Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

PowerPoint Tactics: Part 7 - Oral delivery tips

So far this series has discussed the organization of your slide presentation. While preparation of your materials is crucial, you still have to deliver them orally to your audience effectively. There are numerous texts and classes on public speaking that cover this part of a presentation in great detail, but there are a few items worth pointing out.

First, know your audience. Understand why each person is present and make sure you give most of them a reason to be there. You may not be able to serve every single person, but if you are not over 50% your meeting probably does not need to take place at all.

Second, be memorable. For example, a technique used throughout this book is to present anecdotes throughout to help the audience remember the important points. Analogies work well in this regard too (for example, the infamous, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”).

Third, know your time. Nothing will annoy others more than if you routinely go over your allotted time to talk or present slides. The trick here is in dealing with questions that come up, as they can add time that you may not have taken into account. Even if you request that all questions come at the end, some will inevitably be posed in the middle of your presentation. When that happens, you have to judge the situation for yourself to see if it is worth risking going over on time to answer the question immediately or not. You do not want to leave concerns unaddressed, but you also want to avoid a tangential conversation that distracts from your main point. If the question gets answered in a later slide, do not be afraid to say, “Can you hold that question for a moment? I think it will be answered in a few slides.” Be courteous enough to double check with the person who asked the question if it was indeed answered to their satisfaction by the later slide once you show it. If you are pushed to the end of your time, cut material towards the end (which, in turn, makes an argument for having your most important content at the beginning) and set up additional time with the individuals who might still have questions. Getting a reputation for taking longer than you said to for presentations has the same effect as taking longer than you said you would for anything else, as covered in Making yourself easy to be scheduled. It generally makes you look bad.

Finally, be enthusiastic. If you show little interest in your subject matter then your audience will follow suit. That's not to say you have to incite "the wave" during your meeting, but be appropriately passionate about what you have to say.


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