Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Present Sensitive Issues

Many thanks to Jason Holstein for guest blogging at All Things Presentation today.  Jason is an experienced writer and proofreader with a B.A. in English from the University of Minnesota. 

Presenting to an audience can be stressful in even the best of circumstances. Giving a presentation about sensitive issues can pose an even greater challenge - but these are often the most important talks you can give! Don’t let a potentially awkward situation intimidate you.

Building rapport with your audience is an important first step in any presentation. This is even truer when dealing with sensitive topics. You’ll need to establish both trust and credibility. Some quick tips for connecting with your audience and delivering a successful presentation include:

- Tell stories: The most persuasive people in the world know the value of this technique. You don’t need to be a master storyteller, but you should be able to tell engaging, relevant tales that position yourself as knowledgeable about your topic. 

- Tell a joke: Humor can be used, in moderation and with tact, to good effect. However, the standard “open with a joke” technique may not be ideal when dealing with sensitive issues. You don’t want to come across as making light of the issue, and you certainly don’t want to tell a joke that could be offensive. Consider the context carefully and use humor only if it strengthens your presentation.

- Smile: You would be amazed what this simple trick can do for you. Not feeling it? Follow the old saying, “fake it ‘till you make it.” Even a forced smile triggers physiological reactions that can improve your mood.

- Be Honest and Empathetic: Your words are your most important assets. Make sure yours are believable. In dealing with sensitive issues, it is especially important that your audience acknowledge you as someone who has been where they have been, or at least as someone who can understand what they are dealing with. Let yourself be human, flaws and all, and practice genuine compassion for your audience.

- Keep Positive: Having the right attitude can go a long way towards an effective presentation. Don’t let your stress get the best of you. Relax and relay your information with confidence.

- Let go: Remember that you were chosen to give the presentation based on your own expertise, and you’ve already prepared your speech. The hard work is done and there’s nothing more you can do now, except deliver an amazing presentation. Try to just “let go.” If you have a spiritual or religious background, this might be a good time to say a prayer and “give it to God.”

These are just a few suggestions. When presenting sensitive issues, the basic techniques of powerful presentations are the same as for other topics. The key difference is that you need to be extra careful to avoid offending anyone, while your authority on the subject is more important than if you were dealing with a commonplace topic.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Toastmaster of a Wedding – Another Great Presentation Moment

Yes, Toastmaster or Master of Ceremonies at a wedding is another wonderful forum to give a memorable presentation.  It can be a great way to develop humor, sentiment and storytelling in a creative and loving way.

Presentation Training as Toastmaster
at a Wedding
As toastmaster at a wedding, you’ll be charged with initiating toasts, introducing speakers and delivering important announcements. Simultaneously, the toastmaster will also be responsible for keeping the activities of the wedding on schedule. As the toastmaster, your primary job will be communicating with the entire group present at the wedding, as well as helping the individual people in the wedding to fulfill their roles at the appointed times.

Don’t: Be rude to the guests and other speakers. While it is the job of the toastmaster to assure that the other speakers make their speeches on time, it is also important to keep the mood of the wedding happy. 

Do: Keep the flow of activities on schedule. It would be a tragedy if the entire wedding schedule were disrupted because the toastmaster failed to keep everything on schedule.

Don’t: Forget to obtain a copy of the weddings activities and proposed times for each event prior to the wedding.

Do: Rehearse your announcements and toasts in front of a mirror.

Don’t: Look down continuously at a cue card while speaking at the wedding.

Do: Keep each introduction of each speaker short and to the point.

Don’t: Incorporate any humor that can be viewed as mean-spirited during the speech.

Do: Begin your first announcement by telling the audience your name and a description of your relationship to the bride and groom.

Don’t: Feel that you have to wear a red jacket, as is the traditional attire for toastmasters.

Do: Stand up straight while speaking. Pull your shoulders back and stand tall.

Don’t: Forget to obtain a list of the other wedding speakers prior to the big day. Make arrangements to meet them before the wedding so that you can make a proper introduction.

Do: Make flattering comments about the bride.

Don’t: Drink too much before speaking or in between announcements. One drink is probably enough to help ease any butterflies in your stomach.

Do: Let your personality shine through. Feel free to speak from the heart. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Teachers and PowerPoint: Turn PowerPoint into a Game Show!

A great way to engage your students and have tons of fun is to be creative and turn your PowerPoint presentation from the standard text and pictures to something much more exciting--a Game Show!  

Making PowerPoint Fun for the Classroom

There are many reasons to use Game Shows in your classroom such as helping your students review material, prep for upcoming exams or just to have a good time learning.  Infuse excitement and fun into your lesson by using this method to hold their interest and watch them learn, even when they believe they are just playing a game!

The Murray County School District offers a fantastic list of great already-made templates of popular game shows, such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Jeopardy and Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

Depending on the material you want to cover, some games are better suited than others.

For general or questions spanning multiple subjects, Question/Answer games are best such as:

To help students remember terms, meanings and spellings the following games are best:

Here are a few more school and education sites offering different versions of the games listed and other games.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Eulogy and Public Speaking Etiquette

Writing A Eulogy

Being charged with the delivery of a eulogy can be a very difficult task.  Eulogies are doubly difficult to give because they require people to speak publicly about the emotionally challenging topic of death. In spite of these inherent difficulties, you can give a eulogy effectively by preparing properly ahead of the funeral. Follow the tips in this article to find out how to deliver this important speech. 

Use your own stories and speak to family members who may be able to share some wonderful and memorable stories that you can relay. Focus on that person’s life, not their death, and bring to light all the wonderful qualities that person shared with those around him.  Speak from the heart and the writing will come much easier.

