Seven steps to a powerful presentation

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Steve Campion

Presentations are a key part to working life and cover all sectors and job titles. Despite the commonality of them, many business men and women struggle to get their point across in a cohesive, informative and attention-grabbing way.

Business Leader Magazine recently sat down with Steve Campion of Toastmasters International, a non-profit organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills.

Campion talks to us about Toastmasters and the seven steps to a powerful presentation.

Can you give our readers an overview of Toastmasters International?

Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. Our organisation has more than 352,000 memberships. Members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 16,400 clubs in 141 countries that make up our global network of meeting locations.

You have over 300 clubs and have over 7500 members in the UK and Ireland – how do you help these people?

Each club is affiliated to Toastmasters International which provides educational programmes covering communication and leadership.  Club members help each other by creating a supportive atmosphere and helping each other to learn to both give and receive feedback.

Members give speeches at club meetings as well as taking on various other speaking and organisational roles:   for example, chairing the meeting, giving verbal feedback to a speaker, introducing guests or taking part in the off-the-cuff impromptu speaking part of a meeting.  People also give educational speeches and run workshops to share ideas and build members’ skills.

Members take their turn to be on the club committee which not only helps the club but helps individuals to develop their leadership skills.

The world of Toastmasters is organised in districts so we have local district (volunteer) leaders who support the clubs in the UK and Ireland.  I’m currently serving as the area director supporting 7 clubs in Hertfordshire and Luton.

What are the 7 steps to a powerful presentation?

The audience

Think about your audience, why they are there, the size of the group and what they may already know about the topic.  Build a “persona” to help you – give your persona a name and think about what they’re like, why they’re here, their hopes and fears and how you might solve their problem.

The message

Stick to just one message.  It could be to solve their problem by buying your product, investing in your project or changing a policy.  As Stephen Covey says in The 7 habits of highly effective people; “begin with the end in mind”. If you’re not sure what the audience should think, feel and believe by the end of your presentation, then grab a few PostIt notes and start doodling; turn “buy my market research service” into “hear how XYZ improved results by delighting their customers”.  Remember to focus on the benefit to the audience.

The planning

Step away from the keyboard…. again use PostIt notes to plan out the key points, then add a story or anecdote for each.  Rather than saying that your taxi company has more drivers than anyone else, share a story of how a client had been able to get to the airport after a last-minute flight change.  Although most business presentations need to contain facts and figures, it’s the stories and emotional connection that we remember.

If you’re thinking of adding charts and graphs – ask yourself; “will this chart make it easier for THIS audience to understand THIS message?” If not, try something different.  If you do need to provide the detailed data, then make it available through a handout or a follow-up email.

The images

Use your own photos, or search for free-to-use ones under the “Creative Commons” license. Alternatively use a low-cost photo library – there are plenty around.  Photos, quotes and videos from your current customers can help.

However, avoid using a video at the start of your presentation – it’s a great way to send the audience to sleep.  If you are presenting at an event, make sure that your first and last slides have your name and contact details, and the event hashtag if there is one.

Consider your use of text carefully; use it sparingly and use a large, clear font.  Remember, your audience can’t read and listen to you at the same time, so always pause after revealing something on the screen.

The rehearsal

Although you’re not aiming for perfection, practice will make you better.  Rehearse what you’re going to say and how you’re going to use your slides. Go back to your persona(s) and imagine their reaction as you make each point.  Make any notes that you need, but don’t read to the audience.  The rehearsal process builds confidence and allows you to practise your timing.  If you have 15 minutes for your presentation, don’t prepare 45 minutes of content.

The equipment

Check what equipment you’ll need and pay attention to connectors for screens and projectors.  Bring spares of everything including a power extension cable.  Have your presentation on a USB stick – just in case.  Remember; things can change at the last minute, so be prepared to adapt. Arrive early so that you can test that everything is working.

The delivery

Compose your thoughts and smile.  Then enjoy the experience of delivering your powerful presentation to an audience that will be enthralled, delighted and convinced by your message.

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