For people who are more used to interfacing with a computer system than large groups of people, public speaking can be a daunting prospect. The good news (and the bad news for some, I suppose) is that IT is taking a more prominent seat at the executive table. With companies depending more and more on their online presence or the internal availability of electronic data, IT pros can expect to be called upon to make large-scale presentations for shareholders.
Alan Carroll, principal of Alan Carroll & Associates, and author of The Broadband Connection: The Art of Delivering a Winning IT Presentation, has kindly offered the following tips for some small things IT pros can do to make their presentations more effective:
- Take your time to express yourself clearly. Don't rush.
- Do not fear silence. A true professional uses silence to gather his or her thoughts and allows the audience to think about what was just said.
- Use gestures and move assertively. A common problem for IT presenters is the quality of their hand gestures, and they walk slowly to the front of the room while making no eye contact. These movements (or lack of) suggest fear or discomfort. Change the speed at which you move around the room. Most people move their bodies at the same speed — once in a while, speed up.
- Modulate your voice purposefully. Express a range of emotions, including amusement, excitement, and even anger when appropriate. Vary your tones; do not be monotonous. Make yourself vocally alive to the audience.
- Do not operate from behind a firewall. Believe you have a valuable contribution to make to the audience.
- When you talk, make sure you have a solid connection with the eyes of someone in the audience. Only talk after you have given yourself a conscious command to lock on to a person's eyes. After you have delivered your communication to a person in the audience, hold eye contact for just a second to make sure your communication has been received.
- Minimize the time you have your back facing the audience while using your PowerPoint slides, whiteboard, or flip chart. Write big and bold on these — make your message is easy to read.
- Stand up straight and maintain a relaxed yet powerful posture.
- Touch things in the room. This includes walls, flip charts, and even people. Touching things grounds you and spreads your scent around the room. Touching should be done in such a way that the audience is not aware of what you are doing.
- Require the audience to perform for you. For example, throw a tennis ball to someone in the audience and have him or her catch it, pick someone for your demonstrations, ask people questions, make someone the timekeeper, have another check to see if lunch has arrived, etc.
- Your own assessment of your actions in front of the room is irrelevant. You are not presenting for yourself — you are doing it for the audience. If the audience likes the way you deliver the message, then do it that way, regardless of what the little voice inside your head may say.
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Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.