example, may cause unusual nervousness—unfamiliar or intimidating audience members, technology failure, pressure to perform with a skeptical audience, noticing the speech is being recorded, and many other reasons.5
Feeling some nerves is not necessarily bad. It shows you care about making an effective presentation. And feeling some nerves can heighten your ability to deliver forcefully and passionately. Nervousness is dysfunctional only when it impairs your ability to deliver your content. In most presentations, certain parts are the most critical—for example, a call to action (see Chapter 14)—and at the same time, they have the least-certain outcome. Sometimes, out of nervousness, presenters do not follow through completely at these moments. If nervousness means you shortchange yourself at those critical moments, use techniques to help you manage your nervousness.6
Consider some of the following recommendations:7
Consider some of the following options:
Taking several deep breaths is a great technique to quickly alleviate anxiety. Also, consistently taking full breaths leads to improved tone and timber of your voice as well as better, more confident posture.
Envision yourself speaking with confidence and ease. Imagine making nonverbal connections with your audience. Think about how you will respond to audience questions. In your mind, play out your presentation and see yourself succeeding.
Inevitably, the presence of some audience members will make you more nervous than others. It may be a critical boss, a skeptical client, a person you disagree with often, or someone who intimidates you for other reasons. In the opening moments of your presentation, when you are most apt to suffer from nervousness, look at those in the audience with whom you are most friendly. This will help calm you during those ever-important first moments.
Pay attention to foods and beverages that impact your nervousness. Some people avoid or minimize caffeine intake on speech days to avoid jitters. Others avoid dairy products, since they can coat the mouth and throat and make speaking feel less smooth. Notice how various foods and beverages affect your body and adjust accordingly.
One of the best ways of relaxing immediately before your presentation is to speak with audience members. Greet them at the door, walk around the room, engage in small talk, and find other ways to break the ice and help you and your audience members warm up to each other.
If you make your speech about people, your audience members are more likely to trust your commitment to them and others: People like to hear about people. Also, a strong people-focus will allow you to liven up dry facts and statistics. Try the following methods of making your speech about people.8
Especially when you present numerical information, using people as the subjects of your sentences humanizes your presentation. Notice how Shannon does this in Table 15.1.
Table 15.1 Making People the Subject of Your Sentences
|Less Effective||More Effective|
|Our internal research shows that we have achieved an 82 percent client satisfaction rate in terms of perceived quality improvement since moving operations to China.||Our quality inspectors consistently survey our clients to make sure we’re getting the right fit for them. The vast majority of our clients—82 percent—say that quality has improved since moving production to China.|
|This statement is compelling but dry and impersonal to some audience members.||This statement is compelling because of the people involved: the quality inspectors who conduct the surveys and the clients who are happy with quality improvements.|
By naming members in your organization or other relevant people, you help your audience members feel they are getting to know these important individuals (see Table 15.2).
Table 15.2 Introducing Colleagues by Name
|Less Effective||More Effective|
|Our engineers have extensive experience in the Chinese manufacturing environment.||Our engineers collectively have over 80 years of experience in the Chinese manufacturing environment. For example, our lead engineer, Jack Chang, completed his master’s degree in engineering at the University of Kentucky and has spent the past 15 years in outsourced manufacturing in China. Jack knows exactly how to identify manufacturers and suppliers to meet your standards.|
|This statement is good but could be improved by elaborating on who these engineers are.||This statement is stronger with its focus on Jack Chang and his experience. It helps some listeners relate to and even develop a feeling of trust for the company’s engineers.|
When you know the names of those in your audience, consider using their names from time to time to personalize your presentation (see Table 15.3).
