Skills 360 – Tips for Successful English Presentations 1

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Hello, I’m Tim Simmons and you’re listening to Business Skills 360. We’re going to kick off the New Year with an insanely great show on presentations. But first, I want to wish you all an awesome 2011. Hopefully the coming year is unbelievably wonderful for you. I know it will be for me. Now, let’s get to all that awesomeness…

Okay. Forget everything I just said. I’m not Steve Jobs, and I don’t have a shiny “new” gizmo to show you. If I keep using words like “awesome,” you’re going to get sick of me really fast. You might have heard that Steve Jobs gives great presentations. Well, he can wow a crowd of people who already love Apple, but should we really try to copy him? His style and his adjectives don’t really work when English is not your first language. And they fall flat when you are an HR manager presenting a new compensation plan, or an engineer reporting change orders on a big project.

So exactly how can you make an impact? How can you tighten up your presentation so that it connects to your audience?

I’m sure all of you have heard of the mnemonic device KISS – short for “Keep it Short and Simple”. This is excellent advice for all types of business communication, and I completely agree with it. But KISS misses a couple of key points that you also need to consider so I’ve added these and now like to use KISSER- which stands for “Keep it Short, Simple, Engaging and Real.”

Let’s look at the first term: “short.” Many bad presentations have too much repetition or unnecessary information. People want what is important and relevant, and that’s what you should give them. Try this: after you prepare your presentation, go through and cut out 30%. You should be able to do that without damaging your central message. What remains will have much more impact because it’s not surrounded by fluff. This applies to PowerPoint slides, charts, and diagrams as well. As a general rule, try to limit slides to one per minute. And if your boss gives you ten minutes to speak, make sure you can do it in just five.

Next is “simple.” Simple means organized and clear. Start with the purpose of your presentation, which you should be able to summarize in one sentence. Something like: “make people understand that expenses are too high.” From that purpose, organize your ideas into three or four points. If you want, you can frame these points as questions, like this: “What expenses can we reduce? What expenses can we eliminate? And what are the long-term savings?” And tell your audience what the outline is at the start. If your questions are good ones, they’ll want to figure out the answers.

“Simple” also applies to your language and visuals. Don’t try to impress people with technical lingo. It won’t work. And keep PowerPoint slides simple. No confusing charts or graphs. Only the essential information, in simple form. The text on your slides should not be too hard to see, no smaller than a 30-point font. This will force you to keep the text simple. I promise you, people will appreciate that.

Okay, now we come to “engaging.” You need to catch and hold people’s attention. You want them to be interested. And how do we do that? In terms of what you say, there are a lot of great techniques that we’ll cover in our upcoming podcast series on impact presentations. They include repetition, rhetorical questions, metaphors, and visualizing facts and figures. One thing that is not engaging is information overload. Don’t overwhelm your audience. Use pictures and other visual aids to illustrate your points. If you’re doing a PowerPoint, don’t put two “informational” slides right after each other. Mix it up. Give some information, then use a picture to help people understand what you’re saying, then give more information. Being engaging also means being interactive. Ask questions. Look at people. Ask for input. Get people to do something besides just listen to you talk.

Lastly, you need to keep it “real.” If you start talking about things that nobody can understand, nobody can relate to, or nobody cares about, then you will lose your audience. Guaranteed. Try using an anecdote or story – a story that everyone can connect with, something that everyone experiences. Tell them why your topic matters. Tell them how it affects them, their jobs, and their lives. Connect yourself with the people and connect the people with the topic. Another part of keeping it real is working within your abilities. If you’re not comfortable telling a joke in English, don’t tell a joke. If you have to keep the words simple, keep them simple. Presentations are hard enough as it is. Don’t try to push yourself too far outside your normal communication style.

Right. Keep it short, simple, engaging, and real. If those words can describe your presentation, you’ll do great. You don’t need to use the word awesome. You can be awesome without it

That’s all for today. If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript. Next week, we’ll look at the actual delivery of the presentation. We’ll talk about what you should be doing when you’re in front of all those people. So long. See you again soon.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think PowerPoint is used effectively?
2. How long can you keep an audience focused during a presentation?
3. Think about the good presentations you’ve seen. What qualities did the speaker have?

6 thoughts on “Skills 360 – Tips for Successful English Presentations 1”

  1. January 09,2011.
    Starting the New Year, studying this lesson: 360 – Tips for Successful Presentations 1.
    Very interesting, teaches you in many ways and the listening is very clear an easy to understand. Really, as told in the beginning it is a kick off to the new Year.
    Let´s study everybody and start a very good new year for all of us that are doing everything to improve our knowledge in English.
    Good luck for all of us ” students”.

  2. Pingback: Business Skills 360 - Tips for Successful Presentations in English 2 | Business English Pod :: Learn Business English Online

  3. Very nice podcast! All of us earlier or later have to make a presentation, so its good to be prepared! I liked the idea of cut 30% of the draft and frame the points as questions.
    It is good to remember that we have to catch the attention of our audience in the first five minutes and the idea to show the outline at the start helps us to do it.
    Using this tips 2011 will definetly be incredible.

  4. Why I found the tips for successful presentations 1 is more difficult than 2? There are so many words I can’t get the meaning.Maybe I need remember more business english vocabulary. 🙁

  5. we should focus on short and simple words when talking or discusing ,makeing sure the highlight come out captured our audience.

  6. Powerpoint easily attracts the attention and easily kick off the boredom. Relevancy and fluency of the topic is the most important thing. We see lots of presentation here and there. But I really liked the presentation of Sunil Sir who told the ancedote about learning experiance.
    Again a nice lesson from this site, so much great stuff 🙂

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