Speeches and presentations have become integral part of business transactions and relationships. The ability to make a good speech and an effective presentation adds value to a professional or anyone associated with the world of business.
Both speeches and presentations are a part of oral communication and are often used interchangeably. However, while a speech refers to an act of speaking, a presentation relates to the act of presenting.
In that sense a presentation is, generally speaking, a more formal act. It is done with much preparation and there is nothing casual or sudden about it.
Since a presentation, like a speech, is also a method of oral communication, most of the aspects which we have already covered under good speaking would be valid for a good presentation as well.
All the three aspects relevant to a speech, viz., verbal, visual and vocal dimensions impact any presentation. A presentation should also be structured like a speech to cover three main parts, viz., introduction, body and conclusion.
The choice of words, appropriate use of jargon, fluency of language, presentation style, audience analysis and such other concerns relevant in connecting with and engaging the audience are also very relevant for an effective presentation. Without repeating what we have already covered under speeches, we shall now discuss aspects specific to understanding and acquiring presentation skills.
Presentations are made in classrooms, seminars, conferences and to groups of persons on certain scheduled topics. The topic for presentation is predetermined and there is nothing rambling or disorganized about it.
Presentations have a specific objective. Quite often, the objective is not just to inform, but more importantly to influence, persuade, motivate and amplify. The verbal message is supplemented with the help of audio and visual aids for greater impact.
The objective of a presentation is to present all relevant details to the interested target audience on a specific topic or concept or area of interest in a participative manner. Any good presentation is well structured, properly packaged and presented to create high impact.
Presentations are of various kinds. Whenever a presenter feels that he has to reach out to an audience, influence their thinking and create an impact to achieve a certain objective, he may gainfully make a presentation.
The presentations may range from a simple classroom presentation to amplify a concept or idea to a sales presentation to a very high-level strategy presentation.
The venue for a presentation may be as varied as a classroom or a conference room or an executive cabin or even a boardroom.
Apart from concept or idea presentations, product or sales presentations and strategy presentations are very common in the world of business. During any presentation on products and services, demonstrations covering the functioning and operation of new products are also introduced.
Let us look at some examples of how presentations are used in business:
i. A salesperson makes a presentation on a new product.
ii. An advertising agency makes a presentation on an advertising campaign to a client.
iii. A management consultant makes a presentation on organizational restructuring to a large business organization.
iv. An economist makes a presentation on the impact of global recession in a business seminar.
v. An event manager makes a presentation to a chamber of commerce on a major trade fair.
vi. A CEO makes a presentation to his top management team on their business strategy plan for the ensuing year.
As we can see, these are just some random thoughts and there could be any number of minor and major, short and long, technical and non-technical, routine and path-breaking presentations in business situations. A salesperson or a junior-level person to the chief executive or a highly placed person may be required to make a presentation.
Likewise, a presentation may be made by one individual or a group of persons. Presentations help when technical as well as non-technical aspects have to be neatly and forcefully presented by means other than mere written or verbal.
Presentation is emerging as a popular means of communicating various concepts and ideas, features of gadgets, technology-based products, business results, analytical studies, status reports, strategic plans and a host of such items.
Presentations help in simplification, amplification, analysis and reiteration. Presentations facilitate putting forth issues in proper perspective. Presentations are extremely useful in covering the subject emphatically within a given time. Presentations are helpful from the standpoint of time management, so crucial in business management.
Keeping in view all these advantages, in most business organizations, presentations, scheduled on various relevant topics, are made to CEOs and top management teams, decision-making authorities and even to board members.
Whenever a selection is to be made for any assignment or task, the contenders are normally asked to make a presentation. Based on the presentations, evaluations are made. For example, short listed vendors of any software or hardware product may be asked to make a presentation.
Similarly, short listed advertising agencies may be called upon to make a presentation before a panel before a selection is made. Obviously, in all such cases, the quality of the presentation and its impact on the target audience influence the final decision concerning the product or assignment.
When such presentations are made, apart from the merits of the product or the proposal, the manner in which it is presented often assumes critical importance.
Under such circumstances, presentation skills of the people concerned assume great significance. No wonder, people with good presentation skills are in great demand in the world of business.
Let us now look at the skills relevant for making a good presentation.
The person keen on making an effective presentation has to necessarily develop various types of interactive skills:
i. Essentially, one should be a good communicator and should learn to express oneself clearly and forcefully.
ii. He or she should be comfortable in facing the target audience and should build requisite confidence.
iii. The presenter should be well versed in presenting various types of audio-visual aids.
iv. The person should be able to synchronize the verbal delivery or narration with the visual message.
v. The presentation should not appear rehearsed or stereotype. The person should make the presentation within the allotted time. The presenter should be looking at the visual message as well as the audience and should not miss eye contact with the audience. The presenter should develop good fluency of language and also use familiar and appropriate words.
vi. The presenter should know which parts of the visual message or slides should be emphasized or elaborated and which should be skipped or rushed.
vii. The person should be alive to the response from the audience and know how to sustain it.
ix. The presenter should also know how to make effective use of the vocal and visual aspect of body language to make the presentation effective. Good presentation skills thus constitute good speaking skills plus effective use of visual and other aids to create a total impact.