11. Presentation Skills – Business Communication, 2nd Edition

11

Presentation Skills

“In sports, you don't play a game with just one part of you, for example, your arm in tennis or hands in basketball. You play the game with your whole physical being. The same is true in presenting.”

 

Anne Miller

COMMUNICATION AT WORK

Ramesh is a first-year management student. He has to give a presentation before his class tomorrow. He is nervous. He has, until now, neither attended nor given a presentation. He has no idea whatsoever about the way a presentation is made or given. Is it like a convocation address or director’s annual report at the college annual function—an oral essay to be read out? How long should it be? Is it some sort of a lecture based on questions and answers? What exactly should the presentation be given on? Ramesh’s mind was full of unanswered questions. Moreover, he was unable to find a book on presentation skills. Then to make matters worse, he realized that he had to give the presentation in English. That thought made him very nervous, as he believed he was not very fluent in English. Would he be able to speak in English before the whole class and that too for about 10 minutes? He was up against two challenges: one, to prepare the presentation; the other, to give it in English. But as he had never allowed himself to be swayed by the feeling of helplessness, he finally decided to sit down and act.

He decided to write a long essay titled “What is modern management all about?” in English and read it out before the whole class He thought doing this would be better than doing nothing or telling the faculty that he did not know anything about presentations.

The next day, Ramesh went to his communications class, where he was asked to give the presentation. He walked to the dais, addressed the class, opened his essay, and read his essay clearly, loudly, and confidently. When he finished, the class applauded; however, the faculty did not say anything. Because of this, Ramesh was left wondering if he deserved all that applause!

 

Upon completion of this chapter, you should be able to:

  1. Know what a presentation is and how it differs from a lecture or a written report.

  2. Learn how to design a presentation.

  3. Select the proper medium of presentation and visual aids.

  4. Understand the chief principles of delivering an effective presentation.

  5. Know how to handle questions and give answers.

INTRODUCTION

Today, it is necessary for students, researchers, job-seekers, and managers to know how to develop and make a presentation on a specific subject to a select audience. For instance, students may be required to deliver a presentation to gain admission to a postgraduate programme, to defend their research findings before examiners, to be shortlisted for a job opening, or to advocate a proposal. The ability to deliver a presentation effectively helps students in two ways. First, it helps in communicating information clearly and vividly. Second, it creates a good impression about the student as a speaker, scholar, or manager. The impact of a presenter is immediate. A presenter’s confidence, fluency, and readiness of mind in conducting discussions and debate stand out as attributes of his or her personality.

WHAT IS A PRESENTATION?

A presentation is a live mode of sharing information with a select audience. It is a form of oral communication in which a person shares factual information with a particular audience. To get a clear idea of presenting as a distinct communicative activity—different from lecturing or training—it is possible to define a presentation as an oral activity that uses a visual medium (such as LCD projectors or PowerPoint slides) to discuss new ideas and information with a specific audience in a persuasive and convincing manner.

 

A presentation is an oral activity that uses a visual medium (such as LCD projectors or PowerPoint slides) to discuss new ideas and information with a specific audience in a persuasive and convincing manner.

Essential Characteristics of a Good Presentation

A good presentation has the following characteristics:

  • There is a clear structure with an introduction, discussion, and conclusion.
  • The presenter recognizes and matches the audience’s needs, interests, and level of understanding, while discussing his or her ideas.
  • Facts and figures are visually represented in tables, graphs, and charts, and different colours are used to make the presentation vivid and interesting.
  • Humour and anecdotes may be employed to create a good relationship and connection with the audience.
  • The presenter speaks clearly and logically and uses body language effectively.
  • Questions are given serious attention and are regarded as an essential part of the presentation.

The Difference Between a Presentation and a Lecture

A presentation is not a lecture. Classroom lectures have well-defined educational objectives. The outcome and excellence of a lecture is measured in terms of its interactive and participative character. Effective lecturers generally encourage students to ask questions and continually put forth questions for the students to consider. The Socratic mode of teaching (the question-and-answer method) is considered highly effective. Thus, a classroom lecture is ideally a two-way communication process. But presentations are one-way, at least initially, when the audience listens, watches, and takes notes.

