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Presentation Preparation and Skills

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Entrepreneurial skills are those that generate new ideas and create change. Skilled teachers and entrepreneurs have many characteristics in common as both are involved in ideas and change. They also both need to have good presentation skills to communicate the information or idea they wish to promote and the energy to carry them out.

Many times in your professional life as a teacher, you will want to implement a scheme or project. This may involve you in face-to-face negotiation with others whom you will have to persuade to support your ideas, or, it may require you to present information formally to a group of people about the changes that you want to implement.An important aspect of your professional life as a teacher will not only be in passing on information and skills to your students, but also in providing information and guidance to your students on how to use their skills after they have completed their courses. This could involve assisting them with the skills required to establish enterprises of their own and encouraging them to apply their skills of entrepreneurship, which would include presentation.

A communication event
A good presentation does not happen by accident. It has to be carefully planned. It begins with a thorough understanding of the communication process. A presentation differs from a speech. A speech is generally a formal, one-way flow of information from a sender (the speaker) to the receivers (the audience). A presentation is often more informal in atmosphere and encourages interactivity between sender (presenter) and receivers (the audience).

The notion of communication as a one-way flow of information from a sender to a receiver has long been discarded. The process is now recognised as an interactive process €“ a reciprocal relationship between a sender (who initiates the message) and a receiver. The process is reciprocal because the roles are reversible. Even as you deliver your presentation you will be receiving a host of verbal and non-verbal messages from the audience. The verbal messages may include questions or comments; the non-verbal messages often include appreciative nods, quizzical stares, and raised eyebrows, all of which €œcommunicate€ something which you, the presenter, would do well to note.

Audience Analysis
From the first stage of planning a presentation, every presenter must be aware that the most essential element in a presentation is the audience. You come to a presentation full of creative ideas and projects about which you are enthusiastic. The problem is that group of people sitting before you may not be as enthusiastic as you are. They have other things on their minds and other priorities. Even if they share your concern for the particular topic, they are different people with different likes and dislikes, preferences and biases.

The first stage in the planning of your presentation must, therefore, involve an analysis of your audience. You need a profile of your audience so you can know how to slant your presentation. Slanting means selecting the appropriate examples and illustrations that will help you to connect with your audience. eg. swimming in a river at summer time and your audience is largely urban born, you may alienate your audience. This is the last thing you want to do, especially if the purpose of your presentation is to persuade your audience.

Communication Channels
The interaction of presenter and audience is facilitated through channels of communication.People receive information through any combination of their five senses. When we accidentally pick up a hot object we €œknow€ the object is hot through the channel of sense of touch. The blind person reading a Braille document has learnt to understand words through the channel of touch. The saltiness of a potato chip is communicated to us through the channel of sense of taste. We know something is burning in the kitchen through the channel of sense of smell.Sight and sound are, however, the primary channels for the communication that concern us here (although the use of touch, taste and smell may be useful in a number of aids to your presentation). It is through sight and sound that human beings assimilate much of the information from our environment.

The €œVisual Revolution€
Human beings are €œvisual€ beings. This means that we respond primarily to what we €œsee€. Some research suggests that about 80 per cent of what we learn is assimilated through the channel of sight. While much of what we see and learn from are words and text, an increasing proportion of our visual stimulus comes from graphic images €“ visuals.
The latter half of the twentieth century has witnessed a revolution of images. As information and communication technologies have increased and developed, so has the power of images. Televisions, the combination of sound and sight, and computer technologies, have maximised opportunities for the use of images in the process of communication and information dissemination. The increased popularity of €œvisual€ media has forced text-based media like newspapers, magazines and books to strive for visual impact through €œvisuals€ €“ photographs, illustrations, graphics, pictograms etc.

I. TWO CATEGORIES OF VISUALS
Visuals can be considered as belonging to two categories: tables and figures. Tables arrange information €“ numbers or words in parallel columns or rows for easy comparison of data. The category we call figures covers every visual that is NOT a table. This may include pie charts, organizational charts, pictograms, graphs, photographs, cartoons, illustrations etc.

