What is it that makes intelligent people sabotage their work by organizing and delivering presentations that are well below their native ability? I’m not even thinking about the quality of the PowerPoint slides; we’ll leave that for another time. Things like rushing around in front of the audience at the last minute because the copier didn’t work or the projector did not interface with the computer. Sometimes it’s not giving the audience enough perspective or spending too much time on the background. Or apologizing for busy slides, instead of fixing them. Then, there is running over the scheduled time so that those in the audience lose their interest as well as any good will toward the speaker. After having suffered through a few too many of such presentations, I’ve put together this list of a few straightforward things to keep in mind.
Show up Early
You know when the meeting begins. Be prepared and test the equipment. This preparation gives a better impression than rushing in at the last minute because you need to be seen as “busy”.
Practice at least once.
The most needed revisions quickly become obvious.
Know and respect your audience.
Think about what the audience needs to learn from the presentation, what they are likely to know, and what presentation style is the most appropriate. If you believe what you are telling them, make sure the audience knows it.
Use the first rule of rhetoric: “Render the audience docile.”
Docile, in its formal definitions, means “easily taught” or “ready to learn”. Using first rule of rhetoric is to give the provide evidence or reasons for the audience to listen and take you seriously. The reason will be specific to the talk. As examples, the evidence may be to establish your credentials or show the significance of the topic.
Don’t apologize for the slides and handouts.
Fix it if you can. If you can’t, no need to call attention to the deficiencies.
It is appreciated by the audience and makes the presentation more favorably remembered.
This article dealt with performance of the individual. A related post Presenting Quantitative Information Well–Lessons from Playwrights focuses on the methods to sharpen the presentation of the content