Public speaking is a common fear, but something we must overcome if we want to be successful in the business world. With practice, I've found that public speaking is not scary, but instead a reward for all the hard work I've put into a project I'm presenting. It's a time to share and collaborate with my clients, debrief, make recommendations, and brainstorm on next steps. Presenting the results of market research projects is one of my favorite parts of my consulting job.
Today I'm going to provide some tips on how to excel at carrying out client presentations:
- Do a practice run the night before your presentation: If you're presenting a project, it's likely that you wrote the report, and know it inside and out. But that doesn't mean that you won't get tongue tied presenting some of your slides -- do you direct the audience's attention to the left half of the slide and then the right if there are two columns of data? Or do you go through row by row, alternating from one column to the other? Do you only touch on highlights? As you practice, the best way to convey information to your audience will become clear, and you won't trip up on the day of.
- Don't read your slides: Your audience can do this on their own time. You're not reading, you're adding details, telling a story. It's important to use your slides to ground the audience in what you are saying -- for example, direct them to the left-hand side of the slide if you're focusing on an image there, however, it's your job to stay engaging, make things clear. You're not just reading a book verbatim.
- Provide previews and recaps: Let your audience know what is to come and what was covered already. If you finished reviewing the key findings, summarize that fact, and tell them that now you'll be covering more detailed findings, for example, for the remainder of the presentation. This keeps your audience engaged, encourages comprehension of what's been done and where you're planning to go.
- Collaborate with your audience: If you work as a consultant, you're not there to just preach to your audience. Your job is to provide recommendations, but also listen to your clients and respond accordingly. On some of my client accounts, I've gotten to know the market research team and marketing team simply by the sound of their voices over teleconference. If someone asks a question, I engage with them personally, to show I really care about the specific individual involved. If one of my client's questions or comments can be integrated into something I'm discussing later in my presentation, I'll bring it back up again "This relates to so so-and-so's point earlier..." Returning to earlier points mentioned encourages engagement and brings a new perspective to the content being discussed.
- Keep important documents open on your computer: Not just the presentation, but other documents you might need to reference. For example, sometimes I present on marketing materials that are in another language. If I'm presenting over teleconference, I like to have the translated text open on one of my screens so that if someone asks about a specific word, I can reference back to that translation. If you're presenting in person, through your own computer screen, you might not have the luxury of being able to juggle different documents, but I find this very helpful on teleconference presentations.
- Have fun and be proud: You worked hard on a project, be confident in it, be proud. If you do good work, your presentation will go well. Congratulate yourself afterwards by going out to lunch/dinner or happy hour with your coworkers.
Labels: Consulting, Market Research, presenting, Public speaking