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Presentation Fillers: 4 Quick Tips to Help

Are you using too many presentation fillers when presenting?

Have you ever given a presentation and started using words like ‘umm’, ‘erm’, ‘well’, ‘I’m not sure’, ‘maybe’, ‘how can I put this’, etc. because you didn’t know what to say or how to answer someone’s question? Have you thought about the effect this has on your listeners? You want your listener to think that you know your topic very well, that you are well-prepared and that your English language skills are very good. Unfortunately, words and phrases like the ones above (which are called fillers) can leave your listener asking themselves why they should listen to you if you don’t really have anything important to say. Even worse, your audience might start focusing on these words instead of the topic of your presentation. That’s why it is important to know how to act when giving a presentation. Here are some tips for you to remember so your audience doesn’t get distracted by your words instead of hearing and remembering your intended message.

4 Tips to help decrease presentation fillers

1.  Know your material. This includes your slides, but also the English words you use on them, other jargon (or specific language) which is important to explain your product or strategy as well as verbs to make your presentation active. Using all of these correctly will reduce the need to use fillers because you are knowledgeable about your subject.

2.  Anticipate questions. Think about possible questions the audience might ask and the answers you might give before the day of the presentation. You might think this is a waste of time, but if you can anticipate the ideas and the vocabulary you might need in advance, you won’t need to use a filler phrase to gain time.

3.  Practice your presentation in advance.  While you might not need to memorize the presentation, you should go through it at least once before giving the presentation, (the more often, the better, however). Practicing the presentation means that you have said what you want to say out loud, that you have thought about your introduction and conclusion and that you have practiced using the visual aids, (slides, props, flipchart etc.) while speaking. This is not always as easy as it looks, especially while doing everything in another language! (For those of you who have a Target Incorporate Trainer in your company, you can ask them to help you with this).Contact us now

4.  Be comfortable with silence. Perhaps this sounds silly to you, but some people use fillers simply because they don’t like silence. In today’s world of constant sounds, it is an easy trap to fall into. This doesn’t mean, however, that saying something without content is better for your audience than saying nothing at all. Everyone, including your audience, needs a chance to think and organize their thoughts before responding to or asking a question. Allow them to do this without interruptions!

 

Finally, some words of advice. Don’t worry if you still use presentation fillers occasionally. Even native speakers sometimes use them. What’s most important is not to overuse them. Let us know if you have any comments below and good luck on your next presentation!  Also, check out our seminar on Presenting with IMPACT to get better results with your presentations.

Head, Hand & Heart: 3 elements all presentations need

Every presentation is different. Or is it? In this short video, Chris Slattery, Managing Director and training enthusiast, outlines the three elements all presenters need to keep in mind to make sure their presentations runs well. By keeping the key elements of head, hand and heart in mind even the most inexperienced presenter can deliver a clear and memorable message.

Discover more about how we integrate the Head, Hand and Heart model into our seminars here.

Presentation slides: 4 Keys to Keeping Attention

4 Keys to good presentation slides

Creating presentation slides that summarize your points but still keep your audience’s attention isn’t easy. Ever try talking to someone who is busy reading a book? It’s not easy to get and hold their attention, is it? This is what happens when you stand up to make a presentation and your presentation slides are full of text. The audience will be splitting their attention between trying to read and trying to listen. You should keep your text to a minimum, and never just read from your presentation slides. So, to ensure that your slides support your message rather than distracting from it, here are a few tips.

1.bmp3 main points per slide, one sentence per point. If there is too much information on the slides, your audience will not be able to concentrate on what you are saying as they will be trying to read the slides.

 

2Slides should NEVER include paragraphs.  You are the presenter; the slides support you, not the other way around.  If you need a lot of text, you should be sending a report or email. They should not contain information that the speaker or audience needs to spend time reading.  This information can be included in the handouts.

387% of the information we process is through what we see, 9% is through what we hear and 4% is from other senses1.  If you want people to listen to what you are saying and to understand it, don’t ask them to read at the same time.  If you want them to read, perhaps you should email them a report instead.

4When you want to talk, try adding a blank slide into your presentation – they will have nothing else to look at so they’ll concentrate on you.

 

 

Remember

Your presentation slides support your message, they don’t tell the whole story for you! Let us know what has worked for you in the comments area below.

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[1] Sheldon Press; Pease, Alan; “Body Language, How to read others thoughts by their gestures”

4 Ds of Presentations

Do you know the 4 Ds?

You are a good presenter — you are engaging, funny and energetic. You like the challenge of speaking in public and you are good at it. Yet you have the feeling sometimes that you could be doing more or doing things differently.  There are some situations in which you connect better to the audience than others and you feel you can do better.  You can do this by paying attention to the 4 Ds:

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Development – Design – Delivery – Debriefing

The 4 Ds of presentations

Development

There is no “one size fits all” solution for what to do to make a good presentation. Success depends on the audience and the situation as to what techniques are more likely to work and what aren’t.  That’s where the first D comes in, Development. In this sense, development means developing your understanding of the context of your presentation before moving on to designing the content. The more special the situation or presentation is for you, the more time you should invest in understanding what may happen before it does. Are key decision makers warm to the idea you are presenting or not? Does the audience have mixed opinions? What goals unite you and the audience in ways they can appreciate? Is the audience expecting a lot of data? How formal or informal do they expect you to be? Knowing the answers to these and other questions can lead to a refined message and different design and delivery behaviors than you may be used to.