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF VISUALS
Not only are visuals important for supporting text, they are also vital for supporting sound. Oral presentations depend a great deal for their effectiveness on visuals.There are at least six reasons why you need to use visuals in your presentation.
A. Visuals arouse interest
Visuals attract audiences and help secure their attention
B. Visuals help the audience to understand important concepts
Visuals €œshow€ whereas words can only €œtell.€ Visuals are particularly important if you have to explain a technical process. In addition, they help to simplify statistical and financial data.
C. Visuals are important where the audience€™s command of the spoken language is limited
Visuals can enhance the communication process for people who have problems interpreting the spoken word or who speak a different language.
D. Visuals are important to show the relationship of key ideas in the presentation
Visuals can very quickly show difference, similarities, trends etc. They easily show the relationship of parts in a whole.

E. Visuals summarise large amounts of information
Visuals save words. Audiences get bored easily in the face of a continuous stream of orally delivered information.
F. Well designed visuals can have tremendous persuasive appeal

III CHOOSING EFFECTIVE VISUALS
A. Only use visuals when they are relevant for your purpose.
If your point has already been clearly made, it is redundant to use a visual.
B. Determine what type of visual will best meet your readers€™ needs.
This is where your audience profile will come in handy. Your audience€™s educational level and background will help you select appropriate visuals.
C. Visuals should work with the spoken word.
Only in rare instances should visuals stand alone. While a video programme may be clear and easily understood it will generally be necessary to provide some background or to explain some of the information.
D. Do rough drafts of several different visuals to determine which one will work best.

Your best visual evolves out of a number of €œdrafts€ or stages of design. In the same way that you draft and revise written work, be prepared to draft and revise your visuals.
E. Ensure that the quality of your visual is high. Visuals that seem rough and amateur will detract from your image as a professional

Why should we use different presentation methods and techniques?
A presentation is a communication event. The primary channels of communication in a presentation are sound and sight. The presenter€™s voice is the main vehicle for the information that will be shared during the presentation. A presentation that consists primarily of the speaker€™s voice without the support of presentation aids would be ineffective in securing audience attention and therefore understanding. Imagine watching a news bulletin that did not have film clips to accompany each story. What would you see? Only the newsreader. The success of the news bulletin would depend on the skill of the newsreader to hold your attention for the full 30 minutes of the news. Do you think the newsreader could hold your attention for that length of time? Probably not!

Can you imagine reading a newspaper or a magazine that had only word, words, and more words? The next time you are in a supermarket, pharmacy or any other store that has a magazine stand, pause for a minute to scan the stand. What do you notice about the covers of the magazines and newspapers?

Why do news bulletins use film clips in their telecasts?
There is an old saying €˜A picture is worth a thousand words€™. If the newsreader is trying to tell you of the devastation caused by a flood or an earthquake, this can be much more graphically illustrated by film of the event which shows the damage and the heartbreak caused. This has a much greater impact on the audience than a verbal description.Some information is best presented in a visual form. Take the nightly weather report, on the TV news program, for example. Talking about the weather map is much less effective than showing a map with the main weather features marked on it.The presenter then can talk about the weather patterns while the audience can see for themselves what is happening. This is reinforcement while much more information can be presented in the same time.

An audience is much more likely to choose a news telecast that stimulates more than one of the senses (sight and hearing) when presenting the news. A news bulletin without visual stimulation is likely to be thought cheap and boring by audiences while one with film clips and graphics is likely to be considered interesting and professional in its presentation of the news.
These same general principles hold true for your presentations. Using different forms of presentation methods:
-adds interest and variety to your presentation by stimulating more than one sense;
-avoids the €˜talking head syndrome€™ which can turn off an audience;
-helps an audience remember the key aspects of your presentation;
When presentation methods are used effectively, they enhance the credibility and professionalism of the speaker.

