Presentations, unlike reports, carry the personality of a speaker, simultaneously allowing for interaction between all participants involved. A good presentation is hinged on precise, well researched content as well as a clear well laid out structure. Simply put, content relates to information useful to the people. It differs significantly from presentations to reports. The latter are analyzed at the readers’ pace but the former must account for the amount of information that can be assimilated in a single sitting.
The structure followed must be logical, sequenced as well as suitably paced so that the audience can effectively follow the proceedings. Other salient aspects are packaging and the human element. Presentations must be well prepared for the audience is literally at the presenter’s mercy; they do not have the option of rereading certain portions or skipping others altogether. The human element, when used effectively, contributes greatly to the success of any presentation (Clark, 2007). The importance of preparation cannot be overstated. It may be a threadbare cliche, but failure to prepare really is preparation to fail.
Research is vital both in term of content and the audience. The material presented must be accurate, supported with credible illustrations. Simple concise statements of intent usually assist in defining the scope of a presentation. Presenters must also establish the nature of the audience it terms of level of education, employment cadre and familiarity with the language. The findings serve as an indicator of the jargon the presenter may use as well as the vocabulary used. This aspect also defines the audience’s aims and objectives as for attending the presentation (Blair, n.
d. ). If this is not effectively done, there will be little communication, rendering the entire presentation an exercise in futility. The introduction of any presentation is vital. Based on this aspect alone, it is possible to determine success. It is not enough to attract the attention of the audience; presenters must sustain it. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to establish a theme that the presentation will revolve around. This works well with a quick breakdown of the presentation’s guiding structure and an establishment of a rapport with the audience.
Apart from maintaining the audience’s attention, it allows both parties to feel comfortable and significantly reduces the presenter’s level of anxiety. A good beginning deserves an equally good ending. Some experts dispense with the idea of starting the conclusion by stating that it is a recapitulation of the presentation as people may switch off. They favor either a sudden end marked with a phrase that will linger in the memories of the audience, or with a flourish, pace as well as voice carrying listener through a powerful crescendo (Blair, n. d. ).
Preparing the body of the presentation does not translate to writing down the speech word for word. Having the main points on cards provides an outline as well as an effective memory jogger. Important questions to keep in mind, as stated in the research phase are the purpose, the nature of people attending, their familiarity on the subject and audience’s attitude towards the speaker. Other options to explore in terms of the structure of the body are timeline, problem/solution, classification, climax and complex to simple (or vice versa) layout (Clark, 2007).
In contemporary group communication, visual aids are vital as they reinforce the delivery of the verbal message. Technology has lent itself to this respect, allowing for larger audiences to participate. Behavioral studies suggest that novelty and creativity in the application of visual aids is a major contributor to the success of a presentation. An example is displaying four different styles of hats when describing four major functions of project managers. With traditional aids, the rule of thumb is to employ different slides for distinct purposes; they should not be there at all if they have no purpose.
Slides should not be cluttered as it has the counteractive effect of confusing the audience, rather than elucidating verbal message. Presenters must speak to their audience, as opposed to the visual aids. Therefore they must be thoroughly conversant with every slide to avoid presenting their backs to the audience as they struggle to explain what is going on. Legibility, color, contrast and size are factors to consider in the design of each slide. Everyone in the room should easily follow the aids without movement or strain. Delivery is another pillar of presentations.
Presenters on one hand have the ability to enhance a presentation manifold and on the other, butcher it. The discussions of this aspect start with focus on the eyes. The fact that they are usually described as windows to the soul indicates that they are the first, most effective instruments in convincing people of speakers’ openness, honesty and their confidence in the material they are presenting. Herein lies the importance of maintaining eye contact. Doing so with all sections of the audience, accompanied by the hint of a smile convinces an audience that the presenter acknowledges and values their presence.
Voice is the next aspect to assess, particularly variation and projection. However, projection does not mean shouting. Carefully watching the audience is the best indicator of the level of audibility. Voice variation is so powerful that it can make a well prepared presentation appear dull or make transform a boring topic into an exciting one. This aspect rules out monotonic speeches and their soporific effect. Changes in tone and well timed poses emphasize delineation and express certain feelings, moods and emotions.
Rhetorical questions have proved useful in this respect as they inherently have tone variations at the end (Blair, n. d. ). Body language, expressed through appearance and stance are other important elements under the topic of formal presentation tactics. Posture as well as body orientation communicate a multitude of messages. By standing erect while leaning forward, speakers express approachability, receptiveness and friendliness. Gestures also play their role by making the content of the presentation more interesting in addition to facilitating understanding (Clark, 2007).
The topic of speaker anxiety has been tackled from a number of angles. Some people insist on the impact of a simple change in attitude (Sathoff, 2008) while others encourage speakers to embrace nerves. The thinking behind the proposal is premised on the “flight or fight” condition occasioned by the release of adrenaline. Welcoming and recognizing nerves allows speakers to gain the edge by taking the fight option. They tackle the challenge of the presentation better, achieving better results than they envisaged.
Attitude change encompasses positive thinking, mental visualizations of the task at hand and the belief that mistakes are part and parcel of the learning process. In all cases, deep breaths and short water breaks are of great help. Alcohol is not an option, as misinformed parties claim (Clark, 2007). Formal presentations are powerful avenues for self expression. Practice really does make perfect. Listening and watching self recordings allows for self discovery. Presenters can assess their performance and improvement against a checklist.
Watching seasoned presenters in their element provides tried and tested success tricks. It is quite heartening to learn that oral presentation skills can easily be learned. Works Cited: Blair, G. M. , “Presentation Skills for Emergent Managers”, n. d. Retrieved on 25th March, 2009, from http://www. see. ed. ac. uk/~gerard/Management/art1. html Clark, D. R. , “Presentation Skills”, 2007. Retrieved on 25th March, 2009, from http://www. nwlink. com/~donclark/leader/leadpres. html Sathoff, R. , “Speaker Tips”, 2008. Retrieved on 25th March, 2009, from http://www. ed-u. com/publicspeaking. htm