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7 Guidelines for Powerful Presentations

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/27/2007 | Entrepreneur
If speaking in front of an audience scares you more than death itself it's time to get up and do it! When we confront fears that aren't dangerous to our lives we grow and learn beyond any book. The fact is, no matter what field you're in, if you can confidently speak in front of large groups of people, you will be an invaluable resource for your company. You will be paid more and have greater job security.

The following are 7 guidelines for Powerful Presentations:

1: 80-20 Rule

Realize that 80% of your material must be information your audience already knows. Sound strange? Think of it this way. When we advanced through school each year's lessons grew from the material from the previous year. For instance we learned the alphabet, then words, then we were able to put sentences together, and then we studied structure, punctuation, grammar, paragraphs...

80% of school is remedial of the previous year. This is how we learn. To make the 80% of the material interesting you need to simply add your own unique personality. Then connect the 80% with the 20% for new material and your audience will be sitting on the edge of their seats. Learning is about seeing known material in new ways and making connections to new material. If these percentages are reversed you will lose you audience in a thick fog of confusion.

2: Know Your Audience

Research your audience. What do they know? What do they want to know more about? When you can answer these two questions you are well on your way to putting together a powerful presentation that leaves them enlightened and feeling good.

Proper Attire and Grooming:

A suit and tie may not be advisable if you are speaking to a "Youth Without Shelter" group. They will likely feel like you are preaching from an "Ivory Tower" perspective. Conversely, ripped jeans and a T-shirt may not be advisable in a business setting.

3: Have a Plan

After you choose a topic decide on how you want to present it. Will you use visual aids? What is your purpose? Maybe you want to inspire some sort of action from your audience like buying your products. Prepare, prepare, prepare... Know your material. There should be no doubt in the mind of your audience that you have earned the right to talk about this subject.

Briefly tell your audience what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. This will reinforce your message.

4: Practice

The success of becoming good at anything, including public speaking, is practice. Give your presentation in front of the mirror, notice your posture; practice on your family and friends; imagine giving your presentation to a thousand people as you practice.

Does your voice project? Could a person sitting in the back row hear you? Are you using vocal variety including volume, pitch, and tone? How is the pace; too fast, slow, or just right?

5: Over the Top Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm originally meant possessed by the Gods. Ignite passion about your subject into the audience; light their minds and move their bodies with your words and gestures! They should be sitting on the edge of their seats ready to take action at your beckon call. It is difficult to stay tuned-in to a boring, monotone speaker; it is impossible to turn away from somebody possessed with enthusiasm.

6: Make Your Audience Feel Good

Give lots of praise and be personal. Thank them for being there and let them know that you are honored to be addressing them. Tell them a funny story about yourself. Maybe it was when you were on stage one time and flubbed your lines. If you flub your lines any time while speaking, make a quick joke about it and keep going. Remember most of the people in your audience are scared to death of public speaking. After all your preparation and practice it's time to be natural, human.

7: It's Not About You

Realize that your presentation is not about you. It's not even about the presentation. It's about how the audience responds to the presentation. When you can direct your attention away from your fear and your self-image you will have taken the biggest step toward getting intimate with your audience and delivering the messages in the way that best suits them.

You have to feel into your audience. You have to know when they are drifting, what puts them on the edge of their seats, what they disagree with. This type of connection can only happen if your step out of your own fears and anxieties and into the hopes and dreams of your audience.

Ask a lot of questions. Even rhetorical questions are great. This engages the mind. Understand that when you ask a question, the people in your audience cannot not answer. That's the way the mind works. Whether they use a physical gesture, answer out loud, or silently the mind will answer. Does that make sense?

To sum up: The most effective speakers jump at any opportunity to speak publicly, they move out of their own insecurities, focus on the audience, and get personally involved with their messages. Practice, practice, practice until you can speak naturally from your heart, then allow your presentation to flow in the direction of their wants, needs, and interests.