Plan what you will say ahead of time and use a timer to determine the length of your speech. This will prevent your eulogy from going on too long. Keep in mind that you are likely to speak faster when you give the actual speech due to nervousness. Make every effort to keep your speech limited to the topics you have rehearsed and planned to say. 

Keep in mind that a eulogy isn’t the appropriate setting to discuss your own feelings of sadness. Rather, it is a time to look back upon the positive accomplishments and personality traits of the person you are remembering. A brief mention of the sadness you, as well as everyone else in the room, is experiencing is sufficient. 

When you walk to the front of the podium, stand tall and don’t slouch. Taking on the persona of a person who has their emotions under control will help you not to have an emotional breakdown in front of the funeral attendees. Even if you believe that there is no chance that you will begin crying while speaking, once you begin to look out on the audience and see the children and parents crying, you may feel different. Take a moment, roll your shoulders back and be confident in yourself while preparing to speak and during your speech. 

It isn’t necessary to be an eloquent public speaker to give a well-spoken eulogy. With advance preparation, your eulogy will remind the audience of the gifts left behind for the grieving family and friends. In conclusion, while giving a eulogy can be a very emotionally wrenching task, it is quite possible to give a speech that helps the loved ones of the deceased feel more at ease with his passing. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to Teach Your Audience “How To” While Public Speaking

The goal when giving instructional presentations in a public speaking environment is to provide the audience with detailed directions or to guide them through a procedure. It’s common for this type of presentation to feature a longer length format than other types of presentations. 

When giving a presentation that is designed to teach the audience how to do something, it’s critical to keep the goal in the forefront of your mind. The audience should leave the presentation having learned something new that will enable them to complete a specific task.

Begin your speech by providing a vivid description of the reasons why the new information is necessary. Tell the audience what they will be able to accomplish after they learn the steps that you will teach in your instructional presentation.

Provide your audience with an outline of the topics you will cover. Remember that because you are engaged in public speaking to a group of people, your outline should be brief and should use verbiage that the members of that particular audience will understand. 

Use a visual aid to show the audience how to do the task. The visual aid can involve your demonstration of the task, or can involve the use of technology such as video or Powerpoint images indicating the steps involved.

Follow up the visual demonstration with a detailed verbal description of each step. This will allow audience members who aren’t visual learners the opportunity to learn the task. It is important to use clear communication that is geared toward the needs and educational level of the audience you’re speaking to. 

Just prior to the close of your presentation, it is important to open the floor for questions. Ask your audience members if they have any questions about the process you’ve taught. Take the time to give a clear and specific answer to each question. 

To close out your presentation, lead the audience in a discussion on the ways in which the new information will solve their problem. Whenever you are engaged in public speaking, it is important to end your speech with a short recap of the information you gave them. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Don't be Afraid of Humor

Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"

Come on, you can tell me. You at least smiled a little. My husband has said that line a few times over the years and it still makes me smile (shake my head) but smile. Humor is a part of us, a part of our community, family and state of well being. Public speaking is another great place to share humor.

Gelotology (from the Greek gelos, meaning laughter) is the study of laughter and its effects on the body, from a psychological and physiological perspective. (Wikipedia).

We know laughter has been used in many therapies to help patients with pain management, there is laughter meditation and even laughter yoga (which I thought was a stretch)…sorry, I couldn't help myself there.

Keep it simple, keep it appropriate and don’t be afraid to use humor in your next presentation.

During a presentation, your humor doesn't have to be so in your face like my clown joke, but perhaps a little twist of words, a touch of appropriate sarcasm or a pun, can help hold the attention of your audience. Simply using a rhetorical question can get a giggle. For example “What’s another word for Thesaurus?” Or hubby’s favorite “Why is it so hard to remember how to spell mnemonic?” The internet is a great place to get some help if humor isn't your forte.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Presentation Writing Tip: Want to know your Audience? Put Yourself in their Shoes!

Presentation Writing Tip - Put Yourself in Their Shoes
What do action movies, a five-year old's birthday party, romance novels, and intense board room meetings all have in common? They all have very specific target audiences. People, by nature, group together under a banner of common likes, desires and needs.  Grabbing and holding a specific group's attention has been the business of media for centuries. But you may ask, what does that have to do with giving a presentation?

In a nutshell: Everything.

Knowing your audience dictates everything about your presentation, from the content, depth of scope, timing, tone and language.  

Let us pretend for a moment you are a new project manager for a real estate developer and at work one afternoon your boss leans against your desk and says, " I need you to give a fifteen minute presentation next week."
Your mind goes blank.  You haven't given a  presentation in years and you do not remember where to start. 

Don't panic, you just have to ask a critical question to get started on the right path.

"Who is my audience."

Let's assume your boss says," Potential buyers."

The image of families, cash buyers looking for an investment, first-time home buyers all come to mind.  You only have fifteen minutes, meaning you need to get to you key points--fast!  What are this group's needs and desires?

Put yourself in their shoes.  What would you want to know if you were a buyer?  Maybe the base price for all the models, their square-footage, lot size, cost of upgrades and incentives.  You may also want more information regarding the neighborhood, school district, local shopping and dining.  

But, let us rewind time and your boss says instead, "I want you to give a fifteen minute presentation to our investors."  
The investors needs and desires will be radically different than the buyers. 

What would you want to know if you invested money into the Jameson project?  Maybe the analysis of cost-over-profit, projected revenue, timelines of construction and percentage sold. Both presentations are given during the same time frame, but are vastly different because you tailored the presentation to fit the audience.

Taking a moment and pretending to be a member of your target audience will help you focus and find the key points to discuss for any presentation, regardless of the shoe size.