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Six Presentation Lessons I've Learned the Hard Way
by Chris King

With more than twelve years as a professional speaker, trainer, and storyteller, I have learned many hard-fought lessons that work to make presentations powerful. These techniques work whether we are speaking, giving workshops, or leading meetings.

Repeat, repeat, and repeat! Winston Churchill stated, “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time with a tremendous whack.” Thinking that people listen and hear what we say, We assume that people hear us the first time. Not so. To really make a difference, we need to repeat, repeat, and repeat with force and passion. The time tested formula for planning an effective speech is “Tell them what we are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what we told them.”

Remain in control! When giving workshops and leading meetings, I always encourage participants to interrupt and ask questions. I have found, however, that if the question is way off the topic or is even a “gripe” of some sort, the best way to handle the situation is to say that I will cover that point later, or will be glad to discuss it at the break or at the end of my presentation, workshop, or meeting. Otherwise, the rest of the participants can be turned off completely and we lose their attention.

Be present and audience focused! The audience must know that they are the most important people in the world to us at that moment. Rather than worrying about what we are going to say next or how we are doing, we must focus all of our attention, being, and concern on how the words we are saying are affecting the participants.

Help participants visualize! Realize that people learn when they can visualize our points. Use clear, professionally produced visuals that enhance but don’t detract from the presentation. We need to help the audience see and be a part of our stories, so they start to visualize their own stories.

Watch the words! When giving advice to the audience, it is easier for them to accept and digest the material if we use more “We should …” “We could …” “We need to …” instead of “You should …” “You could …” “You need to …” And, profanity will NEVER enhance a presentation.

Be yourself! Using other people’s material, trying to be like another presenter, or playing the role we think our audience expects can rob us of our credibility, sincerity, and enthusiasm. If we are not expert in and passionate about the topic an audience wants, we shouldn’t accept the invitation to speak. The audience can tell. Give the audience something unique and special. You have what it takes!

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