Design

You know the importance of a good looking presentation. Many companies recognize the importance of presentation design so much that they hire professional designers to produce them. That means sometimes presenters are asked to present presentations they didn’t personally create. Often they are produced to fill a function, like introducing your company, not meet the needs of a specific audience. Generic presentations mean the presenter needs to work harder to make the material relevant to their audience.  The key in design is, if the information shared is important to the audience, they will pay attention to it. The best format helps but the relevance of the information makes the difference.

Delivery

Certain delivery techniques can help us deal with the prepackaged design situation effectively. We can draw our audience’s attention to a special part of a slide by using a pointer and the phrase “Let me draw your attention to…” if there is too much information on the slide. You can tell stories to bring meaning to data and you can relate charts and graphs to the experiences of your audience without changing a slide. The results of your development work will point you in the best direction. If you need to do something for the audience that is outside of your comfort zone: practice, practice, practice. The more you practice a different style the more comfortable you will become.

Debriefing

Getting feedback from your audience about your presentation is important to continual process improvement. This means getting feedback solely about the presentation itself and not its outcome. This can be difficult to do yet there are some ideas worth considering. Have a third party write down the audiences’ questions for review after the presentation. Ask audience members about specific delivery behaviors you are working on, like eye contact, controlling your movements and how you use your hands rather than simply asking them what they thought of the presentation.

Increase your chance of success

The 4 Ds of presentations; Development, Design, Delivery and Debriefing, can help you tailor your presentations to specific audiences and make the appropriate adjustments in your style to increase your chances of success. Let us know some of your experiences in the comments area below.

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Here are just a few posts for you to explore if you want to learn more on this topic.

Asking Good Questions in Presentations

3 Quick tips on asking good questions in presentations

Asking good questions during a presentation can be difficult. If you haven’t understood a point in the presentation, it is likely that other people in the audience will be thinking the same as you. You don’t want to leave the presentation with a question mark in your head so it is important to ask your question. Other people in the audience will likely be pleased that you have asked.  Here are 3 quick tips on asking good questions in presentations.

1.  Prepare

Write your question down before you ask it. This will allow you to reflect on your question before you ask it, as well as giving you time to check to see if it is understandable.  Also, some questions sound good at first, but you may reconsider asking them after a minute of thought.

2.  Provide context

Some presentations are long and your question may be related to a topic covered 10 minutes ago. Provide some context of what the topic was or what point you are addressing. This will help both the person who is answering the question and the rest of the audience understand what you are talking about.  It also shows that you have been paying attention and are following the presentation.Contact us now

3.  One question

Try to ask just one question instead of clustering your questions. If you ask a lot of questions all at the same time, it can confuse the presenter and you probably won’t get the detailed response you are looking for.  If you have a two or three part question, wait until the presenter answers the first question and then ask your next question.  They may answer your second question in their first answer.

If you have any more tips on asking good questions in presentations, please let us know in the comments section below.

Handling Difficult Questions in Presentations

How are you handling difficult questions in your presentations?

So you’ve spent hours preparing your slides, practicing in front of the mirror, and learning the material you are presenting inside and out. The big presentation comes and you breeze through it confidently and calmly. You are about to finish up and just quickly ask the audience if there are any questions.

“Any questions?  Ok, if not then…”

The difficult questions then arrive, one after another. Questions that you are not prepared for, don’t have the answers to, are not completely clear as to what they mean, etc. It has happened to us of all in one form or another, and is perfectly normal to presenters of all experience levels. What helps separate good presenters from “not so good” presenters is the ability in handling difficult questions professionally and effectively. Here are some quick tips to help.

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When handling difficult questions…

1.bmpThank the person for their question

“Thank you for your question.”
“That is a really good question and I am glad you asked it.”

2Clarify that you understand the question if necessary (or to buy some time to come up with a good answer).

“So, if I understand you correctly, you are asking me if we…….”
“Just to make sure I give you the correct answer, are you saying that if……”

3Answer with one of the 3 options depending on the question:

Admit that you don’t know the answer and turn it over to the audience to help.

“I’m afraid that isn’t my area of expertise, but I am sure someone else here may know the answer to that.”
“Can anyone help answer that question?”

Admit that someone you work with would be better suited to answer that, and you will consult with them and get back to the person.

“Unfortunately I don’t have the answer for that now, but I have a colleague that can answer that question.  Can we meet after the presentation and exchange contact details?  I will then ask him and get you the answer right away.”

You need more information on the question, it is a private question, or you don’t have the time to answer it in front of the whole audience.  Ask to meet later.  

