"With presentation skills, the work is in the preparation, the fun is in the presentation." Colleen Kettenhofen
To improve presentation skills, allow plenty of time, if at all possible, to find out exactly who will be in your audience. Consider obtaining some of their names, phone numbers and email addresses so you can do a "survey" or interview to find out more about their needs, challenges and expectations before the day you present. Are they colleagues or clients you've personally invited? What will be the attitude of your participants? In other words, do they want to be there or is attendance mandatory? Are you going to be presenting any "bad news" or information they may not want to hear?
In my seminars, people often tell me that two of their biggest presentation skills challenges are "how to handle a hostile audience," and "how to present bad news." If you start by knowing who will be in attendance, what their expectations are, as well as their objections, you can then begin to prepare your presentation. Other than rehearsing, nothing will improve presentation skills more than knowing details about your audience.
Incidentally, studies show that by rehearsing and truly being prepared, you can reduce nervousness by 75%. If you take the word "rehearse," and delete the "se," what word do you have? "Rehear." When you rehearse, you are actually rehearing yourself. In addition, 95% of the success of your presentation is determined before you present. So knowing something about your audience, and then rehearsing the information, will greatly improve presentation skills.
Your main source of information will be the individual who invited you to speak. When you ask questions, it also gives the impression that you're conscientious and meticulous in planning and preparation. Also, find out if there are any issues sensitive to the group or topics to be avoided. What about any cultural differences or language barriers?
Before I give a keynote speech or lead a breakout session at a conference, I inquire about getting a list of all attendees, their phone numbers and email addresses. I like to "interview" at least 3 people who will be attending. Often times they'll come up with other pertinent issues that the contact person may not have known about or simply forgot to mention.
If your presentation is to a client, or potential new client, keep apprised of their company news, goals and objectives. What is an average work day like for the participants in your audience? What are their greatest challenges? And if applicable, how does your product or service help solve their problem?
Presentation skills = defining your purpose. Ask yourself, "What is my purpose in being here?" And, "Why are they here?" Everyone is always tuned in to "Radio Station WIIFM," which stands for, "What's in it for me?!" So, how does what you're talking about address their problem, the "what's in it for me?"
In addition to interviewing individuals ahead of your presentation, do "meets and greets" if time permits. Get to know people one-on-one right before your talk. It will calm your nerves and you'll no longer see them as total strangers. Also, it shows you're taking an interest in them. Often by talking one-on-one beforehand, you discover a wealth of new information you may want to bring up in your presentation.
In improving your presentation skills by knowing your audience ahead of time, here are some questions to ask yourself:
What is the attitude of the audience? Do they want to be there? What are their approximate ages? What is the percentage of males to females? What are their levels of education? What is their technical expertise? What about their geographic locations in terms of home base? What about their cultural make up?
Remember, 95% of your presentation skills success is determined before your presentation. What do you know about your audience? How can you incorporate that information into the tailoring of your presentation? The work is in the preparation, the fun is in the performance.
Copyright 2006 Colleen Kettenhofen
Colleen Kettenhofen is a motivational speaker, workplace expert, & co-author of "The Masters of Success," as featured on the Today Show, along with Ken Blanchard and Jack Canfield. http://www.ColleenSpeaks.com Popular topics: leadership, management, difficult people, success, presentation skills. To order the book, or for free articles and newsletter visit http://www.ColleenSpeaks.com You are free to reprint or repost this information provided Colleen Kettenhofen's name and website is provided with the article.