Seven Presentation Strategies

Seven Presentation Strategies

By Sylvia Luneau

Presentation skills are a critical part of many jobs. Today, online meetings abound, and they often involve presentations. If you are the lucky presenter, you will be competing with many distractions and your ability to hold the attention of others can make or break your performance. These seven presentation strategies will help you engage your audience, display confidence, and remain focused on your message.

1. Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said.” — Dale Carnegie.

Whether you are preparing and delivering a fully-formed presentation with big, important ideas, or casually speaking in a meeting, it is important to be clear on what the purpose of your presentation is. What are you going to say? Are you making an important point, stating your case in a debate, offering a solution to a known problem? If you aren’t crystal clear on the point of your presentation, don’t expect your audience to be. You need to go in knowing what you want people to come out understanding. Start there and then craft the rest of the presentation from that jumping-off point. Once you communicate your point, use example stories and slides to summarize your point again in your conclusion.

2. Know your audience and their perspective.

In crafting your presentation, almost as important (if not more so) than what you want to get across to your audience, is why they should care. What difference will this make to them? Do they need to know the information as part of company policy? Will this save money? Improve company morale? Increase efficiency? It’d be nice if everyone cared about all the same things you do, but in some ways, we’re all the center of our own universe. Let your audience know why what you are saying matters to them, and when developing your message continually think about the audience perspective.

3. Memorize 3 main points.

The day before presenting, review your message and focus on three specific points. Depending on the importance of the presentation, you might even want to work to memorize those three points. It really doesn’t take long (particularly if they directly apply to the message you are trying to get across). Spend 15 minutes on some basic repetition practices: maybe write out the points a few times (à la Bart Simpson), try out Cicero’s method of loci, or come up with an acronym to help you remember. Even if you already know your information well, plan the way you are going to start the talk, what those key elements are, and how you are going to close the presentation. If you do work though all of this the night before, instead of (or in addition to) the morning of, your subconscious mind will help you solidify your thoughts while you sleep. You’ll wake up feeling more prepared!

4. Encourage yourself.

The day before your presentation, remind yourself of your past successes. Focus on feeling good about what you have accomplished – and you have accomplished a lot. This does not necessarily have to be past business success. Focusing your mind on times that you have been successful in any area of life, will help you to feel confident and center your strengths. Then, visualize your meeting going well. You want to understand others and you want to be understood. Tell yourself that this will go well. 

 5. Check Twice, Present Once (the lesser known version of ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’…)

Be early. Test everything. Chances are, by this point you’ve done somewhere around 8,000 Zoom meetings. Trust me, if you don’t test your computer and the software ahead of time, this will be the one time your microphone isn’t working. Plus, the extra level of preparedness will give you a boost of confidence.

6. Dress the part. 

If it is indeed a video meeting, you’ve had more time than normal to get ready because no driving was involved. Take that extra time to look crisp; you can change back into your t-shirt after the call. 

7. One last review right before!

Review your materials again and tell yourself, again, how well it is going to go. You will be successful in delivering your message and your audience will understand you. Your preparation will leave you relaxed and clear and you know your information. You have successfully accomplished many things and you will be successful here! 

In general, (in business presentations and in life), people want to like you. They don’t necessarily have any preconceived notions of what you will or will not be doing. You may have been preparing your presentation for a week (weeks?!), but this will likely be the first time they’ve given it more than a passing thought. Don’t overthink it. You (hopefully) have the full attention of your audience and your goal is to establish credibility, demonstrate that you know what you are talking about, and clearly communicate your point. Have fun, recognize that this is just a moment in a much longer journey, and keep practicing your presentation skills!

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