1

Know what a presentation is and how it differs from a lecture or a written report.

A classroom lecture is ideally a two-way communication process. But presentations are one-way, at least initially, when the audience listens, watches, and takes notes.

A presentation has a well-defined format. As a normal practice, the audience sits through the delivery without interrupting the presenter. It is only when the presenter completes his or her part that the audience is invited to ask questions or seek clarifications.

Another significant distinguishing feature of presentations is that the presenter acts as an advocate of the information shared with the audience. The focus is on persuading the listeners to buy the ideas that are shared. A teacher, on the other hand, is basically interested in imparting information as correctly as possible. The focus is on a clear understanding of the ideas by the students.

The Difference Between a Presentation and a Written Report

A presentation is often made on the basis of a written report. However, it is not simply an oral rendering of a written report, which usually uses formal language and has long explanations and several examples. Such features can be presented to a reader, but not a listener. In accordance with the nature of the spoken form, a presentation is delivered in everyday language, covers select information, and only gives a few examples. A presentation should use simple, concise, and clear language and be free of jargon and passive words and phrases. It should be delivered in a natural manner and be as close as possible to the rhythm and syntax of a conversation.

PREPARING A PRESENTATION

Presentations have three major elements:

  • The presenter
  • The audience
  • The specific content and definite objective to be achieved

A trained presenter approaches a presentation with an awareness of all its elements and a fully planned strategy. He or she knows that just standing up and speaking to an audience for a given amount of time to show how much he or she knows on the topic does not imply that the presentation is good. A presentation is a particular mode of communicating with a group of people and conveying a message. It involves prior preparation and planning.

 

A trained presenter approaches a presentation with an awareness of all its elements and a fully planned strategy. A good presentation involves prior preparation and planning.

A presenter should undertake the following steps to prepare for the presentation:

  • Identify the purpose and goal of the presentation
  • Analyse the audience and their needs
  • Collate the relevant information
  • Design and organize the information
  • Time the presentation
  • Decide on the medium of presentation and visual aids
  • Become familiar with the location of the presentation

Identify the Purpose of the Presentation

The presenter should ask himself or herself: Why am I giving this presentation? He or she may be giving the presentation to:

  • Sell something or persuade people to follow a course of action that they may not be inclined towards.
  • Inform people about an idea or describe a business opportunity to gain support for some course of action or to suggest a likely course of action for the future.
  • Gather people’s views on new plans, products, or proposals to introduce changes.
  • Put across a problem to seek a solution or to minimize people’s reaction to it.
  • Create awareness by sharing information, without requiring any action or response.
  • Motivate, educate, or impart training to promote a more productive work culture.

After identifying his or her objective, the presenter should outline it in a single sentence. For example, assume the dean of the BITS Distance Learning Programme (DLP) has to put forward a proposal to the board of governors to expand the institute’s Distance Learning Programme by creating off-campus centres in Gulf cities such as Dubai or Muscat. He is required to make a presentation before the board members to justify the proposal. He knows exactly why he is giving the presentation; the purpose can be written in a single sentence that outlines the structure of his ideas: “To convince the board members of the viability and desirability of creating overseas (off-campus) learning centres in Gulf countries, in view of the growing demand for BITS courses abroad”. This precise formulation of the objective will help him organize his ideas in a logical manner that will convince the board.

Analyse the Audience and Identify Their Needs

Before making a presentation, the presenter must know the audience he or she is going to address. The presenter should have an idea of the number, nature, needs, level of knowledge, and likely attitude of those who are going to receive the message. These factors will determine the language of delivery and selection of inputs. Understanding the audience’s needs will help the presenter focus the presentation on issues that would be of interest to his or her listeners. In addition, knowing about the likely attitude of the audience in advance would make the presenter feel more confident. All members of a group will not have a similar attitude and as individuals they are bound to respond differently. Also, presenters should keep in mind that different persons attending the presentation may be looking for different information based on their own interests or needs. Therefore, the presenter must define the focus and scope of the presentation at the very outset. Most importantly, the speaker must never consider the audience to be a hostile group. They may be opposed to one’s ideas or message, but they are not the speaker’s enemies.