“I think it would be better if I got a little more information from you to help answer that question.  Can we meet after the presentation at lunch?  I would be happy to get you more information then.”

Example

Question:  “Do you have the latest forecast sales figures for the 3rd quarter?”

Answer:  “Thanks for your question.  Just to make sure I give you the correct answer, are you asking for the forecast sales figures for the German location or the total figures worldwide?  (Clarification given by person who asked question) Unfortunately I don’t have the answer for that now, but I have a colleague who can answer that question.  Can we meet after the presentation and exchange contact details?  I will then ask him and get you the answer right away.  (Person agrees)  Great, thanks for the question.  Any other questions?”

Keeping these things in mind when handling difficult questions in presentations will allow you to seem more prepared and make your presentation go more smoothly. Want more info on how to be a better presenter?  Click here.

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Presentation Introductions for Beginners: The 3 Ps

Presentation introductions for beginners

Do the thoughts of presentation introductions make you nervous? Does the idea of speaking in front of people make your mouth go dry? Well keep reading …
If you are nervous about presenting in English, making effective presentation introductions is especially important.  Effective presentation introductions will help your audience know what to expect and it will help you feel confident. Once you’ve started well it is easier to keep going – and don’t forget that your audience is there to listen to what you have to say and not your English.

The 3Ps

A colleague shared this simple technique with me, and it always works. When you are presenting in English (or in any language) your introduction needs to answer three questions:Contact us now

  1. Why are you standing there presenting? What is the purpose of your presentation?
  2. What are the steps in your presentation? What is the process you will follow?
  3. Why should your audience listen to you?  What is their payoff?

It doesn’t matter if you are introducing your team, presenting a process or giving an update on a project – the structure is the same. The 3Ps help you remember this structure, and if it helps you when you are nervous, why not use the three keywords?

An example of the 3Ps in action

“Good afternoon and thank you for coming.  The purpose of my presentation today is to update you on the factory acceptance test.  The process I will follow is to first review the agreed schedule, then talk about the tools we are using and finally we will look at two problems we have found and how we will solve them.  This will take me 10 minutes. Why should you listen?  Well, your payoff is that you will be confident that we can complete the FAT on schedule and that everything is under control.”

If you follow this structure your presentation introductions will be simple, clear and effective.  Most importantly you can concentrate on what you want to say, and stop worrying about the English.
Good luck, and let me know how it works for you in the comments area below.

 

Storytelling in Business – Why Not? Part 2

The power of storytelling in business

Storytelling is again a topic of interest in the business communications world.  Conferences and speakers around the world are praising the power of storytelling and attracting audiences. My question is, why? Humans have told stories since our earliest beginnings. We all tell stories.

“Storytelling comes naturally to humans, but since we live in an unnatural world, we sometimes need a little help doing what we’d naturally do.” ― Dan Harmon

It was part of our survival and development. Stories are all around us, from campfires to multimillion dollar movies, so why do we have to make a case for it in a business environment?

This second part of a two-part blog post (part 1) covers the two remaining things we learned when preparing a seminar about storytelling in business. This seminar gives participants the skills and determination to tell more stories and better stories in the workplace.

Courage to connect

Lesson 4

If work for you is simply an exchange of power, storytelling and other enhanced communication tools are not important.  Others will translate what you say into orders if you are in a power position just as you may interpret orders from your superiors.
If you want your workplace to be a place where people build something together instead of following the orders of the few, storytelling is an active strategy to humanize the workplace for you and your co-workers. It provides opportunities for meaningful connections that inspire trust.

From stories to action

Lesson 5

A good story can set the stage in a business environment and yet we often need to make the purpose clear once it is complete.  We can achieve that socratically through a debriefing method or by simply telling the listeners what we had in mind directly.

Why this works

A clear explanation of the purpose of the story provides a natural, logical connection to the observation of what the teller and the listeners need to accomplish in a business environment. Getting things done on an individual level is a function of:

  • understanding clearly what to do
  • having the ability to do it
  • being motivated to get it done

Address the why

Stories can clearly address the “why” of an action leading to an increase in commitment to doing it. When listeners can connect the story to their current situation, they become involved in the process of identifying what to do and why it needs to be done—without having to be told.

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See how Target Training provides skill development seminars about Storytelling in business and many other communication skills to increase your effectiveness in the workplace. Let us know if you have anything to add in the comments box below.

 

Presentation Introduction Phrases Toolbox

Key to success

Making an effective presentation introduction is key to the success of your presentation. Not only will it give you confidence and a strong foundation to build on, it will also instill confidence in the listener, showing them that you are well prepared and have taken the presentation seriously.

So how do you make an effective presentation introduction? Here are some important points to cover, as well as some phrases to use.

Useful Presentation Introduction Structure and Phrases

Welcome the audience

  • Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming today.
  • Thank you all very much for coming today.
  • I hope you all had a pleasant journey here today.

