Monday, February 13, 2012

The 3 P's of Presenting

There are few skills more useful in business and life than good presentation skills. 

Yesterday evening I spent a couple of hours working with my son on a presentation for school. They had to present on any topic, but it had to be in the format of: "The 3 S's of Something". Where the S and the Something were open to whatever the student wanted.

This was an interesting process. Not because of the subject that my son chose but because it really got me thinking about the fundamentals of presenting to groups.

The topic that he came up with was: "The 3 F's of Food: Friendship, Fresh & Festivity". As a growing 14yr old, my son certainly understands his subject!

I have done a lot of presentations. Most of these have been at conferences or as a consultant to project stakeholders. I've learned what works and what doesn't work when talking to groups. Talking about security  (my specialty as a consultant) there are a lot of opportunities for your audience's eyes to glaze over. Good presentation skills are key.

So, to keep with the format that my son is constrained to, I give you: "The 3 P's of presenting"

The most important things in any presentation is the initial preparation. You need to know your subject, know your audience and know your venue.

Without a thorough knowledge of your subject you will be lost. You will spend the presentation reading notes instead of engaging with your audience. If you know your subject well you will speak from your heart, instead of your paper. The audience will appreciate it.

Knowing your audience is key. If you know your audience you can tailor your subject to them and use examples that ring true. It is much more compelling if you can use the word "you" instead of the words "I" or "some people" in your examples. "You gather with your friends at lunch to socialize. People all around the world do the same as you, that is the power of food."

Your presentation venue should play a big  role in the type of presentation that you will do. If you are presenting in a large hall with 200 people the same techniques won't work that will if you were presenting to a group of 10 around a table.  For a class of 25 grade 9 students, things should be kept fairly loose and interactive.

People will pay attention to your presentation if they can relate to the topic. If you are lucky enough to know your audience ahead of time, plan to present in a way that engages them personally.

If you don't know your audience, try to understand the event and generalize about the type of attendee that might show up.

If you don't know anyone before the event, try to meet at least one person before you start presenting. Use them as an example. People appreciate the personalization, even if it is just someone in the same room as them. "Joanne celebrates Hanuka with her family. Food like latkas are an important part of the tradition."

Presence is all about being (or at least looking!) confident.
  • Stand with good posture or walk confidently around the stage. 
  • Don't fidget.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Don't use "umm", "like" and other fillers.
  • Look at the audience and engage them visually. Talk to them individually.
  • Entertain.
Armed with these tips my son should be able to pull of a successful presentation to his peers. I have tried to instill in him the importance of public speaking as a skill. There are few skills more useful in business and life than good presentation skills. 

Do you have tips for doing good presentations? Another "P" maybe? Comment below.

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