 

Before making a presentation, the presenter must know the audience he or she is going to address. The presenter should have an idea of the number, nature, needs, level of knowledge, and likely attitude of those who are going to receive the message.

Guidelines for analysing an audience include finding answers for the following questions:

  • Who is the audience?
  • Why are they attending the presentation? What are their needs?
  • What is their background and level of knowledge, in relation to the subject of presentation?
  • How many persons will there be?
  • What is their attitude towards the subject and the speaker expected to be?
  • What does the audience expect will be the outcome of the presentation?

The last question is the most important and needs to be clearly understood and answered. The answer to it will clarify and define the speaker’s purpose. It will help the presenter understand the audience’s expectations. For instance, in the presentation on creating overseas BITS DLP centres in the Gulf, the expected outcome will be: “After listening to the presentation, the board members will agree to approve, in principle, initiating overseas DLP centres and setting up a committee to work out the feasibility of opening two centres, one each in Dubai and Muscat”. The presenter can visualize the audience’s response as if the presentation has already happened. Positive expectations will give the speaker added confidence. In addition, if the speaker has too many ideas or too much information on the topic at hand, knowing the audience’s needs and expectations will help him or her determine what information is most relevant and interesting.

The needs of the audience vary from category to category. For example, a student’s content will change depending on whether he or she is making a presentation before fellow students, professors, local business people, or friends. In some cases, one would expect that the audience already has a high level of information, while in other cases, there will be little information known. The speaker should consider the audience’s needs and tell them what they need to know without talking about everything.

Design and Organize the Information

By this point, the speaker has done two essential things to give shape to the presentation: he or she is aware of the purpose of the presentation and the audience’s needs. These will guide him or her in gathering and systematically arranging the information to be presented. The speaker should structure and design the delivery to be effective, with the goal that the audience will ultimately accept his or her ideas.

2

Learn how to design a presentation.

The normal order of any exposition is to first list the main ideas and then elaborate on each of them.

Considerable thought should be given to how to start the presentation. What should be said first? This does not refer to how to greet the audience but, rather, to what main point the speaker should begin with. The normal order of any exposition is to first list the main ideas and then elaborate on each of them. This is the pattern that all written reports follow too. The sequence and timing of each part in a 30-minute presentation should be:

  • Introduction: 3 minutes
  • Main body: 15 minutes
  • Conclusion: 2 minutes
  • Question-answer session: 10 minutes

The presentation should be designed in such a way that it is logical, clear, and complete in the 30 minutes allotted to it. Let’s use the BITS DLP proposal example to see how this can be done.

Introduction (3 minutes)

The introduction indicates the main idea of the presentation. It does only that, without giving details of what is to follow. This helps the audience know the subject and focus of the presentation. For instance, the objective in this situation is: “We propose that BITS should open Distance Learning Centres in two Gulf cities, Dubai and Muscat”. Next, the presentation should explain why it is proposing overseas BITS centres by speaking about how popular BITS’ educational programmes are nationally and internationally. This background provides the launching pad for more detailed information, which is covered in the main body of the presentation.

Main Body (15 minutes)

The main part of the presentation is devoted to informing the audience about the advantages of the proposal, both for BITS and the concerned countries in the Gulf (see Exhibit 11.1). This section would include findings of a survey and analysis of the data. This section of the presentation should generally be divided into sub-sections. As a general rule, the speaker should avoid having more than three sub-sections under the main point.

Exhibit 11.1 The Main Body of the Presentation

Benefits to BITS

  • Will help the faculty develop new teaching strategies to promote BITS’ academic rigour and excellence in a different climate where there is economic affluence but limited opportunities for higher education, specially in technology, science, and management.

  • Will support BITS programmes in general and add opportunities for summer training and placements.

  • Will increase financial benefits and foreign exchange earnings.

Benefits to DLP-associated Countries

  • Will create good opportunities for Arab and non-resident Indian students to study engineering, science, or management at an international level.