Introduce yourself

  • My name is Markus Fischer and I am responsible for … .
  • My name is Markus Fischer from [name of company], where I am responsible for … .
  • Let me introduce myself; my name is Markus Fischer and I am responsible for … .

Introduce your subject and outline your structure

  • My presentation today will cover three points.
  • In today’s presentation I’d like to cover three points. Firstly…, secondly… and finally…
  • To start with I’ll describe the progress made this year. Then I’ll mention some of the problems we’ve encountered and how we overcame them. After that I’ll consider the possibilities for…

Speak about timing

  • The presentation will last for 20 minutes.Contact us now
  • The presentation will take about 20 minutes.
  • Today, I will be speaking for about 20 minutes on this topic.

Speak about questions

  • If you have any questions you’d like to ask, please leave them until the end, when I’ll be happy to answer them.
  • Do feel free to interrupt me if you have any questions.
  • I’ll try to answer all of your questions after the presentation.

Let us know if you have any suggestions of other phrases or approaches for making an effective presentation introduction in the comments area below.

Example presentation introduction

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming today. My name is Markus Fischer and I am responsible for … . In today’s presentation I’d like to cover three points. Firstly…, secondly… and finally… The presentation will take about 20 minutes and if you have any questions you’d like to ask, please leave them until the end, when I’ll be happy to answer them. So if there are no questions, then I will begin.

Click here to learn more about how you can make more impact with your presentations.

Storytelling in Business – Why Not? Part 1

The power of storytelling in business

Storytelling is again a topic of interest in the business communications world.  Conferences and speakers around the world are praising the power of storytelling and attracting audiences. My question is, why? Humans have told stories since our earliest beginnings. We all tell stories.

“Storytelling comes naturally to humans, but since we live in an unnatural world, we sometimes need a little help doing what we’d naturally do.” ― Dan Harmon

It was part of our survival and development. Stories are all around us, from campfires to multimillion dollar movies, so why do we have to make a case for it in a business environment?

Generally, I think the answer is fear. We are afraid to “lay an egg”, reveal too much of ourselves, show too much emotion or not be taken seriously at work. After all, work is the activity in which most of us invest most of our waking hours so there’s a lot at stake.

This two-part blog post covers five things we learned when preparing a seminar about storytelling in business. Our storytelling seminar gives participants the skills and determination to tell more stories and better stories in the workplace.

5 Lessons about storytelling in business: Lessons 1-3

What does your listener want?

Lesson 1

What attracts audiences to the telling of a story?  It comes down to three things:

  1. emotion
  2. energy
  3. authenticity

Telling bedtime stories to children is a practical example of the standards adults have for stories as well, though many may not say it. Children will demand expressions of the energy of the characters, the emotion of the plot and telling the story “like you mean it”. Adults need these things too to be engaged.

What makes a good story good?

Lesson 2

As Aristotle observed, a good story starts with a character in trouble. The character is one the audience can identify with–not too good to be in trouble and not too bad to deserve the trouble to come.  The story progresses with the development and deepening of the trouble to create a sense of fear in the audience so the resolution of the problems leaves the audience with a sense of relief.
Aristotle referred to the stages as pity, fear, and catharsis. Stories from Greek tragedy to Toy Story follow this model in one way or another.
In the workplace we can tell stories about problems, consequences and solutions to reflect Aristotle’s model.

Crafting stories that fit

Lesson 3

The STAR Model is a basic and effective format for telling stories in a business environment. The model fits the needs of business audiences as it sets the scene, describes the action in it and talks about what happened to resolve the situation. This model is very effective in behavioral interviewing, answering questions about past performance and offering a status update.

Situation – clearly explain the facts and assumptions that make up the context of the action.

Task – detail the task to be completed or the goal to be reached.

Actions taken – describe all relevant actions taken to complete the task.

Results achieved – describe the immediate outputs and eventual outcomes of the actions taken.

Make sure to check our site for part 2 next Wednesday. See how Target Training provides skill development seminars about Storytelling and many other communication skills to increase your effectiveness in the workplace.

Let us know if you have any comments on the first three lessons below.

Presentation Mistakes: 3 Ways to Handle Yours

We all make mistakes

We all make presentation mistakes. Sometimes we don’t realize we’ve made them until it’s too late. Sometimes the presentation mistakes don’t get noticed by others, and sometimes they do. You may have experienced the following: you are in the middle of a presentation when you realize the information on your next slide is wrong. What do you do? Continue presenting the information as though nothing is out of the ordinary? Admit that there is a mistake? Use a little humor and turn it into a test to see if anyone can spot the mistake?

3 reasons to prevent the audience from pointing out presentation mistakes

  1. You stay in control. If you point it out you are in control of the situation. You are only human and you can address it in a way that you think works best for your personality.
  2. You can stop questions that might annoy you.  Unfortunately there are some people who delight in picking holes in things. There are others who are more interested in the accuracy of details than in the bigger picture. Someone who is concerned about accuracy will be upset about the fact that, e.g. all the nouns in a headline do not start with a capital, and may chose to point this out. If you’re a big picture kind of person, you will not understand why the other person felt it necessary to comment on something so seemingly trivial. You will get irritated, which is not helpful in the middle of a presentation, and you might not respond to that positively.
  3. You save face. It can be disconcerting and embarrassing to have someone in the audience draw attention to your mistake. This may affect you for the rest of the presentation.  You may also lose credibility.

