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The best way to start any presentation is with an outline. Outlines help leaders prioritize and organize their thoughts. This is especially important in situations in which there is a large amount of information to distil and disseminate. Although creating an outline takes more time to prepare, it saves the audience time. Mind maps have become a popular way of outlining; particularly helpful is a BRIEF map. Each of the letters, in BRIEF, stands for a function of a bubble in the map. The middle bubble contains the main idea of the presentation and is called the brief box. The rest of the map should be organized with bubbles that contain the following:
*Background or beginning.
*Reason or relevance.
*Information for inclusion.
*Ending or conclusion.
*Follow-up questions expected to be asked.
The best way to persuade an audience is to tell a story. Good stories connect and stick with the audience. When considering the elements of a narrative, it is important to think like a journalist and keep in mind the following key elements:
*A strong headline.
*A compelling lead paragraph.
*A clear sense of conflict.
*A consistent narrative thread.
*A logical sequence of events.
*A powerful conclusion.
Stories should be short and simple. Leaders who need to synthesize a large amount of information into an outline should create a narrative map that includes the following:
*Focal point: the headline of the story.
*Setup or challenge: the issue the organization is facing.
*Opportunity: how the organization can resolve the issue.
*Approach: the how, where, or when of the story.
*Payoff: the conclusion.
Being brief is not about eliminating or cutting off conversation — it is about meaningful, controlled conversations. In a controlled conversation, a leader asks thoughtful and intentional questions to determine what is interesting to the other person. By controlling the questions, leaders can choose to ask more questions or end the conversation based on the response. A great method for keeping any conversation brief and powerful is to use TALC Tracks:
*Talk: When someone starts talking, a leader should be prepared with a response that has a clear point.
*Actively listen: A leader must listen carefully to the other person to pick up keywords, names, dates, and other important details. A leader should be ready to ask open-ended questions with a focus on the elements that are interesting.
*Converse: A leader should jump in with a comment or question when there is a natural pause, be careful not to start an irrelevant conversation, and keep responses short.
Being brief requires an understanding of what is important to the audience. By focusing on the audience’s priorities, leaders show respect for them.
Multiple studies have shown that visual communications are much more powerful than those with words alone. In fact, screens and interactive media are causing a shift from a world of words to one of the images. People now expect their communications to be interactive. Incorporating visuals is a great way to be brief, and can be accomplished by:
*Googling images that relate to the presentation.
*Using short, online videos.
*Using a whiteboard to illustrate.
*Bringing in show-and-tell items.
*Creating a presentation through programs like prezi.com.
*Using icons instead of frequently used words.
When using visuals, leaders should assume people may not read the accompanying text. Therefore, the visuals should be able to stand on their own. When incorporating videos, leaders should be mindful of the time and quality — videos that are too long or too amateurish will lose the audience.
These guidelines help to make written communications more visually appealing:
*Communications should have a strong subject line or title.
*Readers should not have to scroll down beyond the opening window.
*Whitespace should balance the text.
*Key ideas should be called out.
*Bullets and numbers should feature a strong starting word.
*Unnecessary words should be trimmed.