Table 15.3 Using Names of Audience Members
|Less Effective||More Effective|
|It’s common for small-business owners to think about manufacturing in China for years without taking any real action.||Just a few minutes ago, I was speaking to Jim here in the front row. He mentioned that he’s thought about the possibilities in China for over a decade. Five years ago, he went on a local Chamber of Commerce trip to China but ended up thinking his company simply didn’t have the time or money to explore this option any further. Jim’s experience is common. Many small-business owners have wondered about manufacturing in China but never thought it was possible for them.|
|This statement is good but is not personalized. It is essentially a “faceless” comment and thus may be less persuasive.||This statement makes the point in a personalized, relatable manner. It shows the presenter is connected to the experiences of the audience.|
Presentations rarely go as planned. Knowing your content perfectly will help you adapt to unexpected circumstances. Maintaining a flexible approach will help you think on your feet for unanticipated events. Consider the following ways of staying flexible.
Arriving early lets you notice if you have any surprises in terms of equipment, room layout, or people in attendance. If so, you may be able to make adjustments before the presentation begins. When presenting in a place you’ve never been before, arrive at least an hour or two early.
Some presentations can get off course when audience members raise questions or make comments. If you are preoccupied with your own agenda only, you can become flustered or disorganized if someone poses a question. Be ready to adapt to the immediate needs of your audience so you can quickly modify your presentation based on their requests. If you spend time anticipating possible questions, you will generally be prepared to answer them at any point in your presentation and segue back into the flow.
All presenters inevitably lose their train of thought from time to time. When this happens, you can try a few strategies. One is simply to pause until you regain your composure and your line of thinking. Within a few seconds, you will often get back on target. What seems like an eternity to you will be but a short pause to audience members. Many audience members will not even notice you lost your place. Another strategy is to repeat the last statement you made (five or six words). Doing so will help you regain your thought process.
Many presenters instinctively tell the audience about problems that have disrupted the presentation (i.e., technology failures, misplaced handouts). Resist the urge to mention these mishaps. To many audience members, this sounds like excuse-making and detracts from your key messages and/or your credibility. Most audience members will never know that anything out of the ordinary happened if you simply proceed with slightly modified plans.
If you have electronic slides to display, be prepared for a situation where the projector does not work and you need to speak without them. If you recognize factual problems in your handouts at the last moment, be prepared to present without them. Know ahead of time how you’ll present under these situations.
You will inevitably present in rooms of various sizes and layouts. Generally, you connect with your audiences best if you position yourself close to them and establish eye contact with them. Consider the following advice.
Walk around the room before your presentation to check the vantage points that various audience members will have. After you do this, you can generally determine where you can stand to get the most eye contact with your audience. Also, think about how you can be closest to them. If your audience members have taken all the back seats and left the front seats empty, move closer to them to reduce the spatial barrier. Or, politely ask your audience members to move forward to the front of the room.
During presentations of more than five to ten minutes, you can keep the audience more engaged by moving around the room. This draws the focus to you and allows you to gain spatial proximity with most of your audience members at some point during your presentation. However, some movements can be distracting. For example, excessive pacing may show that you’re nervous. Or, since you will likely be standing and your audience members will likely be seated, getting too close may make them feel that you are hovering over them.
Many rooms are set up with podiums or tables, where presenters can place notes and other materials. Standing behind a podium or table can help you project authority and add to the formality of the presentation. If you do use a podium to achieve these goals, make sure you stand upright. Avoid leaning on or gripping the podium, which indicates nervousness. Also, consider whether a podium, table, or other object placed between you and your audience creates a barrier to connection. If you stand in front of the podium or table, you can get closer to your audience physically. As a result, you may achieve a more friendly, accessible, and casual tone.
LO15.3. Apply the SOFTEN model of nonverbal communication for presentations.
Your audience members consciously and subconsciously make a variety of judgments about your credibility and your message based on your nonverbal behavior. Gary Genard, president of Public Speaking International, had this to say about nonverbal communication:
How comfortable a speaker is in his own skin, how he stands and moves, how he looks at others in the room, his tone of voice, even the clothes he wears—together, these variables constitute a constant flow of data running underneath whatever the speaker is saying … leaders know how to move boldly and decisively. There is nothing tentative about their movements and gestures—instead, they literally command the space through which they move.9
Consider the SOFTEN model of nonverbal communication in your presentations: smile, open stance, forward lean, tone, eye contact, and nod. By focusing on these nonverbal behaviors, you can display confidence and strength while also showing warmth and concern.10
Use your facial expressions to connect with your audience members and show your enthusiasm for your topic. Audience members are more likely to warm up to you when you put forth positive, can-do emotion.