  • Will help Gulf countries use the research capabilities of BITS’ faculty and postgraduate students to promote their technical know-how in the areas of construction, plant management, and human relations development.

  • Will enable developing countries to learn new ways of social and intellectual growth through interaction and contact with India.

Viability: How Will BITS Centres Abroad Work?

An MOU can be signed between BITS and the partner countries. The BITS centre will be recognized as a centre for higher learning and education, duly approved by the Sultanate of Oman and the Emirate of Dubai.

  • All physical facilities such as land, building, furniture, laboratories, and library are to be provided by the host country free of rent and cost for five years. Subsequently, rent and costs will be fixed through mutual agreement.

  • Faculty provision: The teaching faculty and administration will be provided by BITS, Pilani (India).

  • Syllabus and exams: The courses and evaluation systems used abroad will be the same as those used in BITS Pilani, India.

  • Admissions system and fees: Admissions will be made on the basis of merit and will be determined through normalization of the marks of applicants (mostly NRIs).

Generally, a presentation is delivered in an analytical and logical manner: the introduction leads to the main content, which in turn leads to the conclusions and recommendations. To integrate these parts into a continuous whole, there should be proper transitions from one section to the next and from one stage to another. The speaker should summarize what has been said in the previous section or stage before explaining how the next point is related. An example is: “So, you have seen how BITS overseas centres are feasible and viable. Now let’s discuss some of the potential problems that we may face”.

Conclusion (2 minutes)

The conclusion (see Exhibit 11.2) summarizes the speaker’s main arguments and connects them to the objectives stated in the introduction and the larger picture.

Exhibit 11.2 The Conclusion

  • BITS’ experience of running three DLP centres in India has built confidence and expertise regarding its abilities to do so abroad, negating distance as a factor for excellence in education.

  • The faculty is committed and ready to take advantage of this opportunity.

  • There is a lot of faith in the promised support from the Gulf nations.

To end the presentation, the speaker should do the following:

  • Repeat the main idea of the presentation.
  • Restate the most important points with supporting information.
  • Thank the audience and invite questions.

Question-Answer Session (10 minutes)

This is an important opportunity for audience interaction. The speaker should encourage questions and answer each question seriously and with honesty. The speaker should not try to bluff; if he or she does not know the answer to a question, it is best to be frank and admit this.

Decide on the Medium of Presentation and Visual Aids

A presentation can be made more vivid by the use of statistical data, figures, diagrams, and so on, which can be displayed via transparencies or PowerPoint slides. Through visual display of ideas, the presenter can make the audience see what they hear. Graphics tend to garner and hold attention more easily than spoken words, so they also help keep the audience fully absorbed. Having visual projection of the message also enables the speaker to keep to the structure of the presentation. Moreover, often a greater amount of information can be communicated with a visual than lengthy verbal explanations. This saves time.

3

Select the proper medium of presentation and visual aids.

A presentation can be made more vivid by the use of statistical data charts, figures, diagrams, and so on, which can be displayed via transparencies or PowerPoint slides.

When to Use Visual Aids

Visual aids should be used to:

  • Present numerical and statistical data.
  • Present topics related to art, design, or any subject that is visual in nature.
  • Present comparative statements of facts and figures, specially graphic and diagrammatic forms. Visual presentation of comparisons always helps comprehension. For instance, if the presenter wants to demonstrate the comparison of two structures, the point of comparison can be better appreciated when shown rather than described.
  • Present new interpretations of old data. If the speaker has discovered or noticed something new as a fresh interpretation of an existing phenomenon, showing it makes the information look more concrete. By projecting the old information side-by-side with the new, the speaker can demonstrate how he or she has gone beyond the old data.

Often, a greater amount of information can be communicated with a visual than lengthy verbal explanations. This saves time.

