Importance of good presentation skills in today’s competitive world

Wednesday, 30 March 2011 09:29 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


There are a number of people who often question why good presentation skills are needed in the corporate world. The people who usually ask this are those who do not get enough exposure to the importance of this skill and those who are oblivious of the multitude of benefits that can be derived from its use,



The reason why people ask about the importance of this skill is because they are wondering how this will help them with their jobs. Whatever role you have in business or the corporate world today, your success will be directly related to your ability to influence others. Therefore, one of the important attributes for successful people in business today is the ability to present well. 

Today, it’s not just what you know that counts but how you present your knowledge to the world. Delivering accomplished presentations is a vital skill in anyone’s armoury whether you’re a student just starting out or the head of a large organisation. 

Even if you don’t normally give presentations as part of your day-job, one day you’ll need to address a hobby group or a community organisation so it pays to prepare and develop those skills now. 

In a nutshell, how do you present your information in a manner that creates a compelling need for the audience to do something about it, i.e., get into action, a reference or to create an impression of credibility and stature?

How do I begin?

First decide what you want to say and how much time is available to do it. If it is a conference or seminar, then you will probably be allocated a fixed period of time; typically 15-30 minutes, plus time for questions.

Technical people, in particular, often need to focus on a great deal of detail in their everyday work, so the most common mistake when giving a presentation is to include too much information. The golden rule is ‘keep it simple’.

Think of a presentation as designing an advertisement. You should focus on a few key themes and benefits. You don’t fill an advert or a presentation with detail such as circuit diagrams or technical data sheets. 

Knowledgeable people comprising of senior managers, directors and CEOs of the corporate world know how to identify the bluffer from the genuine. How? Well, from the presentation itself. If a presenter fills up the time allocation with either slides on a back-to-back basis and reads off the screen or reads off a prepared script to perfectly fill the time slot, we will know that the knowledge and conviction levels are low.

If, however, breathing space is factored into the presentation, giving room for any clarifications or questions, then we will know that the knowledge level of the presenter on the subject presented, is substantial and he/she will earn instant respect.

Judged by a presentation

My mind goes back to 1 July 2001 when I was selected as Head of Human Resources, Mackwoods Winthrop Ltd., the local operation of the American multinational Sterling Winthrop. In November of the same year, I was invited to make a presentation of the status of the HR function in the Sri Lanka operation, at the annual HR Conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

Other HR directors from our MEEASC Region (Middle East, East Africa, Central & Eastern Europe) were also making their respective country HR presentations. The time given for each presenter was 25 minutes with a five minute Q&A session after each presentation. 

Almost all presentations used up the entire 25 minutes and some went onto 30 to 35 minutes and had to be stopped by the Regional Director. When it came to my turn, my power point presentation lasted 15 minutes and I gave the rest of my time to questions. 

There were so many questions that dragged in the top brass from the Regional Office and country managers of other country operations and the total duration exceeded well over 45 minutes. I realised that I had done something special and that I had created a strong positive impact… getting the ball of enthusiasm rolling!

I was confirmed in December the same year having successfully completed my probation period and then in the next month (January), I receive a letter from the Regional President in the UK requesting me to act as the Regional HR Director, Sterling Winthrop, East Africa Region and overseeing the HR function of eight countries coming under the East African Region, i.e., Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia and Mauritius. 

In hindsight, quite apart from the consistency of good work that I may have performed, that presentation in Scotland did the trick. So, once again, if you want to leave behind a professional flavour of a presentation among an audience, keep it simple, as short as adequate and entertaining and leave ample opportunity for audience questions and interactions.

A good presenter is judged by how he responds to questions from the audience rather than how rich the contents appeared on the screen.

A good presentation

Let us see how we can bring about a good presentation. A good presentation needs an introduction, followed by the main body and an ending with some conclusions. It is also helpful if the main body breaks into about three key themes. You can leave the detail either for inclusion in your written paper or to be dealt with during question time.

Once you’ve mapped out what you want to say, you will need some visual material and, if appropriate, a formal paper or maybe a brief the audience can read beforehand. For an informal peer review, a whiteboard or a flip-chart is fine. For a more formal occasion, the use of a PC presentation package such as PowerPoint may be more suitable.

How to deliver a successful and effective presentation

If you want your presentations to be impressive and persuasive then read on! Here are lots of tips and techniques for preparing successful presentations and how to get your points across. 

These days, public speaking and business presentations are also often a key part of the recruitment and selection process, particularly in education, consultancy or marketing. Several companies require candidates to make presentations on subjects selected by the company with prior communication to the candidate or ask the candidate to pick a subject.

Basic guidelines for designing your presentation

1.List and prioritise the top three goals that you want to accomplish with your audience. It’s not enough just to talk at them. You may think you know what you want to accomplish in your presentation, but if you’re not clear with yourself and others, it is very easy – too easy – for your audience to completely miss the point of your presentation. For example, your goals may be for them to appreciate the accomplishments of your organisation, learn how to use your services, etc. Again, the goals should be in terms of what you want to accomplish with your audience.

2.Be really clear about who your audience is and about why is it important for them to be in the meeting. Members of your audience will want to know right away why they were the ones chosen to be in your presentation. Be sure that your presentation makes this clear to them right away. This will help you clarify your invitation list and design your invitation to them. 