Most people consider an open stance as more warm and inviting. Excessively putting your hands on your hips, folding your arms, crossing your legs, and gripping a podium or other objects closes you off from some people and implies less warmth. Keeping your arms to your sides or gesturing with palms up is more inviting to the audience.
Facing your audience directly with a slight forward lean and upright posture shows confidence and interest. By contrast, leaning back, slouching, and lowering one’s shoulders imply timidity and lack of confidence.
Use your voice to express enthusiasm or other intended emotion. To make sure everyone in the room can hear the confidence of your message, project your voice adequately. Also, speak at a reasonable pace. Rushing your presentations is often a sign of nervousness. First impressions of self-confidence and empathy often come from a slower rate of speaking with fewer gestures.11 On the other hand, many audience members tune out when you speak too slowly and may even think you are unprepared.
Evaluating your own voice is difficult, since the voice you hear is not what your listeners hear.12 Consider recording your voice so you can evaluate your tone and pace. Also, ask people you trust to evaluate the tone, pace, and emotion conveyed by your voice during presentations.
Maintaining eye contact with your audience is among the most important forms of nonverbal communication. It creates an immediate sense of connection when you meet audience members eye to eye. The very act of keeping eye contact forces you to think about your listeners. It helps you evaluate and adjust your presentation as you observe your audience members’ reactions. Perhaps most important, eye contact facilitates trust. Many people partially judge the truthfulness of a message from eye contact.13
Use gestures that show affirmation and acceptance of your audience members. For example, nodding indicates that you agree or recognize the value of what others say. Gesture with your hands, arms, body, and head to achieve positive connections with your audience. Attempt to read your audience and get a sense for how much energy they have. Research shows that morning speakers should have medium energy and match most audiences’ lower energy levels with a conversational tone. Afternoon and evening speakers can increase their expressiveness and energy.14
Remember to be natural. While you can improve your nonverbal communication to better connect with your audience, it takes time. Try out new forms of nonverbal communication incrementally. And be aware that people often misread body language. The more you pay attention to your audience’s reactions, the more you will be able to identify how people respond to your nonverbal communication.15
Business professionals are frequently advised to dress for success, especially for important events such as speeches and presentations. How you dress can make a big impact on how others perceive you. In a recent survey, 41 percent of employers stated that employees who dressed professionally were more likely to be promoted. This figure rises to 55 percent in certain industries, such as financial services.16
Most attire can be placed on a continuum from formal to casual. Common categories along this continuum are formal business, business casual, and casual. Formal business dress, at one end of the continuum, is intended to project executive presence and seriousness. It is distinguished by business suits, typically dark and conservative, accompanied by collared, button-down dress shirts. For men, neckties are essential.
Business casual dress is one step down in formality along the continuum. It is intended to project a more comfortable, relaxed feel while still maintaining a high standard of professionalism. Business casual dress is interpreted broadly and varies significantly by location and company. As a result, business casual can be divided into high-level business casual and low-level business casual. In Figure 15.2, you can see three levels of attire: formal business, high-level business casual, and low-level business casual. Business casual dress is probably the most common form of dress in the workplace today, with 43 percent of adults in a recent survey identifying that as their typical workplace attire.17
Figure 15.2 Formality of Workplace Attire
© Justin Horrocks/iStockphoto.com
|Business Casual (high-level)
|Business Casual (low-level)
*Standards for women vary more than for men.
Casual dress is the least formal option. It is rare in a business-related setting.18 While some companies have implemented casual Fridays, nearly half of executives and managers feel that employees dress too casually on these days.19 If your company allows casual Fridays, make sure your attire continues to project a professional image.
