One of the many essential aspects of any research, whether in management or in other areas, is the dissemination of the findings or the results of a particular study or survey. One of the most common methods to make other individuals familiar with one’s work and results of a study is by either publishing these results in an article or by opting to give a poster or oral presentation. There are many definitions of presentation. The broadest and the best definition of presentation, however, is that it is every encounter an individual has with any other individual they meet. When one is, sitting in the chair of an interviewer trying to be eloquent in explaining why they quit their other job can also be taken as a presentation. More precisely, however, when most people talk about presentations, they usually mean presentations in business. Whenever one is, asked to come in front of more than one people or even one person to educate, explain, convince or even convey some information, outcomes of a study or even knowledge then they are contacting a presentation. In its essence, a presentation can be said to consist of or to be compressed into four basic elements. These four elements include the presenter, the audience the presenter is talking to, the message and tools the person giving the presentation uses to convey his message effectively(Alley, 2003).
This paper, therefore, will look at these four elements by starting with the planning of the presentation support materials and visuals. Later, the paper will also look at speaking and presentation skills, attitudes, techniques, and other challenges faced by any kind of a presenter. After this, the paper will look at measures and ways which a presenter can use to measure whether his or her audience is listening and to measure the outcomes of the priory mentioned action plans.
General Guidelines for Visual Presentation
The main purpose of any kind of presentation whether oral, written or visual is to communicate. For one to communicate effectively, the presenter must be able to state their facts in a manner that is concise, simple, and interesting. It has been indicated that people are only able to learn and listen effectively and retain more of what they have been taught when the presentation is done with visual reinforcement. A presenter can, therefore, inform, entertain, shock and even excite his audience by properly integrating visual images in any information exchanged between the audience and the presenter. As it follows, any meeting, which might otherwise be considered boring or dull, can be transformed into productions that are exciting and those that grab the attention of the audience(Kenny,1983).
This form of presentation maximizes the retention of the audience of the subject of the presentation. Pictures are considered to be a significant part of any presentation. Visual images that are concise, clear and simple, paced briskly and marred with graphics that are attention-grabbing will in most cases support the presenter’s spoken words. This is because a presentation carried out in this form always leaves the audience with an attitude that is positive towards a company’s product, the presenter and the proposal or service. In business presentations, visuals should always be used to support the written or spoken part of the presentation and not to replace it. A script and concept that is well developed and effective are indispensable elements of an effective presentation(Cheshire, 1983). Regardless of the form, they might take these elements should be considered the most significant and the first phases in the development of a presentation.
This does not mean that the AV design should be placed at the end of the presentation. One must first begin with planning the presentation mentally at the start of the process of designing. Visuals that are produced and designed hastily can be the doom of any presentation, while images that are well executed and planned add tremendously to the strength of the presentation. The visuals are only developed when the concept starts to take the final form. Concepts that are difficult to comprehend and grasp can be easily and quickly communicated through the use of visuals that are intelligently and professionally produced(Zanna& Darley, 1987).
This allows the presenter the freedom to explain and communicate subject matters that are more complex in a manner that is efficient, adding impact and support to the presentation script. One of the many things that a presenter must never forget while giving a speech is that a presentation should always be entertaining. It must, therefore, leave the audience more relaxed and feeling better when they leave the venue, and that impression will stay with them for a long time, and it will carry over to both the presenter and the subject matter of the speech. There is no excuse for making presentations of financial reports and routine sales dull or boring as the unveiling of the first-rate proposal of a service or the unveiling of a new product(Talent, 1997).
2.0 Know the subject matter of the proposal
While this might seem obvious, it is extremely essential for a presenter to research each and every part of the subject matter of the presentation. A presenter must, therefore, look up information, and read reports about the subject of the presentation with the purpose of coming up with enough information to write a presentation script. When looked at in this light, alternative ways and new ideas usually come forth. The ability for a presenter to present a subject matter with confidence is determined by the extent to which a presenter knows his subject matter, and it directly affects the impressions of the audience of the presenter and will help him grasp their attention. This is especially essential when the subject matter of a presenter is giving a proposal presentation or a design presentation since the presenter is in the effect of selling the ideas of a company to the audience. This is so even when the audience is the board of directors or a potential client(Talent, 1997).
3.0 Understand the Audience
Researching the makeup of the audience that will be present during the presentation can be extremely beneficial for the presenter during the presentation day. For example, if one was to travel to speak on behalf of a certain project in construction, they would have to tailor several, different presentations to an audience made of the city council and the city engineers. The presenter in such a case would need to have a number of other versions for the activist groups in the local community. These versions depend on whether these activists are against or for the project(Watanabe, 1985).
