Anyone can become a self-confident presenter if they prepare themselves and their material in advance. “Impromptu” derives from the Latin “in promptu,” meaning “in readiness.” Even with a busy schedule, you can pull together prior notes, hot research from current journals and headlines ripped from press coverage of current events. You never want to walk into a presentation and hope to make an impact by “winging it!” Here are 4 tips to make sure you nail your next presentation:

Tip #1 – Opening: People today are feeling overwhelmed with a covid-centric life and nearly exclusive virtual communication. Find a hook that immediately engages people. That hook could be an amusing anecdote; however, a women speaker will want to avoid self-deprecating humor because it can undermine her credibility as an expert to be taken seriously. When people smile and laugh, they’re relaxed and are more open to what you have to say. Or you could offer a  shocking statistic that reveals a change in a situation the group is facing, or an incident ripped from that morning’s headlines that will inspire a response. One picture says a thousand words, and a stunning photograph on a PowerPoint slide can introduce the case you want to make.

Tip #2 – Cultivate a “We Too” Team Spirit: Ask around and see what’s on people’s minds, especially their big ideas. Incorporating them into your presentation will make people will heard and respected. Give credit where it’s due. If you’ve learned that a few people have concerns worth mentioning as a theme or emerging trend, indicate the number or percentage of people who are worried, but never offer names. As a leader, you’ll want to demonstrate a can-do attitude, so offer a few suggestions for how to address those concerns.

Tip #3 – Hot Buttons: Take the group’s temperature. Do your due diligence in understanding the tenor of the group who will be listening to your remarks. Are people feverish with excitement about a new change or are they exhibiting low energy? Is the group politicized and/or polarized? If your main points are going to feed a controversy, challenge the status quo, or raise hackles, be ready for push back. Always offer facts and source material. Be prepared for tough questions from the usual dissenters or even those with a hidden agenda, as their questions might throw you.

Tip #4 – Winding Down and Closing Up: Your last few sentences should wrap up your major points in a neat bow.  Restate your key message, then offer a call to action, ask a rhetorical question for listeners to consider, or provide a great quote from a known expert in your field. And when you say, “So, in summary…,” do keep your closing remarks brief.

Without preparation, you’re leaving everything to chance, including your credibility as the voice of authority. A presentation that flounders may, ironically, undermine your authority or role. Preparing yourself and your remarks won’t take that much time, but mopping up after a presentation that was redundant, ignored a current reality, or presented inaccurate information ends up taking a lot of time explaining what you “really meant.”  Using the 4 tips provided, you’re ready to handle push-back or enjoy new fans. To revise the well-known quote, “Good speakers are made, not born.”

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