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Presentation Skills


This is the report from the TrainingZone Online Workshop held on 8 February 2000 on the subject of Presentation Skills, led by Andrea McHuch

Some things we could talk about: preparing for presentations (knowing what to include, organising the presentation), presentation nerves/confidence, making presentations interesting. Any questions?
Hi Brenda
I have to give a lecture on Friday to 200 undergraduates, and having never talked to this number of people nor this type of audience before, I would be interested in presentation skills for situations similar to this.
I think presentation nerves/ confidence would be very interesting
Beth I think in preparing a presentation the first thing to get clear is the purpose of the presentation, and what the audience are expecting.
Good afternoon Catherine.
Hello Andrea
Regarding audience sizes, I spoke to someone recently who was presenting to 40 people. He talked about taking his '40 people smile' with him. He clearly differentiated between body language for different groups.
Hi Andrea
I have dealt with smaller audiences previously and I have always felt happier with that as I could make eye contact with most people and Feel like I was engaging with each of them in aconversation, however the larger audience seems a daunting prospect...
Size seems to make a difference to some people and not others; is this a confidence thing, experience, or just brass necks?
Yes Beth it can seem daunting. But depending on the venue and layout you should still be able to make eye contact with most people (or seem to). I think you need to avoid the 'looking at the back of the hall' syndrome.
Tim, it's probably a bit of all of them. Experience is very important - not so much experience of presenting, but experience and knowledge of the topic you are discussing.
Sorry I'm late, am I forgiven?
I think in my case it is a mixture of lack of expereince of presenting and lack of my own confidence in myself and my knowledge
Hello Peter and welcome. We're currently talking about presenting to large numbers of people and how this worries some people more than others.
Welcome to several new people joining in; the current topics under discussion are - size of group, and presentation nerves
I believe knowing your audience also makes a difference
A favourite topic of mine, 1:1 or to 200+ I've found that true self confidence from you own knowledge, and ability to accept argument on the fly, really works.
I think the key is preparation. Knowing the purpose of the presentation, understanding the needs of the audience, and planning what you're going to cover.
Yes Sheyman and this involves thinking about their likely responses and questions.
hi I'm Jo I'm also late and trying to work out what I do to interact with everyone. I agree about being comfortable about what your talking about.
Hi Jo and welcome
Hello Andie - we're talking about sizes of audience, preparation and confidence.
Hi - Andie Hemming here
I wonder how you gain confidence, or how you give the impression of confidence/ appear to the audience as confident...
Agree Andrea, understanding needs of audience is key; I've worked on strategies that enable me to pick that up on the fly, especially when they don't know, or are too afraid to say.
Peter - what strategies do you use?
Hi Beth, not wishing to sound arrogantly confident, but I can perhaps help there.
Beth, I think you gain confidence by doing as many presentations as you can; by fully preparing (sorry to keep going on about that); and by 'appearing' confident. Small things like standing, moving around can give an impression of confidence.
Yes Peter please share your strategies.
I know this may seem simplistic, but I use a technique called positive projection. It helps me focus on success and not failure. I also learned to breathe more effecively!
Most people approach presentations with the expectation that they are there to talk; another approach is to ask questions, engage, and find our where they're at.
What sort of presentation would you give when you are trying to market a concept?
Hi Andie; I fly packets of potential interest areas, into the audience, bit like setting up ducks at the fair, and I find when one or two connect, then we have the seed of the route to take.
Good point Tim, particularly for smaller groups.
Jo could you explain about positive projection?
Like your style Jo, sounds like it works for you too. Very important. And they're fun to do aren't they?!
We are all good at thinking everthing is going to be a failure and almost run a tape in our heads -seing all the bad things. I try to imagine things going well, the audience interested, that sort of thing
Beth - I also think that use of NLP both as a confidence giver (mastering and accessing your own internal motivation) and as a strategic use of language to appeal to as many types of people in the audience as possible is a useful strategy. I like the 'flying packets' idea very much! I guess this is easier with a smaller audience?
Sheyman if it's a new concept you need to link it to what the audience already know - make it real for them. Any ideas from anyone else?
Andie - could you explain NLP
Flying packets work with any size, because they feel involved, especially if you tehn bring everyone else into the game, as if they'd thought of it.