4.0 ABC System
This system was developed by Alan Lakein, and it is used to impose time consciousness on a presenter depending on which tasks in the presentation script are of top priority. To apply this to a presentation, one assigns each task letters A, B, C and so on according to the urgency or essentiality if each task. In this case, the most urgent task is assigned letter A and the least urgent is assigned C or a lower letter in the alphabet. In other cases, these tasks can further be put under subcategories such as A1, A2 and so on. This is one way to manage time effectively. However, making lists that cannot be easily managed should be avoided (Hunsaker, 2005).
5.0 80/20 Rule by Pareto
Pareto came up with this rule that states that 80 percent of all of the activities we undertake are inconsequential and only 20 percent result to desirable outcomes, whereas 20 percent of the time one spends on tasks that are the significant result to 80 percent of desirable outcomes. This indicates that an individual must be able to determine what is the right way to utilize time so as to come up with a larger percentage of desirable outcomes. As it follows, one should also be able to recognize which activities makeup 20 percent and spend more time on such activities for better results(Hunsaker, 2005).
6.0 Know your limits and yourself
At times, we all have to push our limits and bite off more than we usually are comfortable with- this is significant as it one of the main ways through which we can develop ourselves, through learning. However, anyone who undertakes this option must realize that they have to understand what their limits are because knowing one’s limit can be extremely beneficial in preventing or averting possible embarrassment or disaster during the presentation. Knowing yourself and your limits in a presentation is intimately related and associated with knowing your audience. As it follows, knowing one’s limits is essential as it helps a presenter know and realize where and where not to go depending on who is in the audience and how the presenter relates to them. This is essential because different people take and understand different things differently. One group of people might find something funny or amusing while another might find it offensive. For example, one should be extremely careful when it comes to bringing denominations or religion into any presentation. Hence, knowing how far one can go with a presentation is essential in coming up and delivering an effective presentation(Watanabe, 1985).
7.0 Preparing the script and developing the theme
Regardless of the complexity of all presentations, they all must be designed with a purpose that is simple and easy to understand. Whether the purpose, of the presentation, is to educate, sell, or just for entertainment the purpose of the presentation should be stated by presenter themselves at the start of the development process. This purpose, therefore, should be kept in mind always. The script for the presentation does not necessarily have to be a masterpiece of excellence. In some cases, some simple notes might prove to be useful and even sufficient with some presentations. In other cases, other presentations and presenters might need scripts that have been carefully and professionally developed. The exact direction which the presentation takes, however, is determined by the formality of the presentation, the presenter and, as well as, the makeup of the audience(Davis, 1997).
Any script used for any presentation, regardless of how complex it is, is like any other correspondence in business. It, hence, should be composed of all the basic elements of a presentation; the opening or the introduction, the body of the presentation, the summary and the closure or the conclusion of the presentation. The opening or the introduction of the presentation sets the stage and introduces the presentation. The audience is introduced to the purpose of the presentation and oriented to what is to follow. At this stage, the presenter gives the audience some brief outline or summary of the points to be covered. This helps keep the audience focused or oriented within the script’s framework. The body of the script is the bulk of the presentation, and it gives in a broader manner, the subject matter of the presentation(Watanabe, 1985).
If the body of a presentation is long, it should be divided into smaller modules that can be assimilated easily. For each subsection, a point or an idea should be conveyed. Each of these subsections should also include an introduction, a body, and a summary. The summary part of the presentation should be simple and brief. The summary gives one a chance to reinforce the purpose and the central theme of the presentation. At this stage, one should emphasize briefly, the key points of the presentation. In most cases, this section is usually followed by a question and answer session. This last optional section can be extremely productive if well managed. A presenter should always encourage his audience to ask questions if the format and time allows, but the presenter should always be ready and prepared to answer them(Wilkinson, 1998).
0 Selection of visual aids
With the audience research and the preparation of the speech completed, the decision of what visual aids to use in the presentation should be simple. A short presentation taking, for example, five minutes being made to a small audience can be done best with such material as handouts or even flip charts. However, larger crowds can be effectively reached by utilizing a few simple transparencies. There are various presentation options that one can choose from. The laptop and PowerPoint software are common today. Charting, PowerPoint and other presentation software can be used in this case, just as well as open- source office suite, and open office(Tufte,1983).
