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Speak for Success

By: Sue Currie

An important aspect of business success today is the ability to communicate effectively. Not only with the written word but to be able to stand out and deliver a speech or presentation with confidence will set you apart.

As a business educator, I have the opportunity to meet some great speakers from around the world and learn more about how to grow my business. Like others in the audiences I am most impressed by presenters who not only impart relevant information but do it in an interesting and entertaining way. Do you make compelling presentations? If not here's a few tips that may help.

What makes a great presenter? Confidence is usually the initial response and I agree. The number one characteristic that shines through is confidence. Acquiring this quality alone will put many ordinary presenters into the "good" category. What could you do then to go that extra step forward?

1. Awareness of what works for you and what doesn't and the willingness to build on those foundations. Feedback is incredibly important whether you tape or record yourself and analyse your own performance or have someone else critique for you. But here's the catch. Most of us only dwell on what didn't work, try to fix those problems and don't work on their strengths. By recognising what works for you, acknowledging and building on that base will give you the confidence to improve and become a great presenter.

2. Practice makes perfect, so they say. But practice also makes permanent. It's important to try new things, experiment, take risks and most importantly to add variety to your presentation. Variety can be built into your presentation through storytelling, humour, use of props, audiovisuals, group exercises or audience involvement. Variety in your voice try soft, loud, fast and slow. Try a range of techniques to keep your audience energised and interested.

3. Have a clear outcome in mind of what you want the audience to take away from your presentation. Remember it's about them and how they feel. It could simply be they feel comfortable with you to provide a particular service, or you've convinced them your product is the best on the market. It could be to motivate them to do something or inspire or challenge them to try something new.

4. Organise your speech into "chunks". Rather than try to memorise or read a 30 minute speech (or a 3 hour one!) if you have several chunks that deliver a particular message it is easier for you and your audience to remember. As an example 30 minutes could be broken up into a 5 minute opener with a story, 3 chunks of 7 minutes where you talk about 3 different points using some variety while delivering those messages. Then a closer of 4 minutes perhaps to give out handouts or take a question or two then finish big with a call to action.

5. Use your body wisely. It's okay to jump up and down and be energetic if that is your style. Many of you would have been to an Anthony Robbins or other motivating style of presentation and seen how they use their bodies. At other times a speech delivered with poise and stillness from a lectern is appropriate. What isn't appropriate is distracting movement such as pacing up and down for no reason, gesticulating wildly for no purpose, rocking back and forth or playing with your hair (girls) thrusting hands in your pockets (boys) or scratching or picking at imaginary fluff on your jacket.

These are just a few of my observations and techniques I've learned while practicing to become a great presenter. I hope these tips help you next time you need to make that great client presentation.

Being able to stand out and deliver a compelling presentation will set you apart. Read tips to help you be a better presenter.

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