How to make a great impression
"You'll never forget the first time" applies to many things in life - presentations included.
The thought of standing up in a room full of people, let alone opening your mouth to tell them how great you and your company are - is enough to strike terror into the heart of many a new - and quite a few established - business owners.
In these days of living by a 'network, network, network' mantra - it's never been more crucial to know what you are doing. You may hope that telling a few jokes or 'winging it' may get you by - it won't.
So how do you get to grips with the prospect of giving a talk? And perhaps more importantly, how exactly do you get to grips with your audience?
Midlands-based presentations trainer Carmen MacDougall (right) of CMA Coaching and Training advises that you should listen to as many great speakers as you can to help prepare for your time in the limelight.
She adds that there are four key questions to ask as soon as you find out you are going to give a speech. These are:
In other words, irrespective of what you'd like to say, it's what your audience wants that matters. Even experienced speakers know that the speech you gave yesterday may need to be tailored entirely differently to today's audience.
Carmen adds: "It's as important to remember the stuff you shouldn't be doing as well as all that you should. There are common, basic mistakes that you must avoid."
Her top ten 'don'ts' are starting badly, failing to understand equipment, putting too much information on slides, patronising the audience, using bad graphics, turning your back on the audience, speaking inaudibly, using jargon, running out of time and ending poorly.
If you fail to plan...
Steve Brookes, publishing manager at Public Eye Publications in Stratford, is an experienced and enthusiastic speaker. He's also a gardening expert for his local BBC radio station and an after dinner speaker.
He says: "One of the common problems I've seen is lack of forethought and planning. This can often lead to a rambling presentation which never actually gets across the key points and the audience is often lost.
"Also, going the other way, too many notes can be a problem. Constantly looking at a sheet of copious notes can be off-putting for both the presenter and the audience members.
"Bullet points are great and if you have gone over the presentation in your mind beforehand, you will instantly be able to remember what they refer to.
Steve's tips for a strong presentation are: