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BUILDING HIGH-PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATIONS
one to your work team, you’ll need little in the way of practice— you might need none at all. But if the presentation is to your board of directors or to an industry audience of 2,500 people, then putting some significant time into practice before you make your presentation is an investment that will surely pay off. To get realtime feedback, give the presentation in front of a trusted colleague, or you can videotape it and review it to see where you need to make improvements.
All this preparation has a reason: to do the very best job you can communicating your thoughts to your audience. After you’ve gotten prepared, it’s time to present. Here are the five steps for making your presentation one that will not only accomplish your goals but also impress those who attend.
Step 1: Relax. It would be easy for us to tell you that you have no reason to be nervous, you’ve prepared yourself for the presentation, and your audience is looking forward to hearing what you have to say, but the reality is public speaking is a top fear for most people. The good news is that a bit of nervousness will make you a better speaker, giving your presentation an edge of excitement that it wouldn’t have if your heart wasn’t pumping and your knees weren’t quaking. Take some deep breaths, and visualize yourself giving a great presentation. Repeat a positive affirmation such as, “I’m glad I’m here, I’m glad you’re here, I know what I know, and I care about you.”
Step 2: Greet your audience. One of the best ways to be relaxed during a presentation—especially a presentation before a large group of people—is to arrive early and engage members of the audience as they file into the room. Chat with them informally, asking their names, and ask what they hope to gain from the presentation. Instead of a roomful of strangers, you all of a sudden have some friends in the audience helping you to relax and feel more at ease.
The Management Bible
Step 3: Listen to your introduction. If you’re making a formal presentation before a group where someone is going to introduce you (providing the audience with a brief biography and explanation of why you’re there), then pay close attention. You may be able to key off something said by the introducer or open your presentation with a humorous story or anecdote that relates to the context of the meeting.
Step 4: Get your audience’s attention. Before you start your presentation, be sure that you first have your audience’s attention. If someone introduces you, that automatically focuses the attention on you. If, however, you’re making your presentation without an introduction, you may have to figure out a way to get a large group of people who are talking among themselves—oblivious to what is going on in the front of the room—to stop talking and to focus their attention on you. One technique is to walk up to the spot where you’ll be speaking in the front of the room, and just stand there. Don’t say a word. Soon, people will stop talking and start focusing on you. Only when everyone stops talking should you begin your presentation.
Step 5: Make your presentation. Here’s the chance to put all your hard work and practice into action. Remember, people want to hear what you’ve got to say, and they want you to succeed (at least most of them do). Just stick with your plan, and everything will be all right.
PUT IT IN WRITING
Written communication is also a critical skill to master in most any professional job since so much communication—memos, e-mail messages, reports, and the like—are in writing. And, as anyone who has unintentionally hurt the feelings of a coworker because of a too-hastily drafted e-mail knows, the ability to craft well-written documents is an important skill to possess.
BUILDING HIGH-PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATIONS
THE REAL WORLD
In this day and age, there tends to be an excess of information, but often a lack of true communication. In fact, the more connected we have become electronically (with cell phones, pagers, Palm Pilots, voice mail, e-mail, faxes, etc.), the less connection we seem to really have with others today. We have become skilled at processing. Sometimes through all this clutter and information overload, the best communication comes from a 100 percent dedicated focus on a person and the issue being discussed. As Roy Moody of Roy Moody Associates once said: "The most motivating thing one person can do for another is to listen." To listen naively, that is, without an agenda or thinking about your response, is a vital skill that we all need to work at every day. When communication is really lacking, it is sometimes best to "metacommunicate," that is, to talk about the process of communication and how it can be improved for everyone's benefit.
What are some of the best ways to improve your writing skills?
As writers ourselves, we have assembled some of the best in the following list.