By Peter Mosley
(Links to previous parts at bottom of the article)
You are probably knowledgeable in the topic of the presentation you are about to give otherwise, you wouldn't have been asked to talk. But this doesn't mean you know everything about it. We can always learn more!
Good speakers supplement their own knowledge and experience with outside research and examples. The library is an excellent place to start: books, magazines, newspapers, and trade publications can provide a wealth of data, ideas, advice, and anecdotes.
Sure, the Net is an abundant, seemingly-bottomless, well of information, but I believe there is far more interesting material found from other sources. And the bonus to these sources is that they most times have a rich story around them. Story telling is critically important to effective communications. As well, don't forget, interviews, informal chats, and letters exchanged with colleagues and experts in your field - all these can further add to this wealth of information from which to build a compelling story!
Gather about twice as much material as you need. Then, when drawing on these data, you can be choosy, selecting only the best stuff. The process of doing research will also act to permanently increase your own knowledge. And this is a real confidence-builder to the speaker.
As Cicero once said,
"No man can be eloquent in a subject he does not understand."
Sure, you can wing it. Most presentations I see, are folks "Talking to the slides!" (Editorial comment – "OUCH!") But the advantage to not winging it, is in the results. Your audience (more so if a small group) picks up, or is turned off, by the kinetic energy even the best presenters give off if not prepared.
Reasearch is vital in preparing an effective presentation!
- Keep the number of words per visual to a minimum. Use headlines only. Better still, use short phrases or single words in bold type that can be seen clearly from the back row.
- Use color to highlight key points.
- Explain exactly what each visual means so the audience doesn't have to guess. Even if it's fairly obvious what's on a chart, it's a good habit to repeat it verbally, thus adding reinforcement to key points.