How to Use Visual Aids

Here are some guidelines regarding how to use visual aids:

  • One should not use too many images as this will lessen their impact.
  • The speaker should plan the graphics according to the main points and make one graphic for each point.
  • It is best to use bold, clear letters that can be seen from the other end of the room.
  • The speaker should not fill a slide with too many words. As far as possible, one should write single words or short phrases to summarize concepts. See Exhibit 11.3 for an example.
  • Different colours can help to distinguish different points.
  • The presenter should reveal only one point at a time. This can be done by progressively exposing the hidden portion of the slide.
  • The slides should be numbered and the presentation should be rehearsed with the slides. This ensures that the words match the visuals.
  • The speaker should explain the purpose and content of each slide when it is shown. It should be displayed for sufficient time to allow the audience to read it and, if required, make notes from it.

 

Exhibit 11.3 An Effective and an Ineffective Slide

 

One should not use too many images as this will lessen their impact. The speaker should plan the graphics according to the main points.

Different Mediums of Presentation

Some common mediums of presentation are boards (black or white), flip charts, overhead projectors and transparencies, and Microsoft PowerPoint slides.

Boards   A board is a primary aid used in classrooms and can be black or white. The use of a board helps listeners concentrate, as it is used to note important words and concepts, or to do calculations. It is better to divide the board into different parts for noting down points, doing calculations, and drawing figures. Bold, clear letters should be used so that words are visible at a distance.

Flip charts   A flip chart is a large pad of paper set on a stand. It is used for presenting information to a small group of 15 to 20 persons. The advantage of using flip charts is that they can be readily generated and added to during the talk. They can also be prepared in advance for presenting complex diagrams, bar charts, and graphs. The speaker can sketch outlines of a diagram in the presence of the audience. He or she can also use them for prompting and for creating and presenting the audience’s feedback, suggestions, comments, or any other observations at the end of the talk. Flip charts that can be written over in water-soluble ink can be reused.

Overhead projectors and transparencies   A frequently used medium of presentation is an overhead projector (OHP). Overhead projectors allow the presenter to speak while looking at the audience and also have a prepared transparency projected on the screen. An OHP can have typed or handwritten matter, but the best impact is made when the content is neatly and clearly typed. Tips on preparing transparencies and using OHPs are given in Exhibit 11.4.

Exhibit 11.4 Tips for Preparing Transparencies and PowerPoint Slides

  • Make your transparencies/slides clear and visible to everyone in the audience.

  • Put only one main point on each transparency/slide.

  • Do not crowd the transparency/slide with too much information. Place information at the centre, and do not crowd the margins.

  • Avoid having more than eight lines on each transparency/slide, and use about six words in each line. Thus, try to limit each transparency to about 48 words.

  • Mark sections and sub-sections with clarity to make the organization of information clear.

  • Check before the presentation that the projector is working. In the case of PowerPoint presentations, ensure that the laptop is not low on battery and that it is connected to the projector.

  • Clean the projector lens and surface if needed.

  • Adjust the focus and projector position to obtain the brightest and largest image possible.

  • Switch off the machine between visuals. In the case of OHPs, run the fan inside the projector when showing visuals.

  • The projection screen should be clean. If the projection is made on a whiteboard or wall, ensure that there is nothing written or marked on the board/wall.

  • Use a pointer to point to parts of the transparency and emphasize specific points.

  • Show the points one by one. In the case of an OHP, one may hide the matter that has not yet been discussed with tracing paper. In the case of PowerPoint slides, this can be done by clicking on Slide Show on the tool bar, selecting Animation, and selecting the required effect (fade in one by one, appear and dim, etc.) from the right-hand side panel, as follows:

     

     

  • Finally, one should remember that slides and transparencies are aids in presentations, and not a substitute for one’s own words and explanations. So, it is important to face the audience while speaking and to make eye contact with them.

PowerPoint presentations   Computer-based Microsoft PowerPoint presentations have now become more widespread than transparencies and slides. These are projected with the help of multimedia projectors. Usually, a computer screen displays the information to a large audience. Pictures and photographs are all displayed as part of the presentation. The entire presentation is saved on a laptop (with a backup on CD, if possible). The laptop is then connected to the projection equipment so that the laptop screen is cloned on the projector. The whole operation is automatic and simple. The visual impact is impressive and absorbing.

