Giving Presentations by Nick Morgan is another of the books in the Harvard Business School Press Pocket Mentor. While this series of books were mainly written for management development, the advice in them is useful for anyone whether you are a manager or not. As is the custom with the series, the book is divided into two parts. The first part contains the main content of the book while the second section provides some extra resources that compliment the main content.
According to the author, the aim of the book regarding delivering presentations is to help us with:
- Knowing the audience
- Customizing our message
- Engaging the audience
- Managing questions properly
- Overcoming presentation fears
- Rehearsing effectively
Following is a quick review of each part of the book.
GIVING PRESENTATIONS – THE BASICS
All About Presentations
Here we are introduced to why managers use presentations and the different types of presentations. For instance, managers may use presentations to persuade listeners to do something, convey information and engage people in problem solving.
The different types of presentations described are:
- Product demonstration
- Status report
- Business plan or strategy
Some information is also given about the importance of tailoring a presentation to:
- Size of the audience
- Formality of the situation
- Regularity of the meeting
- Time of day and what the occasion is about
First Things First
What should you do first when you need to give a presentation? Logically you should prepare and that’s what this part of the book discusses. Three preparation actions are discussed which are:
- Define your objective – what outcome do you want from the presentation?
- Know your audience – who are you presenting to? Answering this question will aid you in customising your presentation to the audience.
- Understand your presentation’s context – this covers things like whether the presentation situation is formal or informal, when will questions be asked and the duration of the presentation.
There are three templates to help you plan for the things discussed here which focus on understanding audience characteristics, planning logistics and learning about the presentation context.
Decide what to say
Here we are introduced to what follows next after we’ve clearly defined our presentation objective and that is deciding what to say, which can be approached in three stages.
- Stage one – define the key message, what you want people to remember and do after the presentation.
- Stage two – identify arguments that support your presentation message.
- Stage three – identify when it is important to get audience participation during the presentation.
Also make sure you refine and review your ideas from going through these three stages.
Prepare here refers to organising your presentation into a delivery structure that effectively engages the audience. The suggested structure is:
- Opening – get the attention of the audience at the start of the presentation with something like a comment, question or relevant story.
- Need or problem statement – make the audience aware of why your presentation is important to them.
- Solution – communicate to the audience how their need will be met in relevance to what the topic is.
- Call to action – summarise the presentation, recommend action, get commitment and close.
The question of how long a presentation should be is also answered. Though a specific length is not given, guidelines to decide on length include:
- As long as it takes to convey the message clearly and completely.
- Long enough to communicate the message within the allotted time.
- Make fewer points clearly
There is also a template included to plan the structure of a presentation.
Plan for visuals
This chapter provides advice on how best to choose visual aids for a presentation. The pros and cons of various types of presentations are discussed and some simple tips to make visuals effective. Some of the tips are:
- Be simple
- Use key words not full sentences
- Use pictures where possible
A useful template for creating a presentation outline is included.
When it’s a group effort
Here we are presented with some advice on how to do a group presentation. It’s not much but nonetheless useful. The main topic is about how to make a group presentation flow properly.
It is always best to rehearse a presentation before delivering it and this chapter provides us with some ways to do that.
- Practice the presentation on a test audience.
- Rehearse with actual equipment and visuals that you will be using.
- Practice the whole presentation each time you rehearse.
- Rehearse until the presentation does not sound memorized.
How do you prepare yourself to present? Two pieces of advice are given here:
- Pysch yourself: visualise success, use breathing techniques and accept being nervous as natural
- Overcome fear: even seasoned presenters get stage fright. There are some actions we can take to manage this, such as rehearse well, anticipate questions and objections and prepare physically and mentally.
Three main areas are discussed here to ensure you deliver the best presentation you can. They are:
- What to do to speak effectively – present in a conversational way, don’t use jargon and watch out for nonverbal cues from the audience.
- Project a positive image – project confidence through dress and presence, show interest through your facial expression, make and maintain eye contact.
- Keeping your audience engaged – use analogies, stories and examples. Ask questions and use good visuals, charts and illustrations.
Handling questions is an important part of presentations and getting it wrong can derail the presenter. Advice given in this chapter to get the timing of questions and answers right is therefore very important. Being able to prepare for tough questions which is discussed here is also crucial. And what do you do when you don’t know the answer to a question? That’s one of the last things discussed in this chapter and the usual advice is – point the person to the right answer source or offer to find the correct answer.
This is the last chapter in this part of the book and the focus is on evaluating your presentation so that you can do better next time.
TIPS AND TOOLS
Tips and tools section is a permanent feature of the Pocket Mentor series. The first tool in the section is a collection of all the templates and checklists that appear in various chapters of the book’s first part.
The second tool is a multiple-choice quiz to help us review our knowledge of what we read in the book. The quiz has 10 questions and the answers are provided.
The final tool is a section titled, ‘To Learn More’. It provides references to articles and books for learning more about presentation skills.
While this book contains most of the usual information you will find in other books on the subject, I like it because of the size. It has just 61 pages of reading content which is set out in a way that makes it easy to browse through the key lessons. If you do want to brush up on your presentation skills, you can’t go wrong spending 30 to 60 minutes on this book.