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Don't neglect your presentation skills

By Peter Urs Bender

When was the last time you had to make a speech? Did it go as well as you would have liked? Are you ready for the next time? Most of us do not like to speak in public. Yet our success in life - getting the job, the contract or the sale, in having others listen to and understand our ideas - depends on our ability to communicate effectively. Here are some ideas to give your next presentation more positive impact.

You must remember this!
Most people spend hours thinking about what they are going to say. However what you say is frequently not as important as how you say it. Studies show that words account for only a small part of the total message you convey to others. The rest comes from style, perceived confidence, use of voice, body language and other non-verbal forms of communication. Think of it this way. Remember the worst presentation you've ever heard. One that was really atrocious. Was it someone who was totally boring or monotone? Did you feel they didn't really care? Now think of the best presenter you've ever seen. Their energy and enthusiasm. The modulation in their voice as they shared ideas that really mattered to them. The connection they made with you personally. In most cases, it's how they spoke that affected you most. The more you become a speaker that others want to hear, the more effective you will be.

They must understand you.
Good communication is more than just talking. It's about building a bridge of understanding between you and your listeners. To do that, you will need to: Have a worthwhile message and be ready to communicate it. Relate your message to your audience. If you don't, you won't keep their attention for long. Watch your tone. Do not let strong emotions and argumentativeness interfere with your message. Obtain feedback. Find out if your audience understands your ideas. If they do not, you did not do a good job of communicating. Keep persuasion to the end. When you are confident that your audience understands you, then focus on getting then to adopt your point of view. Be specific about actions. Tell your audience exactly what to do in reaction to your message, or no changes will occur.

Don't wait until it's too late.
If you expect to open your mouth in public again (other than maybe to eat a sandwich) then remember the "Five Ps of Public Speaking": Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Do not wait until you are about to present. It's not worth the stress, or to risk looking like a fool. Take time to prepare. Practice. And perfect one of the most important skills in society today: Presenting yourself to others. Good luck!

Peter Urs Bender is author of the best-selling book Secrets of Power Presentations.
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See also:
7 Tips for Effective Speeches
Review of Your Guide to Public Speaking
Secrets of a Worthwhile Presentation
Seven golden rules for more effective speaking
Going to the Public: Ten public speaking tips
The HotLink Resource Shelf: Going for Gold!
Smooth Talking! Explore the Paid Speaking Market
Speaking to the Media