Time the Presentation

The total presentation, including the question—answer session at the end, should be covered within the time allotted to it. In actual practice, while speaking, many people tend to ignore the fact that the audience’s interest and attention are affected by the time factor. An effective presentation is one that has a smart beginning and logically arrives at a conclusion without wandering off-topic or rambling, while providing sufficient explanation for tricky or controversial points. The speaker should not repeat his or her points excessively. In addition, he or should learn to change the pacing of the presentation in response to the non-verbal cues received from the audience’s body language.

 

The total presentation, including the question-answer session at the end, should be covered within the time allotted to it.

Become Familiar with the Location of the Presentation

Before presenting, the speaker should check the size, ventilation, and seating arrangement of the room. This helps position the screen according to the number of persons and the size of the room, ensuring it will be visible to everyone. The presenter should keep enough space between himself or herself and the screen so that he or she can refer to points on the screen with a pointer.

DELIVERING THE PRESENTATION

Regardless of how interesting or well drafted a presentation is, its delivery must be effective in order for the presentation to achieve its goals. Here are some guidelines on delivering presentations:

  • Do not read aloud. A presentation is essentially an oral, face-to-face communication. Reading notes or slides aloud does not foster discussion of ideas. This is a common mistake: it does not hold the audience’s attention as they can read the slide themselves. What the speaker should do is explain and expand on what is on the screen, pointing out what is important and how it relates to the point.
  • Use the “you attitude” to ensure audience involvement; tell the audience how the information being presented is useful to them. What do they stand to gain from the presentation? Why should they listen to you? Answering this well shows how one’s presentation is relevant to the needs and interests of the audience.
  • Outline the content of the presentation in the beginning itself. This will help the audience follow the presentation and understand its structure and arguments.
  • Use transitions. If the audience are told what comes next in the presentation, they will be able to follow it better and will know how one part relates to the others. The speaker know best when he or she moves from one stage or step to another. He ors he can help the audience know when a new point is being introduced so that they follow the sequence. Transitions must, therefore, be well indicated by using connectives and inferences. For example, phrases such as “Now we can consider”, “So we can see that”, and “The next step involves” are useful for this.
  • Try to involve the audience and encourage their participation. Avoid doing things that reduce audience involvement such as speaking in too low a voice that cannot be heard and may be perceived as feeble, or shouting, which sounds angry and jarring.
  • To arouse and sustain audience interest, the speaker should maintain eye contact throughout the presentation, ask interesting questions of the audience, use anecdotes if possible, invite volunteers to role-play, stand close enough to the audience to be fully visible and to feel less removed from them, and present material enthusiastically.
4

Understand the chief principles of delivering an effective presentation.

Reading out notes or slides aloud does not foster discussion of ideas. This is a common mistake: it does not hold the audience’s attention as they can read the slide themselves.

Rehearsal

To give a good presentation, the speaker should rehearse his or her full performance ahead of time. This helps to:

  • Coordinate speech with visual projections
  • Know if the information has been properly edited
  • Check if the duration of the presentation is appropriate
  • Minimize stage fright

It is best to rehearse before a discerning listener and in conditions as close to the actual presentation conditions as possible. The listener should be able to evaluate the material in terms of its technical accuracy. He or she should also be able to provide objective criticism.

 

It is best to rehearse before a discerning listener and in conditions as close to the actual presentation conditions as possible.

Some tips for rehearsing a presentation are:

  • Rehearse using the microphone and visual aids and in the chosen mode of presenting to practice coordinating verbal delivery and visual projection.
  • Practice using eye contact. This requires lifting one’s eyes from the written notes and facing the audience for as long as possible.
  • Practice voice modulation, proper intonation, correct pronunciation of the words, and proper variation in volume.
  • Rehearse by recording the presentation and playing it back to observe your own voice and manner of delivery. It is possible to improve one’s performance by analysing the recorded performance. A video recording would be most useful to help improve body language.

Body Language

Since a presentation is a live performance, the speaker’s non-verbal cues will influence the audience and vice versa. We have already discussed the power of non-verbal body movements, gestures, and facial expressions in positively or negatively modifying the meaning of the message in Chapter 7. For presentations, the following aspects of non-verbal behaviour are particularly relevant:

  • Professional appearance
  • Good/positive posture
  • Eye contact
  • Use of positive gestures and hand movements that reinforce the argument
  • Appropriate movements. It is important not to stand fixed like a statue in one spot, but to move with ease between the projection screen and the podium or the area in front of the audience
  • Smiling and looking relaxed while answering questions

Since a presentation is a live performance, the speaker’s non-verbal cues will influence the audience and vice versa.