3.Be clear about the tone that you want to set for your presentation; for example, hopefulness, celebration, warning, teamwork, etc. Consciously identifying the tone to yourself can help you cultivate that mood to your audience. Above all, keep your voice steady. Any nervousness can be detected by the audience through your voice.

Why should you improve your business presentation skills?

Those who understand how to present effectively understand how to structure their presentations, what to say and how to say it in order to make an impact with their audience. Even ‘off the cuff’ presentations are more effective if the person delivering it has an understanding of what is required in the presentation process. 

The audience is then far more receptive to the message which is being communicated – if the person delivering it does so with an understanding of the process of presenting and speaking. Further, it gives the chance for the presenter to build up his confidence from presentation to presentation. One cannot be a good presenter overnight.

1. To sell more products 

Your product may be tangible; it may be your services or the services of your company. You may be presenting a proposal on behalf of your company. It may be to a group, five, 10 or more prospective clients, but whatever you are selling, the effectiveness your presentation skills will play a critical role in achieving the ‘sale’.

The most successful sales people are also successful presenters so if your role requires you to sell your company’s products or services or even to present a proposal to your client, improving your presentation skills will improve your success in making that sale. What about the relationship that can be built post-presentation?

2. To influence your team 

You may be communicating to your team; maybe it’s the weekly or fortnightly team meeting, in this situation you have to convey our message effectively to the other members of the team. They may be fellow team members – or this could be the team you’re leading. 

The ability to communicate effectively rests with you – and the outcome you achieve will be directly, in most cases, related to the way you present, to the content of what you’re saying and the way you’re saying it. Are you convincing them or are you boring them? Are you communicating to their heart as well as their mind – or are you simply filling the air with the sound of your voice? 

3. To enhance your career prospects 

If you think your career is slowing, check your presentation skills. People who speak and present well get noticed. No question. If you can effectively, with conviction and impact, present your views and have no hesitation in speaking and presenting to others, you will dramatically increase your chances of being picked up for that next career move. 

4. To become more confident 

The inner confidence that comes with speaking and presenting well will come out in your interactions with others even when you’re not presenting to them. You will appear to others to have an air of confidence in all your interactions with them. That confidence then is also evident in the presentations you’re making.

You know what you are going to say, you know how to say it effectively – and you do so confidently. The audience is more than half way convinced; psychologically, they are already on ‘your side’ when they see a level of confidence from you when you present confidently.

Effective leaders are also effective presenters and speakers. Executives and managers in business today need to present well to have the edge over their competitors – both the internal as well as the external competitors. Importantly, they are effective influencers of others.

First decide what you want to say and how much time is available to do it. If it is a conference or seminar, then you will probably be allocated a fixed period of time. The golden rule is ‘keep it simple’. How often have you sat through a presentation where there was so much information on the screen you just couldn’t read it all before the slide disappeared from the screen? Remember how it made you feel?


Overcoming your fear of public speaking

To overcome your fear of public speaking here are a few simple techniques you could follow: 

The biggest hurdle to overcome, of course, is the fear of getting up in front of people. If you can handle all those eyes staring back at you, you’re on your way to becoming a comfortable and confident presenter. 

Speak often: Hate to burst your bubble, but you won’t overcome your fear by reading this column (or any other material). You have to get up and speak. But it need not be a formal event. Give a toast at a reunion or anniversary. Provide the reading at your house of worship. Make a presentation before a known group. You get the picture? Take advantage of any opportunity to stand up and say something.

Be prepared: This goes without saying. Do your researches, write your notes, and prepare any necessary handouts or equipment. Rehearse your presentation as time permits. Confidence in your material builds confidence in you.

Survey the room: Spend a few moments before your presentation familiarising yourself with your surroundings. Note any acoustical or other logistical issues (for example, outside noise) that you will have to overcome.

Test equipment again: Regardless of how smoothly your laptop and projector worked during your rehearsal, you must test them again. There’s no better way to ruin a presentation – and give you a case of the jitters that’ll last a lifetime —than to have equipment fail.

Greet audience members as they arrive: Talk with them for a bit and find out a few things about each person. You will begin to feel as if you’re talking with a colleague as opposed to a total stranger. You will carry that feeling with you as you approach the stage. An added benefit is that you may learn something that you can use in your speech. That’s a very powerful tool to use.

Stand in front prior to introduction: Remain up front but off to the side. Scan the room to further familiarise yourself with that sea of faces and eyes. This allows you to get some early face time. Remind yourself that those are friendly eyes and faces; they are not to be feared. After all, you got to know some of those people in advance. They are now nearly friends.

Start strong: Open with a powerful question or comment to grab your audience’s attention.

Focus on your material: Develop and deliver solid information in a professional manner, and your audience will concentrate on that approach instead of you.

Don’t dwell on nervousness: Odds are it won’t show, and most of it will evaporate within a couple minutes. Also, don’t worry if you feel “wooden” or not that dynamic. You are being judged on your content, not style. Gestures, body language, and vocal variety will come naturally over time.

Put that energy to work: Use any nervous energy to add life to your presentation. Imagine there’s a small power plant inside you radiating energy. Tap that energy source to enhance your voice and gestures. If your audience senses you’re excited about the material, they will be as well.

Avoid negative thoughts: Some audience members may appear to be uninterested. It’s probably because they’re dwelling on some pressing matter. (Others may be focusing away – usually on the floor – so they can concentrate on what you’re saying. I do that frequently.) Don’t let that bother you. Press on with your presentation.

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