Phrases to use when realizing presentation mistakes

  • “Can anyone spot the mistake on this slide?”
  • “I’ve just noticed a mistake on this slide. It should read sales rose by 2% not to 2%. Apologies for that.”
  • “Bear with me for a second while I correct the error here”.Contact us now

3 results of pointing out your own presentation mistakes

  1. You stay credible. Mistakes are OK if you own up to them. If someone else points them out then this is where you can begin to feel uncomfortable.
  2. You come across as human.  Your open, honest approach will impress. After all, who doesn’t make mistakes?
  3. You have the opportunity to include the audience. If you challenge them to find the mistake, they need to wake up and think.

Presentation mistakes aren’t generally a problem. It’s how they are handled that can be. Having a strategy ready for how to react if you notice a mistake in your own presentation, will prevent you from having to think on your feet. Let us know if you have any other phrase or ideas to add to this post. Want to know more how how to become a better presenter? Click here.

Acronyms and Abbreviations in Presentations

Be clear and consistent

It can be very helpful to use acronyms and abbreviations on PowerPoint slides during a presentation.  This helps save time and space.  The key is to be clear as to what they represent, and then be consistent in using them.  A manager I train recently asked me to give feedback on a presentation he was giving to two new senior managers he would be directly reporting to. The presentation was about his department’s performance over the first half of this year.  After introductions, he settled in to his stride and I was really pleased to see that he had taken on board a lot of what we’d been working on in training. The presentation was well structured, pace and delivery were good, and he even felt confident enough to throw in a couple of jokes. One problem; it wasn’t until a good few minutes in to the presentation that I and his audience realized what some of the topics were that he was referring to. The problem? Abbreviations and acronyms.
Contact us nowBeing Clear with Acronyms and Abbreviations in Presentations

Acronyms and abbreviations are fine, as long as everybody is familiar with them. You’d be amazed at the amount of slides, documents and presentations I see where the use of acronyms and abbreviations confuses the reader about what is being presented. Believing that your audience will automatically understand because they come from the same business area or field of expertise as you is an easy trap to fall into.

Introducing Acronyms and Abbreviations in Presentations

When using acronyms or abbreviations in presentations, the first time you introduce them make sure to give the full word, name or title followed by the acronym or abbreviation in brackets.

For example: Structured Query Language (SQL). Using only the acronym or abbreviation after this shouldn’t then cause any problems.

Commonly Used Acronyms and Abbreviations in Presentations

AOB – any other business
asst. – assistant
B2B – business to business
CEO – Chief Executive Officer
CFO – Chief Financial Officer
dept. – department
mtg. – meeting
P & L – Profit and Loss
QTD – quarter to date
ROI – return on investment
YTD – year to date

So, being clear from the beginning with your acronyms and abbreviations in presentations can save you time and space on your slides.  All the while not confusing your audience, which is the most important thing. Want to improve your presentations overall?  Click here.

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Presentation Conclusions: Signal to the End

Strong start, strong finish

A good presentation conclusion is a very important part of any presentation, and often not given as much attention as it should.  Many people focus on starting strong with a good introduction, and then delivering good content.  There is nothing wrong with this as long as they finish with the same strength with which they started.  Many times I have seen presentations end awkwardly, which can leave a bad taste in the audience’s mouth.  A good presentation conclusion will have an effective summary, recommendation or call to action, and an opportunity to address any open issues through questions.  A part of a presentation conclusion that often gets forgotten is a clear and effective “signal to the end”.  A signal to the end is a one sentence phrase that is designed to show your audience that you are going to start your presentation conclusion.  It should be said right before you get into your summary, and should act as a clear sign to your audience.

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3 reasons to include a signal to the end in your presentation conclusion

  1. Wake up the audience.  Many times the audience loses focus and is daydreaming towards the end of the presentation.  This shows them that things are ending soon, and it is time to pay attention again.
  2. Reset your own focus.  Sometimes it is easy to go so in-depth on topics we know well that we lose focus on what our audience wants to hear.  The signal to the end not only wakes up the audience, but the speaker as well and allows them to deliver a strong presentation conclusion.
  3. Clarify your structure.  Presentations need clear structure so that the audience can focus on key points and follow along.  When you use effective transitional phrases such as a signal to the end, it creates clarity in your structure and helps the audience stay with you.

