Presentation Skills

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

casual contractions in presentation

by Sarah Maloney

Howsitgoin? Wanna grabba cuppa coffee? Have you heard colleagues speak this way? Have you spoken this way? Probably, we all have. Let’s step back for a moment and ask ourselves: what is our first impression of the speaker? Let’s put these casual contractions under a corporate magnifying glass.

As communication skills consultants, we work consistently with our learners to help them improve their professional images through their business communications. Recently, we’ve noticed that many of them are sabotaging their professional images when delivering presentations by using “informal contractions”.

We aren’t talking about contractions like “don’t” for do not or “we’ll” for we will. When you use a few of these contractions in your speech or your writing, you sound quite personable. However, some contractions can make you sound sloppy and unprofessional—like these examples:

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We need to talk. Love, your webcam


Video conferenceby Amanda Bergen

In this digital age, video is king. It promises a more engaged audience and faster, more effective delivery of your message. But are you and your team making the best use of video capabilities when you turn on your webcams? Surveys and statistics show that most employees are allergic to their webcams, but if they use video conferencing effectively when communicating virtually, they can increase engagement, build trust, and speed up decision making. It’s not enough to know how to turn the webcam on—you also need to develop a new skill set to present yourself, and your ideas, in the best possible way. After all, if it came naturally we would all be vying for the anchor desk on Good Morning America.

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How Yoga Can Improve Your Presentation Skills

life lessons from yoga

By Lesley Nevills

Yoga can help you polish your presentation skills. If you practice yoga, you probably know that the lessons you learn on the mat can enrich your everyday life. They can help you learn and improve other skills, such as giving presentations. Here is some yoga wisdom to help you still your mind and body so you can present with confidence, ease and intention.
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4 Tips for Job Interview Success

by Alan De Back

With the start of the new year, many people decide that the time is right for a job change. Because the market is so crowded with job seekers, you need to distinguish yourself from the competition during the interview process. In addition to preparing for possible questions, how will you use all the skills in your communication toolbox? Here are four job interview tips that will give you an edge.

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5 Things to Know About Your Non-Technical Audience

presentation to non-technical audience

by Jody Bruner

Technical writers often find themselves needing to make important recommendations to clients or business readers who have little or no technical knowledge. Being able to get through to a non-technical audience is crucial because you need them to quickly make the right decisions for the right reasons. Missing the mark can derail important projects, hinder progress and erode your credibility.

The secret to communicating with your non-technical audience is having a deep understanding of their needs and prior knowledge, and using this knowledge to plan your message strategically. Knowing your audience helps you satisfy their needs without compromising the integrity of your message.

The following questions come from our Writing Technical Reports workshop’s Situational Analysis. It’s a tool for analyzing your purpose, audience and context as you create your message.

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10 Tips for New Grads: How to Succeed at Your First Job

communicating first job

by Jody Bruner

Last post we discussed how high impact writing can help land your dream job. Here, we are going to focus in on newly graduated millennials. While an astonishing 87% of new graduates see themselves as prepared to enter the workforce with the skills they gained from their education, hiring managers don’t agree.

A recently released study from PayScale (an on-demand compensation data and software company) and Future Workplace (an executive development firm) shows that 44% of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among college graduates, and 39% feel presentation skills is the second most lacking.

Communicating on the job is different from the communicating you did at school. You’re not writing or speaking to show your understanding or that you can argue a position in the same way you did while you were in school. Still, once you are working, you’ll find your day is full of communicating: writing emails, having conversations and thinking critically to move projects forward. Mastering these skills is what we teach.

Here’s some advice to pass on to any new grads you know.

