Tips to Enhance Personal Presentation Skills in the Digital Age: Part III

Marc H. Kalan

Editor’s Note: “Consistently better sales presentations could be the most important New Year’s resolution your team could make,” Rutgers Business School Professor Marc Kalan stated in an article that posted here on Monday. He introduced the need for strong personal presentation skills, beginning with organization and a personal passion. In Part II, we move into individual skill areas to enhance your physical presence and abilities to maximize the focus and attention of your audience.

In Part I the author presented the need for strong presentation skills in today’s digital age. Part II expanded upon the subject with specifics on voice, eye and body languages. Part III focuses on managing the overall presentation experience and provides suggestions to leave your audience wanting more. It’s Friday the 13th, and it’s going to be your lucky day!

You have been polite to your audience and now it's your time to shine. Here is my last set of tips for better presentations in 2013.

Don’t Let Others Get Into Your Head– Don’t be overly nervous or exhibit stage freight. Although many of us feel awkward getting up in front of an audience, it is up to you to “own the room” and be in charge. Your audience will react to your confidence.

Demand the attention your presentation deserves– Even those who seem to drift away bring a part of them that wants to be drawn into your talk. You just have to engage that part of them with a nugget of new information, an engaging story or something that has relevance for them. Once engaged, you can demand your audience’s attention by your presence. They are there to hear you and will appreciate your being in command of the room.

Mistakes and Missed Points– These can happen and often do. But in most situations no one but you will know, so don’t point them out or feel obligated to correct minor miscues. More often than not it’s better to just keep moving forward. And in those cases where the missed point is critical there is no need to apologize for having missed or skipped something. Just incorporate it where it falls as “another important aspect worth mentioning.”

Speaking Alone or In A Group– If you are working alone, make the audience a partner in your presentation by engaging specific individuals around the room with a short question or two. Consider how a few questions (even rhetorical questions) can capture the attention of listeners. If you are part of a group, be sure each member has a meaningful role (or why else are they there?).

Questions and Answers– Time permitting, open the floor to questions and really respond. When asked a question, don’t rush with a response. Instead make each question a chance to reinforce your relationship with your listeners, and start by repeating the question back to the audience. This will:

  • Confirm you understand what the questioner is asking; clarity is important and not always self-evident.
  • Enable the whole audience to hear the question, which is often not the case. Often those not hearing or knowing the question become left out and lose interest and focus. This is especially true when multiple “unheard” questions have been asked.
  • Give you time to think. Thinking before talking is more than just a good idea; it’s a chance to consider your response and its applicability for your audience.
  • Maximize your opportunity to respond to the whole audience and not just to the questioner. Avoid getting into a one to one discussion when speaking to a group. Its fine to begin your response focused on the questioner, but once begun expand your response to incorporate the entire audience by looking around and not just at a single individual, your questioner.

Thank Your Audience– This seems like such a logical and normal thing, yet speakers often forget this simple courtesy. Be sure to thank your audience for their attention, their interest, their consideration, or just for the time spent with you. Recognition of the importance of their time, the most limited asset for most people, is a great way to leave a positive impression and communicates respect. Every speaker gains stature by acknowledging that respect.

Effective presentation skills are ever more important in today’s limited-attention environment. Ironically, as the digital age opens even more channels of communication, opportunities to showcase your knowledge, points of view, new ideas, business updates and personality continue to become more constrained by competitive time pressures. For most professionals, the chances to speak in person and captivate a live audience are limited. This makes each and every one precious.It all comes down to developing a style that engages your listeners, building rapport and trust so that you stand out as a speaker, enjoyed and remembered by your audience.

While there is no single style or form for effective presentations, we do know that even when content is the same some presenters are just more interesting, engaging and successful than others. This has never been more important than in today’s era of quickly seen and forgotten social media. Effective presentation skills are a valuable part of your professional arsenal. Build them and use them.

 Perhaps its best summed up with this simple statement: Have fun: Your audience will feel it and they will have fun too.

Marc H. Kalan is a marketing/business development executive with more than 30 years of diverse consumer marketing experience at clients (from established Fortune 500 to startups), suppliers and promotional marketing agencies. Kalan’s background includes a foundation in brand and sales management. He began teaching at the college and graduate level in 2003 and now serves full time on the faculty of the Rutgers Business School, Department of Supply Chain Management and Marketing Sciences. Kalan can be reached at mkalan51@hotmail.comor