Thursday, December 2, 2010

Preparation and Practice Makes Perfect

There are two secrets to making a good presentation: preparation and practice. Take the time to prepare properly and your chances of success will increase enormously.
Defining your purpose
What do you want to communicate to your audience?
Before you start to prepare your presentation, decide what you want to achieve. Focus on the purpose of the presentation at every stage to ensure that your presentation is relevant and efficient. Here are a few points to remember when planning for your presentation:
·      Presentation should to relevant, simple and to the point.
·      The audience will be impressed by the depth and breadth of your knowledge and honesty rather than by a show of fake intellect or arrogance.
·      A positive attitude, energy and enthusiasm for the subject will speak volumes to your audience. Your audience will remember you long after the details of your speech have been forgotten.
·      Once you have written your speech, remember to cut it, cut it, and cut it again.
Know your audience
It’s very important to know as much about your audience as possible. It will help you to know the level of knowledge that exist in the room as well as individuals that can be used as experts to help answer questions.
Be yourself
Unless you are a trained actor or actress, it’s difficult trying to be anyone other than yourself. We all bring different assets to the table that complements the overall team. Concentrate on defining and utilizing your best assets. If you have a strong voice, use it to your advantage. If you have a talent for being humorous, use it to make the audience feel comfortable.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Using Good Body Language

At every moment of your waking life, you are sending out nonverbal signals about your feelings and intentions. It’s possible to use this body language in a presentation to help reinforce your message. Keep an open posture at all times, avoiding crossing your arms or creating a barrier between you and the audience. Use hand gestures selectively for emphasis, but don’t gesture so much with your hands become a distraction. When relaxed, your body language will reinforce your message naturally, but using the appropriate gestures can help you disguise your nerves.
Remember the following tips:
·      Eye contact establishes positive rapport with your audience
·      Make eye contact with somebody in the audience at every available opportunity
·      Relaxed body language conveys confidence
·      An open jacket presents an image of honesty
·      Open hand gestures emphasize key points
·      Sharing a relevant anecdote will put you at ease when speaking
Presentation Do’s and Don’ts:
·      Do use simple, concise language whenever possible for clarity
·      Do use eye contact to obtain feedback from the audience. Their body language will reveal their reactions to your presentation
·      Do keep pauses specific and emphatic. Use them to show your audience to absorb what you say
·      Don’t ever apologize for your lack of speaking experience
·      Don’t mumble or hesitate. If you lose your place, stay calm until you find it
·      Don’t drop your voice at the end of each sentence. It will sound as if you are not sure of what you are saying

Finally, use the 3 Es in your presentation. Every presentation has three essential objectives. The first aim is to educate: the audience should learn something from your speech. The second is to entertain: the audience should enjoy your presentation. The final element is to explain: all parts of your speech should be clear to your audience.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Give your pitch a Facelift

What do you do? That's usually the first question a new contact will ask you at a meeting, conference or at a social gathering.
It’s a simple enough question, used often for starting a conversation. Yet the answer you provide to that question can determine whether the conversation continues or stops dead in its tracks. Everyone needs a clear, concise and engaging way to answer the question, “What do you do?”
Here are a few ideas about how to refine and refresh your quick pitch:
·      Know your target audience.  Knowing exactly who would benefit from your product or service is critical.  We all must be able to communicate ideas that others will recognize, so they will see how we can help them. You should have the ability to adjust your pitch, depending on your audience.

·      Understand what the other person cares about, his or her concerns and priorities.

·      Talk about your results, not how you achieve them.  For example, if you are a consumer financial literacy educator, just don’t talk about  all the consumer issues that exists, you might say that you help communities all over the country to take charge of their financial lives.

·      Connect with your own passion and enthusiasm.

·      Pay attention to how people respond. The goal of an elevator speech is to get people interested and have them ask more questions. If they don’t ask questions, you may want to adjust what you are talking about so people can recognize the value or benefit that you provide.

·      It’s also important to listen to what the other person is saying to you.  Quite often they will tell you exactly what they are looking for or interested in learning or hearing from you.

·      Less is more. Most people like to receive information in capsules or bite size pieces.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Speaking Effectively to Your Audience

Once you are actually in the room with your audience, you must focus on delivering the most engaging presentation possible.  You will achieve your best performance if you speak effectively, project a positive image, and keep your audience engaged.  Remember, your presentation is not about you, but about what you are offering to support and inspire your audience. Here are some suggestions:
Make your presentation conversational. Know your audience.
Avoid the use of jargon or terms that may be unfamiliar to the audience.

