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Great business presentations

Techniques to keep your audience engaged

Great business presentations require planning and preparation. Good business communication requires that you have both solid content and an effective delivery. Here are some rhetorical devices and tips to transform your next speech from dreadful to dynamic.

Open and close with your overriding theme. You want to grab attention at the start and leave the audience with a takeaway at the end. Great openings and closings are critical and should be related so you may have to develop a connection to them after you have put your presentation together.

Have several relevant stories.  Stories are the gold currency of business communication because they impart messages in a memorable way that cannot be achieved with just metrics, outlines or charts. Drawing from your own experience is best but you can also find great material in the media.

Engage your audience frequently. Take short breaks to ask questions such as, "How many of you have ever...?" or "What is the first thing you think about when you hear...?"

Vary your pacing and pull the audience in by asking rhetorical questions. Some great transitional questions include, "Now...what does this mean for us?"  or "So, what are you supposed to do next?"  Be sure to pause briefly to give you audience a few seconds to reflect.

Use silence and movement to add variety. If you are on one side of the room and making a point, pause and move to the other side or shift the position of your body to make an alternate point.  This tactic takes skill to look natural instead of rehearsed but movement is a good technique for giving a lively presentation.

Speakers must prepare to engage audience
Vary the level of your voice.  Lower your voice and pause to drive home a point. You want your voice to be sufficiently low for people to work some to hear you but not so low that they will miss what you are saying.

Use repetition to drive your point home.  If you want examples of the effective use of repetition, listen to the "I have a dream speech" by Martin Luther King or just about any speech Winston Churchill made.

Use PowerPoint as a supplement -- not your main event.  Relying on PowerPoint and reading from the screen are the two biggest sins that business presenters commit.  If you follow Guy Kowasaki's 10-20-30 PowerPoint rule, you will proabably be fine.

Put details in handouts.  You should put the procedures, URLs, background and supplemental information in handouts that people can take with them. If you make handouts available before your speech, you will have to compete with the written material but people will be able to take notes.  On the other hand, if you give the handout at the end of your presentation, you can do a business card exchange so that people can give you their contact information for future follow-up.

Use the rule of threes to drive your point home. People tend to remember ideas, phrases or information grouped together in threes. As one of the most powerful rhetorical devices in your toolbox, the rule of threes can help your audience hold to your essential message.

Practice, practice, practice. Those who speak for a living will practice a presentation until they truly own it and their message becomes like a conversation with the audience. You cannot practice too much. And with the easy access to web cams, you should record yourself in order to see distracting habits you may have that your audiences notices but you don't.

Pump Up Your Prose
A free booklet with tips to help you write  reports, emails and memos with information that is clear, concise and effective.

 Download here.

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