3 phrases to use as a signal to the end in your presentation conclusion

  1. This brings me to the end of my presentation.  To summarize my main points,…”
  2. Well, that is all I have for today.  Let me now summarize what I talked about…. ”
  3. I have now come to the end of my presentation.  In summary, I spoke about…”

3 results of using a signal to the end in your presentation conclusion

  1. Get your points across a final time.  At the end of a good presentation, you will have mentioned your main points in your introduction, your body, and finally in your conclusion summary.  A good signal to the end focuses the audience’s attention one last time, so that you can mention your main points again as well as your recommendation.  People tend to remember what they hear at the end of a presentation more than at the beginning or middle.
  2. Set yourself up to finish strong.  By clearly defining you are starting your conclusion, it will help you focus and go through the correct steps in your conclusion.  This will leave your audience with a favorable impression of your speech.
  3. Be a better public speaker.  So many people give poorly structured presentations, and especially end their presentations on a low note.  Having a clear structure will help you to look more professional and get the results you want out of your presentation.

Having a strong presentation conclusion will leave your audience with a focused, positive view of your message and a good signal to the end is key to starting it well.  Let us know of any ideas you have in the comment areas below.  Want more on presenting with impact?  Click here.

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Presentation Techniques: Speaking in Threes

Presentation techniques: tripling

There are hundreds of presentation techniques, and some are more common than others. One example is that people find it easy to remember things in threes, and building on this tendency (known as tripling) is one of the simple presentation techniques that work in all presentations.  You’ve probably already seen or heard people doing it…

“Veni, Vidi, Vici”  – Julius Caesar
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen …” –William Shakespeare
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people” – Abraham Lincoln

Of course you don’t need to be a great public speaker to make this work for you in your business presentations.

3 simple tips on presentation techniques for speaking in threes

1. Use three items that fit together to make an impact

Come back to the same item each time, hammering home the point:
  • We can retain customers by reducing our reaction time.
  • We can retain customers by offering round the clock support.
  • And we can retain customers by delivering spare parts within 48 hours.
  • Three items that act in sequence to reach a desired goal. e.g. “If we reduce our reaction time, offer round the clock support, and commit to delivering spare parts within 48 hours we will retain more customers.”
  • Three key themes that together cover a wide area. e.g. “We need to retain customers, we need to expand into the BRIC countries and we need to acquire smaller local competitors.”

2.  Use rhetorical questions

  • Ask a rhetorical question e.g. “So what is our new customer support strategy?”
  • Offer a simple, even minimalistic, response  e.g. “It’s called One Service.”
  • Then drive this home with three related words or phrases to grab attention, encapsulate or summarize. e.g. “One Service will form networks, it will promote best-practice sharing and most importantly it will make us even more effective.”

3.  Use your voice to leave a lasting impression

  • You can connect the three items by rising or reducing the pitch of your voice for each one.
  • Going up with your voice increases emotion, going down brings a sense of finality and certainty.
  • You may also want to put your most important point last – and then pause before it to make an additional impact.

Give it a go. Using presentation techniques such as speaking in threes will make your key messages simple. It will also make them clear and, above all, it will make them memorable. Let us know what you think in the comments area below.  Also, click here to see how Target Training’s seminar can help even the great presenters get better.

 

Audience-centered Presentations in Business

Are you delivering audience-centered presentations? Presentations training has been a big part of the work we’ve done in Europe over the years.  This is especially true for working with speakers of English as a foreign language. Everyone understands the importance of presentations. Everyone talks about the potential for generating new business, for influencing others, and creating positive relationships. The problem is, when we talk about their processes for making a presentation, participants tend to spend most of their time thinking about what they want to say and not what the audience needs to hear.  Here are a few things to keep in mind for ensuring audience-centered presentations.

Content vs Context in audience-centered presentations

The difference comes down to content and context.  Content is what you want to say while the context is the situation surrounding the communication.  Does the audience like the idea already, is it new to them, and are you already a credible source for them? What do you want the audience to feel, know, or do after the presentation? The answers to these context questions, and many others, can make a big difference in how you would design audience-centered presentations.

Not many would deliver a presentation in Japanese to an English speaking audience.  At the very least, they would ensure the presentation was simultaneously translated. We accommodate language differences in context as a matter of course.  Language differences affect our processes and our product, the presentation itself. Are there other contextual factors that influence the success of the presentation? Let’s say you want to sell cakes to a group of consumers. Picture making a presentation about the impact of ingredient selection and the scientific processes involved in and baking a cake to the group. While the presentation may be interesting, the most obvious question for the consumers is probably, “How does the cake taste?” Giving product samples at the beginning of the presentation is a lot more effective than a description.

Starting your audience-centered presentations with relevant examples

How many times do people describe products or services without answering, “How does the cake taste?” for their audiences?

We often know better but our processes often get in the way. For example, when you start your presentation by opening the slide deck from a previous presentation on the topic, you are starting with a content focus.  By starting with a presentation created for a different audience or a generic context, we run the risk of missing what our audience needs to see or hear to have the impact we want.  Often, how we start determines how we will finish.

If we want to design and deliver high impact presentations, we need to begin by considering the context and content in every step of our process.  Asking ourselves, “What questions may the audience have about the presentation?” is a great place to start on the road to memorable, effective presentations.