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When Concise PowerPoint Slides Aren’t Enough

by Nancy Lefneskipowerpoint slides tips

In our presentation skills workshops, we ask participants what they find most frustrating about other people’s presentations. They invariably say, “PowerPoint slides that have way too much information on them.” Yet when we suggest that presenters design concise slides using the 6 x 6 rule (keeping slides to a maximum of six points and six words per point), we sometimes hear that won’t work for them because:

  • they have to send the deck as a pre-read
  • they have to leave it as a takeaway
  • they can only have three slides total
  • they have to send it to people who won’t be at the meeting and who need a full briefing

If you are faced with similar challenges, consider the following strategies:

Give your audience time to absorb your slide

If you have busy slides, give your audience enough time to read them before you start talking. Try reading the slide to yourself twice. That should give your audience enough time to read and process the content.

As much as we like to think we can multi-task, audiences can not effectively listen to a speaker and read slides at the same time. If the presenter is talking while the audience is reading the slides, the audience actually absorbs less information than if they tried to do either task alone.

Create two slide decks

Create one deck of concise slides to project during your presentation and create a second slide deck for a pre-read or takeaway. This second slide deck can have busier slides that include the additional information you intend to add verbally in your presentation.

It might be easiest to create the full version first, then edit it down to key words for the presentation version.

Use the Speaker’s Notes feature

Create one deck of concise slides to project during your presentation and add details the reader needs to know in the notes section. Print your slides as “Notes Pages” for the pre-read or takeaway. To add notes, select “Notes” on the task bar at the bottom of the slide window.
If you are forced to use a busy deck that contains detailed charts and graphs, we recommend you summarize the key message from each slide in the speaker notes section. If you don’t and you leave it up to the reader to analyze the data, table or graph, they may come up with a different conclusion than you intended.

Focus your audience’s attention

If you are forced to project a chart or graph with a lot of information during your presentation, help your audience get the key message quickly. Before you show them the slide, tell them what they are going to see and what the key message is. For example, BEFORE you show them the slide, say something like, “Now that we’ve looked at the sales targets, let’s look at our sales results. We are above target in all areas except X and Y.” THEN show them the slide and tell them what column they will find X and Y in. Your audience’s attention will go directly to where you need it to go.

Remember, when you are designing slides, every choice has a consequence. Choose the strategy that is most likely to help your audience and help you reach your presentation objective.

Four Tips for a Successful Sales Meeting

by Leigh Geraghty

If you ever have to sell a product or service to internal or external prospects, you will find yourself at sales meetings or having to give presentations. I’ve learned that to be successful at selling, you need to “shut up and listen.” An effective sales meeting or presentation should be a dialogue or conversation, and in the spirit of dialogue, you should talk less than half of the time. You need to get your prospects talking, listen to what they have to say, and then respond in a way that shows you were listening.

Here are four strategies that have served me well in my career selling to both internal and external prospects:

1. Ask questions

Prepare key questions in advance. Salespeople often launch into a presentation without making sure they understand what their prospect cares about. Instead, open by asking questions to learn about your prospect and their needs. For example:

  • What happened that led to this situation?
  • What specific examples can you share that demonstrate your concerns?
  • What must we consider in the solution we provide?

Then, continue to ask questions throughout your presentation to confirm your assumptions, check for understanding and assess how your prospect feels about your product or service.

2. Pause frequently

Encourage your prospect to ask questions throughout. Their questions will tell you a lot about their interests.

Welcome interruptions. Pay attention to your prospect’s body language. If they appear to have something to say, pause and give them a chance to speak.

3. Listen more than you talk

Pay attention to what your prospect is saying, and jot down key words and phrases. Incorporate their language. Tailor your talk to focus on their needs, concerns and interests. For example, talk about how your product or service will solve their specific challenges.

By listening more than talking, you will follow the 80-20 rule and ensure that 20% of your presentation is about you, and 80% is about your prospect, their situation and their needs.

4. Keep it brief and focused

Don’t ramble. Deliver each key point briefly and succinctly. Then give your prospect a chance to comment and ask questions. Respond to questions and check for understanding. Once you are confident that they understand a point, move on.

Become comfortable listening more and speaking less, and you’ll feel more confident that you are proposing the best solutions. Your prospects will reward you with more trust, more sales and greater success.