Your attire, and the level of formality you choose, projects a range of messages (see Figure 15.3). Generally, formal business attire projects authority and competence, high-level business casual is associated with productivity and trustworthiness, and low-level business casual is associated with creativity and friendliness.20
Figure 15.3 Messages Sent by Formality of Workplace Attire
Source: Peter W. Cardon and Ephraim A. Okoro, “Professional Characteristics Communicated by Formal versus Casual Workplace Attire,” Business Communication Quarterly 72 no. 3 (2009): 355–360.
For business presentations, you should generally dress up slightly more formally than your audience. Also, consider the messages you intend to send. Younger professionals may not yet have established traits such as authority and competence, whereas they are often assumed to be friendly. So, younger professionals can gain significantly by dressing more formally.
LO15.4. Use slides and handouts to supplement your presentation effectively.
You can powerfully supplement your presentations with visual aids and handouts. In fact, many audiences expect both. In this section, we discuss how to use these items to increase your presentation effectiveness.
In Chapter 14, we discussed the design of electronic slides. Another option for presentations is the screencast video, described in the Technology Tips feature on page 455. Regardless of the technology you use, your goal is to keep yourself as the main focus of the presentation. Even with well-designed slides or videos, however, keeping the focus on you during the presentation can be challenging. Keep in mind the following tips as you present:
Many presenters turn out the lights so that the audience can more easily view the slides. This makes the slides, rather than you, the focal point for the duration of the presentation. Some audience members may also get drowsy in low light. In some rooms, you can dim the lights next to the screen, but if you do, make sure that you are in full light to your audience.
The opening moments of your presentation are too valuable to devote to slides. Use at least the opening one to two minutes to make a personal connection with your audience. Then begin your slides.
The single most important strategy is to face your audience. Presenters often spend too much time looking at their slides with their back or side to the audience.
When you simply read your slides, you reduce yourself to nothing but a narrator. Since audience members can read your slides more quickly than you can recite what they say, the slides become the primary source of information. When you explain and elaborate on the content in your slides, you draw your audience’s attention to you as the primary source of information.
To keep the focus on you and more effectively control the timing of your message, introduce your slides before you show them. When you move to a slide without any introduction, the audience automatically focuses on the slide more than on you.
Business professionals—especially executives, human resource professionals, and sales and marketing professionals—increasingly use screencast videos to reach audiences remotely. Many software packages, such as Camtasia, Adobe Captivate, and Jing, allow you to develop presentation videos that record the activity on your computer screen and combine it with video, audio, and other files. As you develop these screencast videos, keep in mind the following tips:
Plan your production and make several trial runs. A screencast video requires you to take the roles of producer, director, and actor all in one. You can choose elements to display on your screen, such as PowerPoint slides, spreadsheets, word processing documents, or other types of files. Simultaneously, you can narrate as you display the content and can even provide video of yourself. After recording, you have many tools available to edit your production.
Create short, concise videos. Most screencast videos are short. For example, most how-to videos created by companies and posted on YouTube or their own websites last one to five minutes.
Use the right resources. You can use free screencast software and inexpensive video cameras and microphones to make screencasts; however, it’s generally worth the investment to purchase state-of-the-art screencast software and the right cameras and microphones, especially if you intend to create professional-grade screencasts.
Using a remote control to move from slide to slide allows you to move around as you talk and more effectively engage with your audience. It also allows you to maintain more eye contact, since using a keyboard requires glancing down.
Make sure to stand to the side of the slide projection area. Standing in front of the projection causes two problems. It makes the slide more difficult to view. But, perhaps worse, it distorts your appearance.
Handouts generally make sense for detailed, numerical, and other information that is difficult to project adequately onto a screen. Also, you may want audience members to complete certain handouts during or after the presentation. For example, Shannon provides a handout on which seminar participants describe a manufacturing project they want to outsource.
However, handouts can distract your audience and take attention away from you. One primary advantage of presentations is that you have high control over what message your audience members hear, especially compared to written communications. As soon as you distribute handouts, you may lose this control, since some audience members will immediately begin looking through the handouts and lose their focus on you.