How to choose methods and techniques?
There are a number to factors which will influence the presentation method that you use. These are:
-appropriateness for audience
Always ensure that the language and layout of a handout is suitable for your audience. The number of handouts left to litter a hall after a presentation is an indication that the presentation method was inappropriate.
-the size of the audience
An excellent video production will not go down well with a large audience if the television set or monitor being used is too small.
-the size of the venue and the infrastructure
Be sure to check the site of the presentation before you turn up for your speaking engagement. You need to be sure that electrical outlets are available and that they are suitable for your equipment. A site lacking in appropriate facilities will oblige you to use non-electrical presentation methods.
-the information and technology you have access to!

You may want to work with more sophisticated presentation methods but you can only work with the information and technology that you have. This is where you have to be creative with simpler methods and techniques. When choosing a presentation method remember that visuals and presentation aids should be planned as a part of your presentation. They should not be used merely as gimmicks. If you roll a television set into the room, remember that audiences will anticipate that the television will form an essential part of the presentation. If you show a brief 30 second video clip that isn€™t obviously relevant to the presentation, it disappoints the audience and detracts from the effectiveness of your presentation. Presentation methods should support your presentation.

Some presentation methods can replace the presenter. They take over the role of presenting material to the audience. Video, film, slides can become the presenter, making the presenter€™s role passive. Use videos and films strategically. Make your presentation, introducing the main ideas and key points, then culminate with the video presentation. In this situation the video would provide amplifying materials for the points you would most like your audience to remember. When you use videos or film, be prepared to fulfil another vital role in the presentation process. You should be able to answer any questions that result from the video or film presentation. Audiences like to comment on what they have viewed. Using this strategy enhances your image as a presenter and does not make it seem like you are hiding behind the technology.

Presentation Methods and Techniques
Let€™s now look at each of the presentation methods or techniques and consider their advantages, disadvantages and some tips for using them effectively. We have mentioned these briefly so far, but just to remind you, these are the presentation methods we will be discussing:
-printed documentation and handouts
-white/blackboards
-overhead projections
-computer projections
-charts
-realia
-slides
-audio graphics including slides, film and video

Printed documentation and handouts
Handouts are usually summaries of the main points of your presentation that your audience can take home for future reference.Brochures are a form of advertising that gives information about a particular product or service that you are promoting.Other types of printed handouts could include maps or diagrams, financial reports or analysis of information relevant to your presentation.To help you decide what to use in a presentation, let€™s look briefly at the advantages and disadvantages of printed documents and handouts.Here are some useful tips for using printed documents and handouts.

Do:
-Use handouts that are relevant.
-Keep the information brief and summarised.
-Consider the presentation of handouts and brochures so that they are eye-catching and appealing and professional looking.
-Consider the most appropriate time to hand them out. Will they cause unnecessary distraction or do they contain information that would be useful during the presentation? Generally, handouts are given at the end of a presentation as a method of summarising the major points of your speech.
-Make sure you have enough for everyone!
Don’t:
-Bore your audience by giving out handouts with lots of information. They will not be read.
-Give too many handouts or brochures. One or two well-produced, relevant handouts are best.

We have looked at printed documents and handouts and now we€™ll consider whiteboards and blackboards.

Whiteboard or blackboard
The whiteboard has a glossy white surface on which you write with special whiteboard pens. Whiteboards may be fixed on a wall or freestanding and movable.Blackboards have a green or black dull finish on which you write with chalk. These boards are either fixed to the wall or freestanding and movable.
Here are some tips for using a white or blackboard effectively.

Do:
-Plan what you will write on the board. Think about the amount of board space you have and think about what you will write down.
-Use key points and abbreviations that your audience will understand.
-Use a numbering or lettering system as signposts to your audience.

