You’ve finished your research, you have all the information and materials you will need, and now you are offered a presentation session. What should you do? Nail the presentation, that’s what you’ve got to do. You don’t want to qualify for every other aspect, but fail the last step – your presentation.
So what does a good presentation consist of? Some of the obvious elements are eye contact and clear messages. But the negligees include: interaction, the wow factor, body language, and a steady pace. Of course, it is crucial that you know what you are talking about!
One great strategy I’ve learned from a lecturer in the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, Al Pilcher, is the “three tellems and one toldem”. “Tellem” means “tell them”; “toldem” means “told them”. First, tell them what you are going to tell them. Second, tell them! Third, tell them what you told them. Simple as that, yet this is one important thing the audience and judges look for.
A very useful tool to help you succeed in presenting is an agenda – a plan of how you are going to present. There are eight points in total:
First point on the agenda is “background” or “purpose”. Why is the talk given? It is important to tell the audience approximately how much time you will need; if you run on without an estimated time frame, the audience will become restless. Also note that the tone of voice you use is audience-based. You should be clearly audible - not barely audible or overly audible. Keep your voice to a comfortable level for both your audience and yourself.
Besides being audible, why not try to make your presentation visual? Consider using materials such as handouts, business cards, and maybe even prizes! Make your presentation interactive!
Second point would be “Presentation Preparation”. What are your objectives? What is the format or style of your presentation? Are you using technology such as a powerpoint presentation? Remember one thing: What you show on your visual should not be the exact same as what you say. The information you are showing should merely be an outline only. Punctuality is another must.
“Prepare for yourself” is the third point. Be aware of your own abilities and limitations. Don’t overdo it. For example, if flash media isn’t what you are comfortable with, don’t try to impress your audience by inserting roughly made flash media. Instead, try to change your limitations! Why not put in a picture? Understand whether you are using high technology or low technology.
Also very important when you present is to have a strategy for dealing with interruptions. If you do not want questions to be asked during the time you present, say at the beginning that there will be question period at the end. However, go ahead and answer a question if it does come up, but give the reminder that there will be time for other questions later. Highlight the contents you are going to present so the audience will know how far into the presentation you are.
Before you get started, you should know your room and know your requirements. Be familiar with your surroundings, and if possible, test your acoustics. Check to make sure that the technology is functioning. This is the fourth point on the agenda: “Prepare the environment”.
Fifth point: “Team presentations”. Are you presenting as a team? Who are you and why are you here? You may want to briefly acknowledge each member of the team and their responsibilities. You must practice as a team beforehand. Be prepared. Be professional. Be aware of the presentation expectations.
Turn the presentation around and imagine yourself as part of the audience. Think of how you would like to hear this presentation. This is how you should present: through the “Viewer’s perspective”, the sixth point.
Okay…um…number seven on the outline – I mean, agenda – is “The Problem”. This is…uh…when you should try to avoid – OOPS, not this slide, back one slide – yes, sorry about that, you should try to avoid the “um’s” and “uh’s”. Whenever there is a mistake, smoothly present through. Do not make a big deal of the fact that you are accidently one slide ahead. Kindly ask your team member to go back one slide and continue on without breaking the flow. Do not hesitate and stop.
Last point is, of course, the “Conclusion”. Review your presentation’s purpose and key message. Be honest in your answers for questions asked. If you do not know the answer, simply state so. Do not try and impress your audience by coming up with answers made up on the spot. This will have a negative result instead.
Remember that a presentation itself is just as important as the business plan or your report for a science experiment. Take time to practice, but practice at a decent level – practice does not make prefect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Be confident when you present and give firm handshakes. Review your agenda and you’re set to go!
Have fun presenting!
KELLY KUNG was born in Hong Kong but has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia for most of her life. She graduated from Burnaby South Secondary School in 2008 and continued on to obtain her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of British Columbia. Kelly is also an alumnus of the program Shad Valley International at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Image courtesy of user "acaben" at Flickr.com via Creative Commons License.