Target Training helps clients develop presentations  skills, presenting in English, and presentation design. We’ve helped clients make effective presentations in the areas of logistics, finance, manufacturing, sales, consulting and training. Watch for new products for presenting in a virtual environment coming soon.

Presentations: The 4Rs

The 4Rs is a model for handling questions, consisting of four stages—Reflect, Respect, Respond and Review. Presenters don’t have to use each of the 4 steps every time they answer a question, and there is also room to play with the order of the Rs (indeed, slavishly following the steps can sound robotic).  The model provides structure for the nervous and encourages rapport-building for the confident.  Above all, it moves the presenter’s mindset from “answer the question” towards “use the opportunity.”

4 Rs in presentations

Reflect

Reflecting what you have heard serves a number of purposes.  Firstly you can check that you’ve understood the question correctly.  Secondly you can make sure that everyone else in the audience has heard the question you are about to answer.  By reflecting you can demonstrate that you have listened to the question, and you can reframe the question if you feel it will help provide the answer the questioner is seeking.  Finally, reflecting is particularly helpful when the question is either unexpected or hostile and you need to buy time for yourself

Typical language:  So what you’re asking is … ,  You’d like to know …  If I can just check I’ve understood you …

Respect

Showing respect helps to build rapport, provided it comes across in a genuine manner. This is where you show that you actually do want to be asked questions. It also encourages other, more reticent members of the audience to step forward and ask questions.

Typical language:  That’s a good question …, I’m happy you asked that…, That’s an interesting point you’ve raised.

Respond

Of course, this is where the answer comes.

Typical language:  Our experience is …, I’m convinced that … , We’ve found …

Review

Finally, check if your answer is clear and complete.  If time is an issue, suggest a fuller discussion after the presentation.

Typical language:  Does that answer your question …?, Has that helped to explain things better ?

 

You have any suggestions to add?  Please write them in the comments area below if so. Also, check out Target Training’s seminars on audience-center presentations for further help by clicking here.

Asking for Feedback

Could I ask you for some feedback? Seven words which can make both the person asking and the person being asked nervous. Asking for feedback can be awkward and challenging at times, but there are a few things to help make it easier.

I recently asked a colleague of mine for some feedback following a presentation which I thought had been a bit shaky. ‘You did great’ was the reply, and the conversation moved on. Later on, when the warm glow of being told ‘well done’ had faded, I asked myself what I had actually learnt from that feedback and how would it help me improve. I realized that apart from thinking what a nice person my colleague was, I’d actually heard nothing which would help me do better next time. It then dawned on me that this was because of how I’d gone about asking for it. If I wanted to get meaningful feedback, then the way I asked for it had to be structured too.

Getting feedback from peers is one of the most useful tools we have for enhancing our performance. Peer feedback is in real time, looks at learnt skills being used in real situations, and it’s from ‘end users’. But how we go about asking for this feedback has a huge influence on how useful what we hear will be. No more ‘Do you think my presentation was OK’? type questions, what do you really want to know?

Basis steps to get the feedback you want

1. Check with your peer that they are comfortable giving you feedback. Don’t be offended if they say no, it’s not necessarily because they have nothing good to say! Not everyone is comfortable giving feedback, and those that aren’t tend to give the type of empty answers such as ‘great’ or ‘it was fine’.  A few ways to ask could be:

  • “I’m really hoping to improve my presentations skills and could use your help.  Do you mind giving me some feedback after my presentation?”
  • “Could you give me some feedback on my presentation afterwards?  It would help me a lot in improving my presentation skills.” 

2. When asking for feedback, briefly explain what you would like to cover, and why it’s important to you.

  • “It would help me a lot if you could specifically pay attention to my body language during my presentation.”
  • “Could you try and focus on how I transition from point to point during my talk?”

3. If the other person is struggling to think of something to say, ask two basic questions:

  • “What did I do best?” 
  • “Is there something I can improve?” 

4. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. For example, I was told that I had lost the audience in a presentation. By asking where I had lost them, why did they feel this had happened and did they have any suggestions for what I could do differently, I was able to think of ways to prevent this happening in my next presentation.

                                   

Since following these steps, I’ve found feedback far more useful and an increase in respect from both sides. There have only been a couple of times that I’ve winced at something somebody has said, but what they said was true. Ultimately, audiences at future presentations have benefited. So, take a big breath, smile and ask the question – could I ask you for some feedback?


 

 

Features or Benefits: What’s the Difference?

Do you ever have to talk to customers about your products or services? Do you focus on the features or benefits?  I often see presentations or sales pitches where the speaker talks about the features of their product. This sounds fine until you think about what features really are.

Features are what define your product. Features are what your product has or does. But, talking about features means that we are talking in the language of the producer, the developer or the deliverer of the product.

We need to talk in the language of the customer or client.

Feature or Benefit?

A customer or client is interested in the benefits of the product or the service.  Benefits are what will help the customer improve his or her business.