-Print rather than write, as this is usually easier to read.
-Have an eraser handy.
-Make sure you have enough pens or chalk available.
-Make sure you give your audience time to take notes if they wish before you erase the notes.
-Ensure you have the correct type of pens for the whiteboard or you may find yourself in the embarrassing position of not being able to erase what you have written.
(Hint: If this does happen, use methylated spirits to clean the board, OR, write over what you have written with a proper whiteboard pen and this should dissolve the permanent ink you have used. Erase in the usual way.)

-Use visible/strong colours for the main points.
-Use different colours to emphasise key points – but don€™t overdo it!
-Talk to your audience – don€™t turn your back to the audience when writing on the board.
-Check for reflections from the board by moving it to different parts of the room. Put yourself in the audience seats.

Don’t:
-Use the board as a notebook. Stick to your plan.
-Talk to the board. Once you have written something down, stand to one side of the board so your audience can clearly see what you have written. Turn and face your audience before you speak. If necessary, use a pointer to point to the board.
-Use colours on the board that are hard to read. Experiment before the presentation to make sure that the colours you are using can be clearly seen by all of the audience.

 

We have already looked at the variety of presentation methods above that can use to enhance your professionalism. The most important element in your presentation, however, is you, your oral delivery (voice production and diction) and your non-verbal delivery (body language).

ORAL DELIVERY €“ Voice and Language
Your voice is your primary presentation tool. An array of sophisticated presentation tools and equipment cannot replace the effective use of the human voice. Your voice is a formidable communication instrument. You can modify the sound of your voice, the volume, the rate at which you speak and the pitch to create the kind of effect you desire.

Voice Production
Talking seems easy enough. We do it every day without thinking. The essential elements of voice production are the breath stream and the speech organs.

1. The Breath Stream
Breathing is basic to speaking (and singing). This is why so many professional actors, public speakers and singers devote much time to breathing exercises. When we prepare to speak or sing we release a stream of air from the lungs. This is called the breath stream and it passes up from the lungs to the throat and nasal cavities. All human voice sounds are the end result of the breath stream interacting with the speech organs.

2. The Speech Organs

The human voice is produced by the elaborate interaction of the speech organs with the breath stream. The speech organs are the vocal cords, the tongue, the lips and the roof of the mouth. The speech organs modify the breath stream producing a great variety of sounds which we combine to make words and €œmeaningful sounds that are not necessarily words e.g. a scream/shriek. There are six aspects of voice production that are crucial to good oral delivery, breath control, pitch, projection, pace, pause and articulation.

Projection

Projection is about speaking so that your voice carries to your audience from the front row to the back row. It is not about shouting, as this is very tiring and after about an hour of speaking too loudly you will find you start to run out of voice. Projection is about controlling your breathing, and using your body posture to carry the sound. Some techniques to aid projection:
-Keep your head up with your face towards your audience. If you speak with your head down, your words will be lost. Your feet will hear them clearly!
-Speak over the heads of your audience. Aim your voice at the back wall of your venue.
-Take deep breaths between sentences. Try and control your breathing so that you have plenty of breath to say the words, phrases and sentences in your speech. Breathing out too quickly means that your voice will have a husky, breathy quality to it and will not project as far.

Pitch

This is the second voice production skill.Pitch is the technique of varying the sound of your voice to make it interesting to listen to.Have you ever listened to someone read and thought how boring they sounded? This was probably because they were not varying the pitch of their voice; concentrating instead on the words they were reading and not their meaning. Speaking in a monotone (not varying the pitch of your voice) makes you sound boring or depressed and quickly turns an audience off.Have you ever listened to storytellers read to a group of children? Listen to the way they use their voices. They make the story come alive for the children by using both the words they are saying and the sound of their voices to tell the story. So far we have examined both projection and pitch as aspects of voice production. Let€™s now look at pace, the third voice production skill.

