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Thursday, February 21, 2008

The art of the one-on-one presentation

You may think you're not in the business of giving presentations. Hey, you haven't ever spoken to a group bigger than your marketing department, right?

But whether you're giving the latest financial report to your boss or chatting up an important industry contact at a party, you need to master some key skills.
The most important thing to remember is that you want to get your message across - simply, succinctly, and clearly. Don't worry about impressing your listener. Just get your information across in the best way possible. Here are five ways to do it. (And, by the way, these suggestions work for presentations to larger audiences too.)

1. Cut to the core. When you plan what you want to say, imagine having to write a headline and the first three sentences of a newspaper article on your topic. This will help you focus on your core message.

2. Edit your story down to the three most important points. Too many points and you risk either boring your listeners or emphasising your three least important points.

3. Don't be abstract. Specifics are always better. If you must use an abstraction, describe it with vivid imagery and an analogy. It's much easier for people to visualise an abstraction if you put it in a story.

4. Don't be tempted to script out everything you'll say. If your speech reads well on paper, it'll most likely sound bad. If you must write it down (to make you feel more comfortable), forget about making it "English-teacher" perfect or you could end up sounding dull and robotic.

Keep it conversational. Whether you're presenting to a room full of marketing execs or giving your one-minute "elevator" pitch to a potential partner. Avoid overly big words and stiff, formal language. Be friendly, use contractions, and treat your presentation as if you're talking with a good friend.

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