Giving technical presentations to non-technical audiences; Part 7: essentials of delivery.
In previous parts of this series, we discussed various aspects of preparation. Now it is time to address a major concern of presenters: delivery. If you think an easy-going, convincing, smooth delivery is beyond you, take heart: anybody can achieve this goal by following a few simple guidelines.
YOUR BASIS: ATTITUDE
Perfect mastery of delivery techniques will do you no good if your attitude to the audience is negative. Suppose your audience includes salespeople and some higher-level managers. As a specialist, you may feel somewhat superior to the salespeople, thanks to your deeper knowledge. On the other hand, looking at some of the managers, your guts may be twisted with terror. Both of these attitudes are sure to show themselves and ruin all your efforts at persuasion.
To reach and convince people, you must genuinely care about them and their needs. You are not there to impress them or others: you're there to give the salespeople something they can use to work better with customers, and the managers some information that helps them in their tasks of planning and controlling. Presumably, you kept that in mind while preparing your material; now remember it as you face them. With the right attitude, you will find it easy to express enthusiasm for the audience and for your message--and that is the ultimate key to a great delivery.
BEING COMFORTABLE WITH THE AUDIENCE
The speakers we most admire are personal and comfortable with the audience. How do they do this, in such an intrinsically uncomfortable, one-against-many setting? By breaking through the physical barriers so they can connect with listeners as individuals.
Take position first. The setup encourages you to stay up front, isolated from the audience. Now they look like a threatening crowd; eye contact is hard to achieve; movement seems senseless; and you have to yell to be heard. All that changes when you ignore the podium or speaker's table and move into the audience (insofar as the room allows it). Suddenly you are eye-to-eye with individuals and easy to see and hear. What's more, your decision suggests that you're comfortable with them, and this in turn makes them more comfortable with you Finally, you now have good reasons to keep moving--for instance, to let everybody see whatever visuals you are projecting, to get in closer contact with some other audience members, and to avoid showing your back to anybody for more than a few moments.
TEMPO AND CLARITY
Good speakers are easy to hear and understand, and they keep us engaged by varying speed and emotion. The obvious advice, then, is to speak clearly and at a good volume, to vary your speed, and to put generous amounts of emotion into your sentences.
Unfortunately, many people can't follow this advice in such a straightforward way. For instance, some people rush uncontrollably. This may stem from a deep fear that they're wasting the audience's time. The cure is not to slow down mechanically (probably ending up with a nervous monotone) but to super-articulate. This has three benefits: (1) your speech will become clearer without becoming monotonous; (2) you will automatically slow down, because pronouncing every sound properly takes time, (3) speaking clearly is a positive, audience-focused effort, rather than a negative, self-conscious correction.
Once you are not hurtling along at teeth-rattling speed, you will have at least a chance of putting feelings into what you say. Here, as in other areas, your basic attitude will carry you through. If you care about your listeners and your message for them, your emotions will show themselves in natural, appropriate ways: in your voice, in your smile or other facial expressions, and in energetic gestures that underline your words.
Next time, we will look at some additional delivery issues, including handling of notes and visuals.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Cheryl and Peter Reimold have been teaching communication skills to engineers, scientists, and businesspeople for 20 years. Their latest book, The Short Road to Great Presentations (Wiley, 2003), is available in bookstores and from Amazon.com. Their consulting firm, PERC Communications (telephone: 1 914 725 1024, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org), offers businesses consulting and writing services, as well as customized in-house courses on writing, presentation skills, and on-the-job communication skills. Visit their web site at www.allaboutcommunication.com.
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|Title Annotation:||LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS|
|Publication:||Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2004|
|Next Article:||Living on borrowed time.|