Presentation Skills

Sometimes, in order to create a great presentation, you need to start with the basics. James Scholfield, author of Presentation Skills in 7 Simple Steps, published by Collins, looks at how to start and finish your presentation in order to get maximum impact.

Whichever approach you adopt to presentations, whether it be PowerPoint, Prezi or flipcharts, there are two features that you need to prepare carefully and get right: the introduction and the conclusion.

Introductions

The introduction is your bait and if you cast it right, you can catch your audience right at the start. Remember: they could be meeting you for the first time and research shows that we form a strong first impression of a person very quickly. What’s the best way to make sure they form a positive image of you? Here’s what you need to do.

1 Before you start, chat to early arrivers. Introduce yourself and learn their names.

2 Welcome the audience with a smile and tell them you’re about to begin.

3 Introduce yourself with your name and your job title.

4 Introduce your topic and give them an idea of the content.

5 Say how long the presentation will last and if you prefer questions during your presentation or at the end.

6 Tell them if you’ve got handouts or if the slides will be made available after the presentation.

If an audience feels that the presenter is in charge of the situation, they’ll relax and enjoy themselves. And so will you.

Conclusions

How do you feel if a film ends weakly? However good the rest of it was, you’re left with a feeling of disappointment. The same is true of presentations so work on your conclusion until it feels powerful. Here are three patterns you can follow.

1 Summarise the key points, conclude with a recommendation, distribute any handouts and thank the audience. This is best when the main purpose of the presentation is to give the audience neutral information.

2 Summarise the key points, conclude with a recommendation and invite questions from the audience. This works well if you want to sell something, such as a product or a service. The questions will give you an opportunity to drum home the benefits of what you’re selling.

3 Summarise the key points, conclude with a dramatic statement and thank the audience. This is for when you’re trying to persuade your audience that change is necessary. The dramatic statement emphasises the dangers of not following your recommendations, or shows them the promised land they will enter if they follow them: If we ignore the dangers of global warming, central London will be under water by 2050.

Normally, it’s not a good idea to write out your presentation in full. But with your conclusion, it can help to build your confidence to write it and then practise reading it aloud to yourself until you feel sure about its impact. When it’s time for the real thing, put your notes aside and give it all you’ve got!

James Schofield has worked for various multinational companies and governmental departments in Asia and Europe for more than twenty-five years. His new book, Presentation Skills in 7 Simple Steps, is published by Collins in the new 7 Simple Steps series. Check it out at www.collins.co.uk/7simplesteps

Sophie MacIntyre

Wednesday, 8 October 2014 at 5:31pm

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