Yes - it's NeroLinguistic programming. This concerns itself with the study of excellence (how do people who are good at something do what they do and then replicate it) and the use of language by individuals which gives us clues as to how we think. This is a bit of a simplistic answer as it's a huge area but it's an incredibly useful tool for establishing rapport with others quickly.
Sheyman; agree with Andrea, make it real for them. I do this by working from feeling involved with the topic, not just knowledgable, because people always want to take you where the subject doesn't get to in a book. I use this in writing poetry,and find being able to write from the position of a doorknob or a bellybutton, say, trains you in that perspective switch.
If you're interested in NLP Beth I recommend Thorson's 'Principles of NLP' as an intro - it's by Joseph O Connor and Ian McDermott.
Andrea - I am trying to market the benefits of moving my HR department from an administrative role to a more strategic one and this is very difficult as my audience are all members of a very cohesive management team that oppose change.
Peter, I love the thought of you switching persectives from bellybutton to doorknob. I will take that thought away, for whenever I need a new angle on something
Group - I so agree with your comments about preparation and exposing yourself to as many chances as possible to present - so that the sting goes out of it! I also think that a bit of adrenaline is a good thing in this instance!
Whole-heartedly agree with you Jo, playing the right tape in your head is vital, I am noticing how difficult is for even bright seemingly confident people to do that in reality. So they need to know the architecture of success, which is something I dealwith in elf confidence coahcing
Sheyman - Peter's flying packets would be useful here. You need to get their input and involvement. It depends on the precise objective of your presentation but perhaps it shouldn't be to structured but based on a couple of open questions for discussion.
If training in presentation skills I think the use of a video camera is critical - especially as the 'new' presentation style is much more informal and people are encouraged to make them more 'personality' based than they have been in the past
I agree with Andie, the more chances the better. Perhaps we can actually take the initiative and OFFER to do a presentation and then you are in the driving seat.
Andrea - I think you are right, it should be more a particpative discussion?
A good point Andie - although video cameras cause a lot of anguish for many people. Certainly when training in presentation skills you must practice in front of the group.
Andrea, agree, need to be careful of structure, a loose-formation of ideas is useful to get you going. They used to say some of the old world war 2 aircraft were rivets flying in loose formation.
Yes Jo - offer to present at any opportunity - including contributing more to meetings.
Peter I can see why you write poetry!
Doesn't this depend on the subject? I agree that you'll want audience buy-in but a lot of this will mean spade-work before the presentation to get a feel for how well any new ideas are going to be received, canvassing opinion and maybe doing some active lobbying, as to what people want?
Its not only the practice that is important its asking for honest feedback on style, mannerisms etc and then working on your own presentation skills
Nothing like the real thing Jo, feel OK about having the chance to screw it up, so that you get the chance to learn, which everyone else was too scared to take.
That's why I like using video cameras - it gets a bit closer to replicating the real 'fear' scenario and feels like more of an achievement when the presentation is improved. Also people can see for themselves that they've got better - a great motivator and something that they can keep.
helen- I would agree with this. I feel that this can be lost when you a video recorder is introduced into the process.
Andie, I've found one reason people fail at interview, is because they prepare too much, that they are unable to listen and learn from their audience; too busy trying to get it right, and not enough on doing what works.
Beth Dunbar> Peter- SO would you sugest that you prepare but you dont cling to rigidly to that, you allow yourself to adapt and respond to the audience.
Some people may find the video off putting but being in a "safe environment" when practising with people you trust is key to learning from their feedback.
I see your point Andie, but I've found a video can ONLY record, it can't replicate the fear in someone, which is why I use poetry skills to help the words convey that feeling between people.
Peter - absolutely true - it's a delicate balance between over preparing and suffering from over confidence or not-listening-itis! or under preparing and falling flat on their faces! For a big presentation (like a new product launch or whatever) I still don't think you can ever be underprepared.
Absolutely Beth, so it helps to have people, including yoursefl, throw a few sticks at it, to stimulate how you would react to someone asking you that question. I've found people are most impressed when the speaker can handle a question none of the audience would like to have faced.
I use mind maps for planning presentations, then there isn't a danger of just reading through what you've prepared. It's much easier to be flexible during the presentation.
Andrea- I agree. I think the secret is to REALLY know your subject and be confident in what you want to get out of it and so leave yourself free to take comments from left field, difficult questions, hecklers and the like!
