It is been often said that public speaking is the number one fear of most people, even more so than death! However, we all know that it is a skill worth polishing up because it’s the single most important skill which will bring you to the top of the corporate ladder. Have you ever met someone outrageously successful without this ability to speak well in public? I bet not. So if you intend to be successful, this would possibly be the most important skill to learn. But where do you start?
Well, most of us get our first taste of public speaking quite early in our working life, either doing some form of training, sales or product presentation. And this would be a great place to start polishing your speaking skills because this is possibly one of the easiest areas of public speaking. Why? Because you usually have a captive audience and the objectives of the presentation are usually very clear. In fact, knowing your audience and the objectives of the presentation is the most important first step to making a great presentation. Many of us start presenting from a set of “canned” powerpoint slides without first finding out who the audience is, what they want to hear and what you are trying to achieve.
Here are some simple steps to identifying these.I’ve made them easy to remember by starting most of them with the letter “P”. The first thing to remember is that there are 3 steps to a great presentation. They are as follows :
Obviously, of the 3 steps, the Presentation phase is the most important. There are obviously people who can do a great presenation with minimal preparation and practice. However, we know that the majority of us are also not in this category and as such, the first two steps of Preparation and Practice are equally important. So, where do we start the preparation?
The first step to preparation is to know the 4 P’s of presentation. These are as follows :
- People – Know who you are presenting to. This is important because different people have different expectations. For example, presenting a new product to a group of engineers is different to presenting a new product to the senior management of a company. For the engineers, they are interested in technical specifications, features and benefits while the senior management will probably be looking at Return-on-Investments, profitability etc…
- Place – Knowing the place where the presentation takes place will help you prepare the right kind of Audio-visual aids. Why prepare powerpoint slides when the room you are presenting at does not have a projector?
- Point – The point of the presentation keeps you in focus. Too often, we stray from the point of the presentation or meeting as the participants starts to ask questions. So, if the point of the presentation is to introduce a new product to the audience, keep at it.
- Purpose – This answers what you would like to achieve at the end of the presentation. Would you like the audience to walk away with new knowledge, or do you want them to go back to their purchase department to immediately put up a purchase requisition for your product?
What’s important about knowing the 4 P’s of the presentation? Knowing the 4 P’s allow you to prepare the right presentation aids to be effective so that you can achieve your purpose at the end of the presentation.
Now that you know your 4 P’s, what kind of presentation should you prepare. In essence, all presentation can be divided into 3 major types as follows :
- Persuade or Convince – This is the typical sales pitch designed to persuade or convince an audience with the ultimate objective of wanting them to take a particular action. In a typical sales pitch, you want your audience to be so convinced that they will part with their money for your product. If you were convincing an audience in an election speech, you would want them to vote for you. In some cases, a presentation to convince may not necessarily lead to an action. If you are presenting your company’s performance to the board of directors, you may just want to convince them that you are doing a good job, without them having to take any particular action.
- Inform or Teach – Another common presentation type is when you are trying to impart knowledge ie to teach or inform. If you do a product training for a group of engineers, that could be a presentation to inform or teach.
- Ceremonial – Many times, you come across a presentation which does not seem to achieve any of the first two. For example, if you were the guest-of-honour at the opening of the public library. You have to deliver a speech or a presentation which is purely ceremonial in nature. You’re not necessarily convincing anyone or persuading them to action. Neither are you teaching or informing them of anything in particular.Such would be an example of a Ceremonial Presentation type.
An easy way to remember the 3 different types of presentation is with the acronym, PIC representing Persuade/Convince, Inform/Teach and Ceremonial.
Once you have decided on the above, you are ready to prepare your presentation in a way to that will achieve your purpose with maximum impact!