Pace

Pace is about how quickly or how slowly you speak.When we are nervous or excited we tend to speak more rapidly. When we are angry we tend to speak more slowly. Controlling the pace of your speaking is important. It helps you to control projection, pitch and articulation.Again, practise speaking out loud or into a tape recorder. Deliberately slow down the pace at which you normally speak. Concentrate on each word or phrase. This will be useful if you are prone to nerves when you are speaking in public. When you begin your talk, be aware of the pace of your presentation. Slow yourself down so that you sound in control. Vary the pace of your presentation to create interest. Changing the pace of your presentation can also be a signal to your audience during your session. Emphasise important points by speaking more slowly and deliberately. Light-hearted comments can be delivered at a conversational pace or a little faster.
Let€™s now look at the fourth production skill – pause.

Pause
Pause is related to pace. This is a technique that you can use to pace your presentation.Nervous public speakers are intimidated by silences and feel they have to fill them by continuing to speak. You can however use pauses to:
-Emphasise important points. A short pause can be a non-verbal signal to the audience to take note of the information.
-Slow down your pace. Pause between sentences to get your breath, gather your thoughts and glance at your notes.
Pauses are particularly important in negotiation situations. This allows time for both parties to assimilate information and to consider their relative positions.

Articulation

This is the fifth and final voice production skill.Articulation is all about actively using your mouth and jaw to make the words you say as clear as possible. This ensures that your audience understands what you are saying and will also help to project your voice to fill a large room. Exaggerating the movements of your mouth and jaw will help you to form the words. As you get more used to speaking clearly and slowly you can reduce the amount of movement of your mouth and jaw and still achieve the same sound. Articulation is very important when using a microphone. Microphones will emphasise your voice no matter what it sounds like. Mumbling in a microphone only sounds like loud mumbling.Using all these techniques – projection, pitch, pace, pause and articulation – will improve the quality of your voice and produce a more pleasant and professional sound.Let€™s now move on to consider the type of language that is appropriate for making presentations or conducting negotiations.

Language
The aspects of language that we€™ll examine are:
-style
-word usage and pronunciation
-use of jargon and colloquial expressions

Style
Style is the way that you choose to communicate with different people in different situations. It€™s a combination of the words you choose and the tone you use.You will choose different words and tone depending on whether you are talking to a group of friends or to your boss at work. If the subject you are discussing is serious, you will use more formal words and a serious tone. If you are talking informally to friends, your style will be open and friendly.We all adjust our style according to the situation we find ourselves in.

Word usage and pronunciation

This is the second aspect of the use of appropriate language.You should always try to keep communication simple and direct. This applies equally to the language you use when you are involved in entrepreneurial situations.Sometimes it is tempting when we are using a formal language style to use complex words and phrases to make ourselves sound more credible.Unless you are very sure of a word and its meaning, do not use it. Using the wrong word or not pronouncing a word correctly may only confuse and distract your audience and does not add to your professionalism.The modern trend in business writing and speaking of all types is towards simple expressions that can be clearly understood. Old-fashioned or unnecessarily complicated words and phrases are slowly being €˜weeded out€™ of business language.

Here are some examples of words and phrases to be avoided:
-new beginning
-at the end of the day
-when all is said and done
-the great majority
-in fact
-it is important to note that
-each and every
-actually
-in general
-to great effect

There are lots of others. Start your own list. Listening to politicians speak is a good place to start! Successful presenters and negotiators are careful when selecting words. They choose words that are familiar to them and that they are confident they can pronounce.Stick to simple and direct communication to make sure that the message you intended to send is the message your audience gets.

Use of jargon and colloquial expressions
This is the third and final aspect of selecting appropriate language for entrepreneurial situations. Jargon is the language that is peculiar to a profession, trade or group. It may not be clear to people outside that group or profession. Be careful when using jargon. Use only those terms you are sure your audience will understand.

Colloquial expressions are informal or slang words and phrases that are part of everyday speaking. Here are some examples:
You can say that again!
No problem.
Go on – make my day.
Have a nice day.

Does this type of language have a place in an teaching environment? Do you think so? They can however be used to effectively lighten the tone or to add impact but should be used sparingly.