One way to make sure that we do this is to prepare. Before you visit a customer, write down the features of the product or service – if you know your product, you know the features. Now, next to every feature, write down the benefit to the customer that comes from that feature.

Example in action:

Feature = quad-core processor

Benefit = your computer reacts quicker

If you cannot think of a customer benefit of the feature, ask yourself whether you need to tell the customer about that feature.

Once you have your feature and your benefit clarified, decide how you will deliver that message. This is a good structure to use:

The (product or service) gives you (benefit to the customer) because of (feature of your product or service).

Possible statement to use:

Our x65 PC lets you run 3D simulations thanks to the quad-core processor.

As you can see in the example, the x65 PC has a quad-core processor. This is our industry jargon though (the feature). What the customer cares about is 3D simulations (the benefit).

So remember, before you talk to the customer, think about the benefit that your feature brings. If you can not think of a benefit, why do you need to tell the customer about the feature?  Let us know of any other tips, in the comments area below, that have worked for you when presenting your product or service to your customer.  Also, take a look at our seminar on selling across cultures for more information.

 

 

Presenting in English – effective introductions for beginners

Presenting in English – does it make you nervous?  Does the idea of speaking in front of people make your mouth go dry? Well keep reading …

If you are nervous about presenting in English, making an effective introduction is especially important.  An effective introduction will help your audience know what to expect and it will help you feel confident.  Once you’ve started well it is easier to keep going – and don’t forget that your audience is there to listen to what you have to say and not your English!

Effective introductions for beginners – the 3 Ps

A colleague shared this simple technique with me, and it always works. When you are presenting in English (or in any language) your introduction needs to answer three questions:

1.  Why are you standing there presenting? What is the purpose of your presentation?

2.  What are the steps in your presentation? What is the process you will follow?

3.  Why should your audience listen to you?  What is their payoff?

It doesn’t matter if you are introducing your team, presenting a process or giving an update on a project – the structure is the same. The 3Ps help you remember this structure, and if it helps you when you are nervous, why not use the three keywords?

Presenting in English – an example of the 3Ps in action

“Good afternoon and thank you for coming.  The purpose of my presentation today is to update you on the factory acceptance test.  The process I will follow is to first review the agreed schedule, then talk about the tools we are using and finally we will look at two problems we have found and how we will solve them.  This will take me 10 minutes. Why should you listen?  Well, your payoff is that you will be confident that we can complete the FAT on schedule and that everything is under control.”

If you follow this structure your introduction will be simple, clear and effective.  Most importantly you can concentrate on what you want to say, and stop worrying about the English.

Good luck, and why not let me know how it works for you?

 

Coaching Presentations: Presenting to Upper Management

Sometimes coaching presentations take on a bit more importance when the topic is tied to the board of management somehow. This creates an even greater need to ensure that the language is clear, concise, and professional. That’s where I was able to help out.

With the growing possibility that a quota system will be introduced to ensure there is a fixed percentage of women in all European companies working at executive level, DP DHL is taking its own initiative. A group-wide survey was carried out to see the impact of culture, local working practice and national laws on aiding, or preventing, women reaching higher positions of responsibility.

With feedback gathered from surveys and focus groups, the responsibility for keeping the Group’s board members informed of the developing situation falls to the HR division’s department of Corporate Culture. With an international board looking for signs of real progress, the task to present feedback and next steps with the required specificity is a significant challenge.  Extensive topic knowledge and excellent English skills provide a great foundation, but in order to gain the extra edge the department leader of Corporate Culture enlisted my help.

Preparing to perform

After a short but thorough briefing on the current status of the project, I was able to form a clear picture of what the next update presentation needed to accomplish. The following step involved me listening to each section being described and using the advantageous position of ‘outsider’ to cross-check what was not immediately clear. This technique helped me mirror the reactions of board members who may not to be familiar with the finer details of the Women in Leadership initiative. Through frequent questioning and by repeating the section with more clarity each time, Frau Muehlbach became more at ease with the information and was able to hone the essential message for greater audience impact.

Tailoring a language toolbox

With the key messages from each section now being clear and concise, the groundwork was set for giving the presentation greater bite. This process involved Frau Muehlbach and me brainstorming key phrases to be used to introduce and conclude each section of the presentation. Having established two or three options to choose from, Frau Muehlbach tried out each one within its surrounding context, while I played audience to determine which words carried the most effect.

Honing delivery style

With each section of the presentation having clear information, and the linking language now holding the attention of the listeners, it was time to analyze the presentation when delivered as a whole. Through several practice runs, I was able to highlight where Frau Muehlbach should increase pace, think about a dramatic pause or correct a word that was being mispronounced.

Seeing change in the boardroom

Using this technique, Frau Muehlbach has been able to make several successful Board and international conference presentations on the status of the Women in Leadership initiative. With each success comes more confidence which, in turn, breeds further success. This is a key example in transferring knowledge to the workplace.  Who knows, maybe the effect of the latest presentation was behind the Board’s recent decision to appoint DP DHL’s first female board member!