9.0 What to avoid during the presentation
There are numerous things that a presenter should avoid at all times so as to make the presentation as effective as possible. For example, a presenter should never use images that are illegible. Images should be clear to the audience. In addition to this, the images should avoid adding to the confusion or distraction of the audience. A presenter should not use images that are useless to the audience, as well. They should be in a design that pleases both the mind and the eye of the audience. Therefore, if a presentation has no specific purpose in the presentation, it should not be used. Images that are overly complex should also be avoided. More images with little explanations are better than using a few images, which are difficult, to comprehend. People also get bored and distracted quickly if an image or visual aid stays on the screen for more than 10 seconds at a time. Confusing elements that have no place on the image should also be eliminated. For example, a glaring colored logo most presenters insist on having on their presentations should be removed because they can distract the audience from the subject matter of the presentation. Additionally, the over use of cute attempts to make a presentation appear more professionals should also be avoided because they can be distracting, aggravating and even tacky(Woolsey, 1989).
0 Measures of achievement
The above guidelines can result to either desirable or undesirable results. The outcomes of a presentation are numerous, and they can be used to measure the effectiveness of a presentation. If the outcomes are undesirable, then it can be clear to the presenter that the presentation was not effective. However, if the outcomes are desirable and advantageous then the presenter can know that the presentation was a success and that it was beneficial for the audience. Some examples of outcomes that can be used to show that a presentation was successful include such things as alertness within the audience, participation if the presentation permits, and asking questions at the end of a presentation and positive facial expressions and behavior. Outcomes that might be used to indicate that the audience is not alert and that the presentation has been effective include such things as sleepy audience, dull and bored audience, an audience that does not participate in the presentation, an audience with negative facial expressions or an audience that looks tired(Feldman, 2003).
An audience that looks alert and that reacts to what the presenter has to say is the kind of audience that shows that the presenter is delivering his speech effectively. In this case, the audience does not seem sleepy, and it does not seem bored. At times, they laugh, and their reactions also show that they are listening to the speaker. If the presentation form allows it, the audience can also be allowed to ask questions. If an audience, does not seem interested in answering questions and participating in a speech after it is completed then it is possible that the presenter has not been effective. However, if the audience is eager to ask questions and answer any question the speaker directs to them then the presenter can be sure that they are being effective(Solomonoff, 1964).
11.0 Action plan
All of these concepts were tested for the purposes of improving my presentation skills at least by 30 percent. To achieve this goal, a scorecard was made to measure the areas of weakness that needed to be improved in order to improve my presentation skills with this percentage. The scorecard recognized four key places that had to be improved for successful results. These areas included time management during the presentation, use of useful visuals, understanding the audience, and preparing the content of the presentation. The purpose of the scorecard was to better my presentation skills, and it was realized that to improve these skills, management of time had to be improved, I had to research on and understand my audience beforehand, that I had to use better and use visual aids in the presentation and that I had to prepare my presentation better by researching more on the subject matter.
I used the ABC system by Alan to prioritize the things I had to accomplish. I, for example, thought that it would be essential to prioritize time management, followed by knowing my audience, then knowing my subject matter, and then finding better visual aids. I had to learn the task A before learning the following tasks. I expected the outcome of this task to be that I would improve my presentation skills by first completing and accomplishing task A, then B, and C and D. I found out that my skills did improve after these tasks were accomplished successfully.
The 80/20 rule was tested in the following weeks, and it seemed to have the same results as those achieved with the ABC rule. This is because this rule expected me to achieve the tasks that were most essential. However, it was not clear how much time I was to spend on each activity, so I opted to start each activity only after I had accomplished the prior activity. I focused on the more essential tasks, and after I had accomplished and achieved desirable results in each I moved on to the next.
- 0 Conclusion
Effective presentation is a form of effective communication that everyone in management must be conversant with so as to be able to give effective presentations. An effective presentation must be composed of four basic elements which include the introduction, the body, the summary and conclusion. The use of effective visuals is also a must for every presentation. The effectiveness of a presentation can be measured by gauging the reactions of an audience. If the reactions of the audience indicate that they are bored and they cannot wait to leave the room then the presenter knows that the presentation has not been effective. However, if the audience is lively and active during and after the presentation then the presenter knows that he has delivered the presentation effectively.
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Feldman, J. (2003). The Simplicity Principle in Human Concept Learning”. Psychology Science 12: 227–232.
Hunsaker, P. (2005). Management: a skills approach (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Pearson’s Education.
Kenny,P. (1983). A Handbook of Public Speaking for Scientists and Engineers. New York: Adam Hilger.
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