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.

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