Handling Questions and Debate

A good speaker treats questions as an important and necessary part of his or her presentation. Questions are an opportunity for the speaker to further explain his or her point. He or she can go back to the slides to further explain a point, or he or she can also add new evidence or examples to support the point. If a presentation is followed by a series of questions, it shows that the presentation was able to involve the audience and hold their interest. A genuine question reveals that the speaker’s content was relevant to the audience.

5

Know how to handle questions and give answers.

If a presentation is followed by a series of questions, it shows that the presentation was able to involve the audience and hold their interest. A genuine question reveals that the speaker’s content was relevant to the audience.

Questions help the speaker to:

  • Further clarify what he or she has already said.
  • Add new information. Some presenters deliberately leave out details that they propose to provide during the discussion session.
  • Demonstrate his or her knowledge. The speaker’s ability to answer questions shows that he or she is fully informed on your subject. It also increases the speaker’s confidence.
  • Prove the relevance of the presentation. A genuine question shows that what the speaker has said is relevant and interesting to the audience.

Questions can be motivated by different reasons, ranging from rivalry or jealousy to genuine curiosity. They can be classified as:

  • Genuine questions: A question may be asked to get more information or to seek clarification regarding a particular point. This sort of question is not meant to embarrass the speaker but intends that he or she elaborate or explain what has already discussed.
  • Questions asked for the sake of questioning: There are some questions that do not seek any answer. They are raised either to show off the knowledge of the questioner or to expose gaps in the presenter’s knowledge and information. Such questions can be:
    • Attention-grabbing—asked to steal the limelight.
    • Unanswerable—no answer can satisfy the questioner.
    • Tangential—have no bearing on the subject discussed and posed to oppose the speaker’s viewpoint.
    • Challenging—challenge the speaker’s knowledge and raise doubts about the validity of his or her information.

In all situations, the speaker should exhibit a sense of honesty in answering questions. If he or she does not know the answer, it is best to admit this—nobody is expected to know everything. Everybody is, however, expected to be honest enough to acknowledge what he or she does not know.

Tips to Fight Stage Fright

Stage fright is a natural experience for all presenters. Some tips to deal with it include:

  1. Always look for some smiling faces among the listeners and make eye contact with them; they will make you feel at ease.
  2. Rehearse your presentation before friends.
  3. Memorize opening lines to help get yourself started.
  4. Do extensive research on the topic and be over-prepared.
  5. Use it as a positive source of nervous energy for performing well.
SUMMARY
  • This chapter concentrated on imparting the skills of effective presentation. These skills can be developed by paying attention to preparation and delivery techniques, and the handling of the audience’s response.
  • There is a difference between presentations and lectures and written reports.
  • A presentation is a form of oral communication. Its success depends on the presenter’s preparation, clarity of purpose, understanding of audience needs, ability to structure information, choose the proper medium of presentation and visual aids, and ability to appeal to the audience’s interest and respond to their questions with ease and honesty.
  • There are various mediums that can be used in presentations, such as boards, flip charts, OHPs, and PowerPoint, and these are helpful in projecting complex information visually.
  • A good presenter uses the skills of non-verbal communication to reinforce his or her words.
  • A good presenter must also be able to encourage and handle questions.
  • Speakers can overcome stage fright and develop self-confidence by practising and rehearsing the presentation before a chosen audience/critic.
CASE: THE PRESENTATION EFFECT

Mr Jon Hauser, President of A&E Education in Germany, visited a management institute in Chennai. After an informal meeting with the principal director, they moved to a large seminar hall equipped with a multimedia projection system. Jon proposed to give a presentation on his Learning Management System model. He spoke for about 40 minutes, covering the worldwide processes of educational administration and e-management. His presentation used PowerPoint and was visually supported by graphic data—charts, graphs, and diagrams. At places, he was difficult to follow because of the unusual accent in which English is spoken by a German. However, the elaborate visual aids helped him put his point across successfully. The PowerPoint slides were in the form of bullet points outlining the structure of the presentation.