Peter - I don't agree with you on this. I find that people HATE to be video'd and that's where the fear comes in - but it's in a controlled, and hopefully friendly!, environment! This is my experience of its use.
Does anyone sometimes feel like they are taking on the role of a "lecturer" when they are giving a presentation?
Sheyman - Yes!! This may be a perfectly appropriate style if the purpose of the presentation is to impart information don't you think?
I have a fear that i may dry up / loose my train of thought if I do not have extensive notes, however once I start a presentation I then feel restricted by my rigid notes.
Andrea, agree flexibility is the key, and do this with a recent skill I've picked up of storytelling, so I can navigate through milstones to the successful conclusion, even if I get taken off-track by a delegate.
Andie - what if your audience don't respond well to you being on this role?
Beth I think this is a good use of notes - for preparation and backup - if you have done your preparation well and know your topic you won't need to follow the notes rigidly.
Beth, try the storytelling course, it will deal with that, I've sen exactly what you're talking about.
Helen - Beth if you have your detailed notes but just highlight the key points, you will find you can let go of the notes and focus on the key points, the fact that you have prepared well and know the topic will help you to let go.
Sheyman - if this happens engage more wiht the audience, ask questions, give examples/anecdotes.
Andie, take your point people hating being video'd, but the fear they are going to actually face may different, if it helps, go for it, but need to be sure the right fear is beign dealt with.
Sheyman - well, hopefully if I've got my homework right I'll adopt the right tone for the type of presentation - instructive, faciliative, persuasive, or whatever. Srtill, if it's not going well one's only option is to change your style or ask the audience if they'd like a different one/ find it more useful.
Thanks! thats some good few tips.
I think all presentaions should be treated as new journeys, with some materail you know, and some you don't, and run with what happens, just like real life. It's not process, although it can look like it.
Peter - agreed. I think if one's flexible enough to change direction if necessary then how you get to your destination is up for grabs!
Could you combine methods, i.e notes + mind map. So I would cover all of my points via the mind map but have the comfort of having a big handful of notes beside me. This would allow me to be felxible in my appraoch but still have the knowledge at my fingertips.
Beth I think it's a case of using whatever works for you.
Beth, you might find it helpful to associate a group of words in story form with each slide, you may find you're making your mind store stuff it doesn't need for a while, and then it gets confused.
Beth - this sounds like a good policy. Maybe have Bullet points on the left hand page and more comprehensive notes on the right hand page. All the PC presentation packages have the facility to provide a notes page for your foils and I have found this to be VERY useful in the past.ion
Sorry - for 'foils' use 'overheads'!
We're into the last 10 minutes or so. Does anyone want to ask any other questions about presentation skills?
Yes, Andie, and there's some very good mindmap software available too.
How do people test audience satisfaction?
Sometimes, I find it difficult to fit in all of what you have to say in your presentation, in a very tight time -limit, does anyone else find this hard?
Yes please Andrea! If you're training it in it can be quite a tedious process, although of course I'll try to make it anything but! Does anyone have any thoughts about making it interesting? In one of the companies I train in (not presentation skills thankfully!!) people are heard to groan when they hear that this course is being offered!
Sheyman - when preparing for the presentation work out what they must know, need to know, nice to know etc. Don't try to give them too much. You can always back up your presentation with written material if necessary.
Sheyman, I usually run with 80% content, and acept that other stuff on the day will fill the time.
Peter, I think the feedback comes all the way through the presentation and from comments afterwards.
Agreed Andrea - if you keep your antennae switched on you can 'feel' how it's going and get more formal feedback at the end.
We seem to be coming to the end of the time and people are leaving. Can I say thanks to Andrea for leading this session. I'll post the transcript this afternoon if you want to read it. Otherwise just close the window when you're ready!
Andie how about using some of the ideas and imagery that Peter has been suggesting?
Andrea, go along with that, that's how it is for me, nice to know others do that.
All - Thanks for sharing your experince and for your useful advice, much appreciated.
Yes - I must read the transcript to pick up on the bits I missed before I joined in. Thanks for this Andrea - good job, interesting subject!!
Thanks to everyone for your ideas and comments. Please email me if you want to ask any other questions and you think I can help.
Thanks Andrea and all, enjoyed the discussion very much, nice and loosely flowing.
Andrea - and all, thanks for the tips!


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