Thursday, December 17, 2009

Avoiding Presentation Mistakes - Prof.M.S.Rao

When Stephen was invited to deliver Pre-dinner talk for bank officers in a staff training college he was excited to deliver presentation. Stephen was given an opportunity to choose the topic and he instantly chose ‘leadership development’ as he was passionate and confident on this topic. He was a reputed teacher and trainer in the area of leadership development. Stephen was comfortable with the topic. However he prepared the content related to banking also as the leadership development was meant for the senior executives in the banking sector.

When the D-day came in Stephen broke the ice and began the presentation. The response was not extra-ordinary. The mood of the audience was not upbeat as expected. Since Stephen believed in taking the feedback, he sought feedback from the training coordinator about the presentation.

The training coordinator was tactful in giving feedback. Over the discussion it revealed that Stephen delivered presentation the way he delivered for students. Usually when students are taught in academic institutions, there is need for emphasizing on concepts followed by case studies, examples and interaction. In teaching it is more of preaching and sharing knowledge. However, when it comes to training senior executives what is needed is to share experiences rather than giving theoretical concepts. Training also involves converting existing knowledge into skills as the bank executives have already possessed the knowledge of the topic. Stephen failed to differentiate between teaching and training and failed to analyze the audience needs effectively. It resulted into an average performance.

The second mistake was that Stephen added too many slides during presentation with lot of research findings and quotations and most of the time was spent in slide show and the audience lost the touch with the speaker and interest as the interaction was less and information was more. It was a kind of information load to the audience. Teachers have the attitude to share lot of information, ideas and knowledge while the trainers have the art of delivering through visuals, interaction, with anecdotes, examples, storytelling and humor. Stephen delivered presentation like a preacher and teacher not like a trainer who activates and energizes the audience so as to make the presentation effective.

The third mistake was the timing of the presentation. During pre-dinner talk the executives have already been exhausted with other activities as it was evening time. Stephen failed to add humor in his presentation and failed to quickly connect with audience. Had the presentation been during morning time the audience would have been charged up easily to listen to several theoretical inputs as they start the day fresh. However in pre-dinner talk, the audience was already engrossed with activities till evening. And charging up the audience and during the post lunch and evening is indeed a Herculean task.

The fourth mistake he made was to deliver continuously without giving any pauses and gauging the body language of the audience. No doubt, Stephen had tremendous knowledge but he should have allowed audience during his presentation with pauses. Pause will help the audience to understand, appreciate and applaud the speaker. His presentation was like a running commentary without any let-up.

During presentation it is essential to gauge the body language of the audience and change the strategy accordingly. For instance, when the audience feels bored with content, it is time to switch over the content to couple of examples and anecdotes. Else it is advisable to make them participate by shooting them with questions, “How many of you agree with this information?” Posing questions will make the audience alert and get into the presentation process effectively. Interaction is the key to effective presentation, when the audience happens to be small.

Therefore whenever you are invited to deliver your presentation, find out the timing, share your experiences by adding humor if it happened to be post lunch and evening. Assess the body language and change your strategies accordingly. Above all, you need to differentiate between teaching and training. Good luck.

The End

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