Giving Oral Presentations

Oral Presentations are tough because people remember the dumb things you do or day and hardly remember the good things.  In fact, it is documented that people listen at a 25% efficiency rate, or less, to what people say in an oral presentation.  The average person remembers only about half of what's said in a ten-minute conversation and forgets half of that within 48 hours[1].  And that's just ten minutes!  With that in mind, let’s look at some strategies to get your message across.  


The KEY to giving a memorable presentation is to keep two things in mind: Audience and Purpose.  If you can nail these two things, your presentation will go much better for you and your audience.



Ask yourself why you are doing the presentation.  Most business communications fall under one of these purposes: to inform, to persuade, or to collaborate with your audience.  Some presentations combine these.  But knowing what your main goal is provides the first step to a successful presentation.  After identifying your main purpose, concentrate on your goals.  What specific act on the part of the audience would you like to come out of this presentation?



When talking to people who are going to benefit from your presentation, you need to ask yourself some questions about who is sitting there listening to you:

1)   Who are they?  Most importantly, who is the most important member(s) of your audience?

2)   How much do they know about the subject already?  Will they understand all your lingo?  Would visual aids help through some of the rough parts (and emphasize the most important specifics)?

3)   What are their opinions on the issue already?  What are their values?

4)   What’s most important to them on the issue?  What do they want and need to know about this issue?  What might be some of the questions they would ask?


As soon as you know this information, use it to craft a presentation that is geared specifically toward your audience.  People like to feel like you have created something just for them.  With this in mind, use a “you” centered way of speaking, emphasizing the benefits to the audience.  Also BE SPECIFIC when the audience needs it. 


Remember, above all, to be professional all the time, through your dress, demeanor, language, and whole stance.



[1] Bob Lamons, “Good listeners are Better Communicators,” Marketing News, 11 September 1995, 13+; Phillip Morgan and H. Kent Baker, “Building a Professional Image: Improving Listening Behavior,” Supervisory Management, November 1985, 35-36.

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