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Presentation Skills That Persuade and Motivate

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

Authentic leadership lies in guiding others to success – ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do, and doing it well. - Bill Owens

Everyone feels a bit nervous about delivering a presentation before a group. People would instead undergo a root canal than experience the anxiety of giving a speech.

Follow some basic guidelines for preparation and delivery, and you can transform your nervousness into positive energy that achieves the desired results.

The secrets to successful presentations are simple and based on common sense. People, however, do not employ them.

Step One: Purpose

What is the purpose of your presentation? There are reasons to make a speech or announcement, and you must clearly define your goal. Do you have to deliver sad news to your department? Do you require a decision from your superiors on a problematic business situation? Do you have a solution and want to convince people? Are you trying to sell a solution or product?

Most presenters try to persuade their audience to buy into specific ideas. They must sufficiently inspire and motivate listeners to act or give the green light to work on suggested solutions.

It would help if you led your audience through decision-making so members could go through it with you. They will not act upon it unless they believe they own the decision.

It’s critical to avoid spelling everything out for them. Let them see what the problems are and which decisions are needed. They will then be happy to engage in finding solutions and enthusiastic about acting on them.

Step Two: Know Your Audience

Your audience is not merely composed of the people you will face when you deliver your speech. It also includes those who may be influenced or affected by your proposal. Before you think about what to say, you must decide who your audience is and what they will need from you to buy into your argument.

Ensure you are selling your solution's benefits, not the features. For example, if your new program helps the company by saving time and money, this is what you should emphasize. It will appeal to your audience much more than any discussion of basic program features. Always focus on your audiences’ interests.

Step Three: Structure Your Presentation

Stories engage people, especially if they're personal and real. They create an authentic connection and grab people’s attention. The time, it is wise to open with a story that reveals a picture of the problem at hand. Remember: Your first 30 seconds are the most crucial.

Follow up your story with an honest analysis of the problem and back it up with research statistics. The Internet makes this part of your task easy, so be cautious about spending too much time on stats.

Then, present the solution. This is the good stuff, as people want to know relief is in sight. Spell out the benefits to your audience.

Strengthening Your Presentation

If you use slides or PowerPoint graphics, do not become overly attached to them. They should supplement your talk and illustrate key points, not deliver your presentation. Do not use pictures with every word you say; never read directly off the screen.

Limit text to subheadings, which should be large enough to read from the back of the room. Do not talk to the screen instead of your audience. And always be prepared for the possibility of power or technological failure; bring handouts and have an alternative way to deliver your speech life is no screen.

Managing Anxiety

Experts suggest memorizing the first 60 seconds of your speech. If you do this, make sure it sounds natural and authentic. Because you are likely to open with a personal story, introduce yourself, and explain why your topic is so important to you. This makes the first 60 seconds sound natural, even if you memorize your text.

Do not draw attention to your nervousness by telling your audience about it. You can share your feelings, but not your anxieties. Your goal is to present yourself authentically as a human being.

Do not fidget or fiddle with your hair, clothes, or body parts. Practice your speech in front of a mirror as often as possible, and minimize nervous tics by standing behind a podium, if necessary. Practice drawing a deep breath for instant relaxation.

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