Watch the audience for non-verbal clues about their response.
Breathe. It helps you relax and reduces filter language such as “um” and “er”

To use your voice to it’s best advantage, keep its tone natural and conversational.  Avoid yelling or talking too loud into the microphone, which could turn people off. However, do speak loudly enough for everyone.  In most cases, you can do this by speaking to the most distant person in the room.  Here are a few tips: 
·      Avoid raid fire or drawn out speech.  Practice with a colleague or team member to get feedback.
·      Be expressive. Don’t speak in monotone. Raise and lower your voice to make your point.
·      Enunciate and pronounce words clearly.
·      It’s also important to remember to not to interrupt a team member when they are facilitating or presenting to the audience.  Interrupting a team member can cause them to lose track of their thoughts.  In addition, it also confuses the audience in terms of who is in charge.  If you feel that something need to be said to your team member, one should:
·      Make a note of your thoughts and speak to your team members after their presentation so that they can make a note of the information the next time they are presenting; or
·      If you are facilitating and you are not sure of the answer, you can call on a team member for help or let the audience know that you will get the information and report back to them later during the day.
·      It’s also a good idea to place difficult questions or questions that you may not have the answer to at the time on a “Parking Lot” easel or pull information from your audience.

In closing, remember there are ways to present a positive image to your audience.  Your confidence and commitment to your message is reflected by your demeanor and body language.  To optimize your effectiveness, make sure to do the following:
·      Project confidence through your dress and presence.
·      Make sure your facial expressions convey interest in the audience.  If you are too nervous to look at the entire audience, focus on individuals instead.
·      Make and maintain eye contact with audience members at all times.
·      Be humorous when possible.

Tips for Presenting Effectively:

·      Do not talk from a script. Talk from notes.  There is a difference.
·      Face your audience and make eye contact.
·      When you want control or more involvement, or to become a member of the group, walk around your audience. Depending on your personality, you may reach out and touch them.
·      Use gestures in a relaxed and normal way.
·      Use your voice effectively.

Keep your focus on your message and on your audience.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lead without being a control freak

Lead Without Being a Control Freak
Facilitation is a way of providing leadership without taking the reins. As a facilitator, your job is to get others to assume responsibility and to take the lead.
The facilitator’s job is to act as a referee.  That means you watch the action, more than participate in it.  You control which activities happen.  You keep your finger on the pulse and know when to move on or wrap things up.  Most important, you help members define and reach their goals.
When facilitating, use the following core practices:
  • Stay neutral on content: Your job is to focus on the process role and avoid the temptation of offering opinions about the topic under discussion.  Use questions and suggestions to offer ideas that spring to mind, but never impose opinions on the group.
  • Listen actively: Look people in the eye, use attentive body language and paraphrase what they are saying.  Always make eye contact with people while they speak, when paraphrasing what they have just said and when summarizing their key ideas. Also use eye contact to let people know they can speak next and to prompt the quiet ones in the room to participate.
  • Paraphrase to clarify: This involves repeating what people say to make sure they know they are being heard, to let others hear their points of view a second time and to clarify key ideas.
  • Ask questions: This is the most important tool you possess. Questions test assumptions, invite participation, gather information, and probe for hidden points.  It will allow you to bypass the symptoms and get at the root causes.
  • Use the flip chart: It helps to keep track of emerging ideas as well as final decisions. Notes should be brief and concise. They must reflect what the participants have said, not your interpretation of what was said.
  • Keep time: Appoint a timekeeper to call out time markers, or use a timer to help keep the group on track.
  • Play Ping-Pong: Picture yourself standing at the flip chart with a Ping Pong paddle in one hand. If someone asks a question or makes a comment, redirect it by sending it back to someone else to answer or build on. This is a great way to get participants to interact with one another.
  • Test assumptions: Often you need to bring the assumptions people are operating under out, into the open and clarify them so that they are clearly understood by everyone.  Assumptions may need to be challenged before a group can explore new ground.
  • Synthesize: Don’t just record the ideas of participants, but get participants to comment and build on each others thoughts to ensure that the ideas recorded on the flip chart represents collective thinking. It can build consensus and commitment.
  • Hold up a mirror: It helps to tell the group how they look to you so they can interpret their actions and make corrections.
  • Summarize periodically: A great facilitator listens attentively to everything that is said, and then offers concise and timely summaries.  Summarize when you want to restart a discussion that has come to a halt, or to end a discussion when things seem to be wrapping up.
  • Label sidetracks: Remember, it’s your responsibility to let the group know when they are off track. (i.e. “We are now discussing something that isn’t on our agenda. What does the group want to do?”)
  • Park it: At every meeting, tape a flip chart sheet to a wall to record all sidetrack items. Later, these items can be reviewed for inclusion in a future agenda or later during the day. Parking lot sheets let you capture ideas that may be important later while staying on track.
  • Use the spell check button: Most people are nervous enough about writing on flip charts without having to worry that they are spelling every word correctly. You can relax everyone by drawing a spell check button at the top right corner of every sheet.  Tell participants that they can spell creatively, since pressing the spell check button automatically eliminates all errors.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Outreach to African Americans