If you can, wait until the end of your presentation to distribute handouts. This allows you to maintain more control over the message. If you need to use handouts during the presentation, consider how you might distribute them without losing control, especially during the opening one to two minutes of your presentation. Recall that audience members form many of their deepest impressions during this initial part of your presentation. Many presenters have lost the opportunity to connect effectively during their openings because of rustling handouts.
You will likely be an audience member more often than you are a presenter. Take this role seriously. Do all you can to support the presenter. Show interest by maintaining eye contact and sitting up straight. Avoid behaviors that may distract the presenter, such as glancing at your mobile phone or yawning. Make comments and ask questions that help the presenter stay on message. Publicly express appreciation for the merits of the presentation. Privately offer advice for making the presentation more useful.
Pete Cardon: Do presentations generally go as expected?
James Robertson: You can have many things working against you when presenting. Everything from the audiovisual equipment not behaving to the slide deck not working as expected, and then there’s the dynamics of the audience. Many technical problems can be corrected by spending a few minutes beforehand making sure everything works, but always be aware of the presenting “gremlins,” and always have a plan if something does trip you up. The key to overcoming these problems is to know the subject, know the audience, and practice the presentation so that even if the technology fails, you still deliver on message.
The hardest thing to plan for is the human factor: How will the audience react to your message? Will they agree or disagree with your point of view? and Will they speak up or keep quiet during Q&A? Be prepared by thinking about some of the questions you’d ask if you were looking at the information presented. Anticipating and planning the answers will help you get all the way to closure.
James Robertson is vice president of Global Data Networks and Information Technology Security at Turner Broadcasting. He has worked at Turner Broadcasting for 15 years and runs a global operations team of over 200 IT professionals.
Courtesy of James Robertson.
PC: What are some of the keys to connecting with your audience?
JR: I’ve found that you need to set the stage with a scenario or situation that’s applicable to the subject you’re discussing. Linking this topic back to your message provides a powerful opening and grabs the audience attention from the start. This can be as simple as opening with something you’ve read in a magazine or a newspaper or something you’ve seen on TV or a life experience you’ve had. The key is to make sure you bridge between the experience you’re opening with and the topic you’re presenting on.
During the presentation, always talk to the audience and not to the slides. Practice makes perfect.
At the end of the presentation, leave them with a closing that reinforces the message. Again, it can be an experience or just a good summary of what you discussed, but with a punch that they remember. I try and leave my audience with no more than three points they can take away with them, but those three points should encapsulate the essence of the message.
PC: For young professionals, what concluding advice would you give about developing skills to give great presentations?
JR: Much of real success in business is being able to “tell your story” well. Whether presenting a project to gain financial funding or rolling out goals to staff, it’s critical that you are confident and persuasive. People will follow a leader they believe in, so it’s important to cultivate your credibility. Being able to connect to any audience is a critical skill, so look for any opportunity to present and hone your presentation skills. It will become one of your most important skill sets.
Being a supportive audience member has many advantages. In most cases, you share professional interests with the presenter. As a result, the success of the presentation is a team effort. Furthermore, your reputation for being a supportive audience member may be reciprocated when you take the role of presenter. For further insights on delivering presentations, read the Communication Q&A with James Robertson.
LO 15.1. Describe how presentation delivery impacts your credibility. (pp. 445–446)
Delivering presentations demonstrates your personal credibility.
It shows competence when you know and provide valuable content.
It shows caring when you are responsive to the expectations of your audience.
It shows character when you display complete openness and honesty.
LO 15.2. Deliver presentations with authenticity, confidence, and influence. (pp. 446–451)
|Principles for Establishing Presence|
|Principles for Focusing on People|
|Principles for Staying Flexible|
LO 15.3. Apply the SOFTEN model of nonverbal communication for presentations. (pp. 451–454)
|Principles of the SOFTEN Model|
LO 15.4. Use slides and handouts to supplement your presentation effectively. (pp. 454–456)
|Principles for Using Slides|
LO 15.5. Interact effectively with your audience. (pp. 456–459)
|Principles for Fielding Questions|
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