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Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

The Power Of Presentation Skills

By Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

P resentation skills are a huge part of marketing, whether you’re selling yourself, your company or a specific product or service. While you may not be on the speakers’ circuit, most business situations call for a positive and confident presence. The way you present yourself and how much you really know about your product or service can make or break a deal.

Before you can deliver a great presentation, you need to develop one, and that takes research and organization. It’s best to arrange your talk with a single concept in mind. Presentations are not the time for meandering or multiple messages, so have a clear, concise presentation with an introduction, no more than three key points and a conclusion. Above all, know your topic and be credible. If you’re quoting statistics, for example, give the source of the stats so your audience knows you’ve done your homework.

The other thing to know is your audience. Customizing your remarks to fit the makeup of the audience or the geographic location where you are delivering your speech is a powerful and effective way to relate to your listeners — be they peers, prospects, customers or anyone else outside your own organization. One mark of effective speakers is that they focus their remarks more on those who have come to hear them than on themselves.

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Studies show the attention span of today’s audience is about 16.5 minutes (13 minutes for those under 30), so keep your comments brief. A common mistake among  presenters is trying to pack too much information into a single talk. A constant stream of information is overwhelming. If the audience remembers one key point, you’ve hit the mark. At the conclusion of your presentation, you should open the floor to questions from the audience. At that time you can give many more details, if necessary.

Once you’ve outlined your speech, it’s time to work on and practice your delivery. The traditional functions of a presentation are to inform, persuade or entertain. It’s the entertain part that has led too many people to believe they must open their speeches with a joke. It can be effective, but one rule of thumb is: If it isn’t funny, don’t use it.

Deb Sofield, a member of the National Speakers Bureau, says that, sadly, too many people are waiting to be offended. “If you’re using humor in a speech, make sure that the story or anecdote is funny with all listeners,” Sofield warns. “Test it with your friends and coworkers for laughs. If it’s off-color, questionable or offensive to a religious, racial or ethnic group other than Martians, leave it out.”

The best way to open your talk, according to speech coaches, is with a personal story. The quickest way to bridge the gap between you and your audience is to share something that helps them get to know you. You can relate an unusual experience, your personal principles or beliefs, or something related to your career or hobbies. And at some point during your talk, share your credentials. It makes your audience proud to know you and gives them the reasons they need to pay close attention to what you have to say.
July/August 2007



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