Outreach to African Americans

Conducting outreach to African American and other ethnic communities can be challenging if it's a new experience for you and/or your organization. One of the most important lessons to be learned is to know as much as you can about your target audience. It will help you to devise a strategic plan.

It's always wise to follow these steps in reaching the African American audience:
  • Plan your approach
  • Develop a list of goals and objectives
  • Conduct a needs assessment with your audience
  • Understanding attitudes and culture
  • Ways to reach your audience
  • Develop a marketing or communications plan for your event or project
  • Plan your media relations efforts or earned media
  • Evaluate your outreach efforts
  • Identify key strategies and tactics
When preparing your outreach efforts, public awareness campaign or event, remember that every campaign is designed to:
  • Create awareness
  • Educate and inform
  • Remind the audience of your message
  • Call to think
  • Call to act
It's also important to involve the target audience in your research and campaign. It's helps the target audience to feel invested in your outreach activities. Ascertain the challenges and barriers that may prevent your audience from participating in your outreach and engagement activities.

For more information on outreach activities, please download a free copy of our e-book at entitled, Outreach to African Americans at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stage Fright

Coping with stage fright
You are about to facilitate a workshop. People are starting to enter the training room. Your executive director or general manager is sitting up front. Funders are sitting in the back of the room. Your boss stands up to introduce you and you walk toward the stage.
As you approach the front of the room your confidence fails. Your stomach starts doing flips, your palms are sweating, and your mouth feels like it's full of cotton balls. You pick up your notes and your hands are slightly shaking. As you start to speak, your voice quivers a bit. Has this ever happened to you? Welcome to the world of stage fright. Most professionals and business people have stated that they prefer instant death over standing up and speaking to an audience.
You are not alone if you have had this experience. Almost everyone has, even people who regularly speak to groups. Preparation is critical in overcoming stage fright. There are a few concepts that may help you to avoid stage fright:
Know your audience:
Before making a presentation, it’s always important to acquaint yourself with both the audience and the setting. Try talking to a few people who will be in the audience before you start. Reviewing the list of participants will give you a better idea of the organizations that will be attending the workshop.

Remember to look over the setting before you present. Find out where you will be speaking and try to get there early. Check out the room’s acoustics, sit in a chair and see the room from the audience’s perspective. Test the equipment and assume nothing. Be flexible—it’s the key to being a successful trainer.
Prepare your material:
Never underestimate how important good research and preparation are to reducing your anxiety. Knowing what you want to accomplish, what you are going to say, and how you are going to say it, will make you feel less nervous. Mark Twain said that it took him 3 weeks to prepare an impromptu speech. Here are four rules for preparing your presentation:
  • Know your topic. Audiences can sense when you are bluffing and feel that you are unsure of your topic.
  • Prepare more material than you think you will use. If you need to give a minute or 45 minute presentation, develop enough materials to last longer. It's better to cut back than to run out of things to say.
  • Consider questions your audience may ask you. Come up with answers to potential questions before you give your presentation. Either incorporate the answer into your presentation or hold them in readiness in case they come up.
  • Memorize the first 60-seconds of your presentation. The greatest anxiety is experienced at the beginning of every speech. It could make you more comfortable allowing you to get rolling smoothly.
  • Avoid rigid rules. Remember to use humor in your presentation if possible. It allows the audience to relax a bit and giggle. They tend to be alert and waiting for the next funny comment that will come from you.
Usually after your presentation, participants will come up to you and congratulate you on a job well done. Most speakers who think that they are nervous don't really appear to be nervous to the audience at all. Stop beating yourself, chances are you are a great presenter and facilitator. The more you practice, the more confident you will be as a speaker. Most importantly, remember to have fun with your material, your presentation and most importantly with the audience. You will find that the audience wants to have a good time too.
Remember, every presentation has 3 essential objectives. The first aim is to educate: the audience should learn something from your presentation or speech. The second is to entertain: the audience should enjoy your presentation. The final element is to explain: all parts of your speech should be clear to your audience.

Remember to enjoy each and every presentation.