During the discussion at the end of Jon’s presentation, the principal director opined that the international model discussed would need to be customized with specific local content, and went on to share his own software model of Learning Management System. Jon appreciated the new insight, and they agreed to collaborate and integrate the models for marketing the software to educational institutions across India.

 

Questions to Answer

  1. Does the size of the venue affect the quality of the presentation?
  2. Discuss the benefits of using PowerPoint and visual aids when giving a presentation to a foreign audience.
  3. What were Jon’s presentation objectives? Was he successful in achieving them?
REVIEW YOUR LEARNING
  1. Suppose you have just made a presentation. There is a coffee break. People are standing around discussing the presentation. You are able to overhear what they are saying. What would you like to hear them say about you and your presentation?
  2. What according to you is a presentation? List some characteristics of a presentation that distinguish it from a written report.
  3. Discuss the difference between a presentation and a lecture/seminar.
  4. Often it is difficult to know where to begin a presentation. What do you think is the first thing to consider? Why?
  5. Why is the time limit important in the case of a presentation? Why do you try to plan a presentation? List at least two reasons for each answer.
  6. How do you indicate what is next in your presentation to the audience?
  7. Choose a topic and show how you would summarize its content for your audience at the beginning of the presentation.
  8. Identify the main content of a presentation on a topic of your choice and break it up into different sections and sub-sections.
  9. List the visual aids that would be most effective in your presentation. Mention some of the advantages of these aids.
  10. Mention the characteristics of effective presentation language.
  11. List the characteristics of your audience that are important to consider before giving your presentation.
REFLECT ON YOUR LEARNING
  1. How does a young business executive benefit from success in his or her first presentation before peers and seniors?
  2. Should a presentation be allowed to change into a group discussion at any stage?
  3. A presentation is often the result of team work. How is the work of different team members coordinated and presented as a single, well organized presentation?
  4. “The question-answer session is an integral part of a presentation.” Do you agree? How much time should be kept for the audience’s questions in a presentation of about 30 minutes?
  5. Discuss the different kinds of questions one can face from an audience and how you would handle them.
APPLY YOUR LEARNING

It is the audience that acts as the main factor in determining what your presentation contains and what it does not. Choose a topic for a presentation and briefly indicate how you would change the content of your presentation to suit the following audiences:

  1. Fellow students in your subject of study
  2. Persons who have no knowledge of the subject
  3. Professors and experts in your department
SELF-CHECK YOUR LEARNING

From among the given options, choose the most appropriate answer:*

  1. A presentation is a form of oral communication in which a person shares factual information with an audience that is:
    1. large
    2. small
    3. specific
    4. mixed
  2. The presenter acts as the:
    1. medium of the information
    2. advocate of the information
    3. supporter of the information
    4. deliverer of the information
  3. The three major elements of presentation do not include:
    1. visual aids
    2. specific content
    3. an audience
    4. a presenter
  4. The audience for a presentation consists of people who:
    1. are uniform in their level of information and purpose
    2. vary in their level of information and purpose
    3. are uninformed and lack a purpose
    4. are confused in their purpose
  5. To be able to give a good presentation, a full rehearsal is:
    1. necessary
    2. optional
    3. useless
    4. audience based
  6. Reading out a presentation is:
    1. allowed
    2. not allowed
    3. helpful
    4. dull
  7. To make a presentation effective and impressive, you should use:
    1. complex sentences
    2. jargon
    3. passive sentences
    4. a simple and active form of sentences
  8. To select the content of your presentation, you should know:
    1. your purpose
    2. the audience’s needs
    3. the available material
    4. the time limit
  9. In presentation design, maximum time is given to the:
    1. conclusion
    2. introduction
    3. main body
    4. question-answer session
  10. Initially, a presentation is a form of:
    1. one-way communication
    2. two-way communication
    3. group communication
    4. intrapersonal communication