The work place today is a different environment than it was even 10 years
ago. Very few of us have escaped some impact from the downsizing around
us. Most of us have experienced the "do more with less" business
climate. Companies have tightened up performance management systems. And
time, more than ever before, is of the essence. With this kind of climate
in place, let's assume you've been assigned to give a presentation
at work. And given the kind of lean climate most of us function in today,
there is a real reason for your presentation. Let's make sure you
are fully aware of what that reason is, and how you can guarantee your
audience knows it, too.
Let's start with public speaking objectives. Different reasons
exist for different business public speaking events. Some presentations
or speeches are geared to "sell" an idea, or a product so
the audience can make a decision on that idea or product. Others may be
designed to inform of a coming change in the work place. Still others
may be designed to elicit a change in work place behaviour. Your first
step in making sure your message is "heard" is to be absolutely
sure yourself what the purpose and objectives of your presentation really
are. Let's assume you are explaining a change in the benefit plans
at work. I bet you already know your next step. It's to figure out
where your audience is in regard to the information you have to present.
Your audience has a real stake in the message you are providing about
their benefits. They will not be interested in flowery or artful presentation
design. They will be interested in what changes are coming.
Have you ever heard the old saw about basic public speaking skills? This
is the one which says, "Tell them what you are going to tell them,
then tell them, then tell them what you told them." Most of the
time, "old saws" become "old saws" because there
is considerable truth or value to them. In other words, this kind of public
speaking structure will make your presentation or speech far more effective.
You begin by explaining what the content of your message is. This could
include a SHORT rationalization as to why the changes are coming, what
the changes are, and how the changes will impact different populations
of employees. You may also explain at this point that you will summarize
the changes at the end of your presentation and give the audience a chance
to answer questions and provide them resources for more specialized information.
One more advantage to using this technique is that you may deflect questions
which are directed at things not within the scope of your presentation.
You may have an audience member who wants to argue about what drugs are
approved for particular conditions. But your outline makes it clear that
you won't be covering that topic today.
Next, you actually present what the coming changes are. A word about
your slides at this point---while this information may be VERY familiar
to you, it will not be familiar to your audience. And this is information
which is critically important to them. So it is incumbent upon you, the
expert, to make it understandable to your audience. Stay away from jargon.
Spell out abbreviations. Don't make assumptions about what your
audience understands about the technical side of your world, whatever
it is. Make your information clear, jargon-free, and simple to understand.
A great way to insure that you have succeeded in this part of your task
is to ask someone else to look over your presentation before you give
it. And this someone else should have the same level of understanding
of the topic as your audience will have. The idea is to make sure your
message will be clear to the people who need to hear it. Using this public
speaking technique to sort of test your message will point out areas you
need to clarify or elaborate on for audience understanding.
Once you have presented the information, it's time for the third
part of your speech. This is the "tell them what you told them."
You should have a summary slide in which you recap the topics you have
covered. This is also a great place to ask your audience what questions
they have. And take note of the structure of that last sentence. If you
say, "Any questions?" many audience members will sit on their
hands. They don't want to look "dumb" or to appear to
be somehow lacking in their understanding. But if you phrase your question
differently, your response will be different. Say, "I know this
is a lot of information. What do we need to go over again? What questions
do you have about what I've told you today?" Do you see the
difference? If you use this basic public speaking skill regarding audience
questions, you've given your audience permission to have questions
in the first place, and you've deflected the feeling some may have
that their questions will be regarded as "dumb" questions.
What if they ask questions you can't answer at this point? No matter
how well-prepared you are, this is likely to happen. If you don't
know the answer, SAY SO! But you are the expert! Won't this impact
your credibility? Sure it will. People will see right through a blustery
or overly generalized answer. Don't go there. Simply record the
question, do the research to find the answer, and get the answer back
to your questioner. Your audience will regard you as honest, helpful,
and willing to help them understand the topic if you employ this public
speaking tip for handling questions you don't have a ready answer
Now it's time to end your presentation. You have told your audience
what to expect, you have delivered to those expectations, you have encouraged
questions, and you have provided additional resources where necessary.
Congratulations! Your audience will remember what you said.