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steve-headshot for HRHow many times, in business settings, have you seen people struggle to make their points and fall far short of conveying the message they wanted to get across? Far too often, countless times,  people with good brains and with good ideas fail to knit everything together in ways that compel others to not only listen, but to also support their positions.

Such failure can be a serious matter. In fact, it can be a career killer.

Conversely, we have also marveled at people who are extremely good verbal communicators and who seem to be able to quickly bring listeners onto their wave lengths. Often, these people get better workplace evaluations and climb promotional ladders quickly. So what’s going on, is it something in their genes?

Fortunately, no. Good presentation skills are learned, not genetic, and each of us, if we take the time, can learn to use and adapt a system that can supercharge our ability to make our points. Even people who are adept at putting solid arguments together in an impromptu fashion can further improve if they sharpen all the equipment in their “how to make a point” arsenal. See more self improvement concepts in the new eBook: Think Well & Prosper: A Critical Thinking Guide by Steve Bareham.

The following 20-piece toolkit includes 10 items that are conceptual in nature (planning), and 10 to help you dramatize your points so they have maximum impact. It is neither quick nor easy to approach business encounters with such a comprehensive system, but if your career is important, the discipline of being systematic can pay enormous dividends.

10 Planning Tools

1. Is your topic both relevant and one that ranks high on the benefits, interest, and impact quotient (BIIQ). If your listeners don’t see a potential benefit, if they aren’t interested in what you’re saying, or if they fail to see how your topic can impact on them, they have no reason to pay attention.

2. If you’re certain your topic is BIIQ, establish a clear goal. What, exactly do you want to achieve? If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s pretty unlikely anyone will follow you there.

3. Show that you’ve done your research: everyone respects those who come prepared and who have a complete grasp of issues achievable only through detailed and disciplined analysis. In this area it is crucial to be both conscientious and comprehensive.

4. Use a proven three-part structure when planning your presentation and ensure that you integrate the first of the 8Cs—constructive; research and information approached from a constructive perspective is always more appreciated and well received. Then, employ the three-point structure used by effective orators since the days of Socrates: state your premise clearly, provide convincing supporting evidence, and end with a powerful and concise conclusion.

5. Logical categorization and sequencing: when confronted with new information, the human mind immediately seeks familiar patterns. By arranging your points in logical categories and sequences, you greatly improve the chance that people will follow you from beginning to end.

6. Pre-educate other meeting participants well in advance. The reason many meetings fail is because few participants have done their research on the agenda. In the absence of relevant readings and research material and the advance thought and preparation they encourage, is it any wonder most business meetings achieve little?

7. Have you developed a novel angle that will grip people’s imaginations? Average linear thinking is, well, average. With thought and creativity, it is possible to put a unique spin even on the familiar—such lateral thinking is admired; it’s also more interesting.

8. Anticipate the probable responses of other participants to your points: might someone get emotional in a negative sense? What questions are people likely to ask? Might there be opposition to your position? Think proactively and be prepared.

9. Timing: is this the teachable moment? Even though you’re ready to reveal ideas for something new, are other participants in equally receptive frames of mind?

10. Be clear about the actions you are proposing and also about a timetable for planning and implementation.

10 Presentation Tools

1. Use the anticipation of gain: this is one of the most powerful attention grabbers and motivators know to our species; study your material thoroughly and never miss an opportunity to impress upon listeners exactly how they stand to gain.

2. Fear of loss: if the anticipation of gain is important, the fear of loss (money, status, etc.) is a close number 2 in terms of ensuring you have a rapt audience. Of course, it doesn’t pay to highlight potential loss unless you integrate the next tool on the list.

3. Propose the right questions and if possible, offer solutions that are supported by recognized experts. Research what experts have written or said: it is nice to think that everyone views us as experts, but the power of your positions can be greatly enhanced if you can demonstrate that respected “gurus” agree with you.

4. Quotations from well known personas: people love appropriately clever quotations; they can focus minds precisely where you want them to focus. Supportive quotations are easy to come by either through books or via Internet research.

5. Statistics: the business world revolves around numbers and most decisions regarding change or new directions can be either aided or not by staff responsible for finance functions. Whenever possible ensure that your points are backed up by irrefutable statistics.

6. Contrast and compare: This, too, is an effective tool for holding people’s interest, and especially when the contrast and comparisons are dramatic. For e.g. “Our competitor grew revenues last year at a rate of 100% while ours increased by only 50%; let’s look at their marketing approaches and compares them to ours.”

7. Problem and solution: a very powerful presentation strategy for riveting attention. Every organization has problems; someone with convincing solutions is guaranteed an attentive audience.

8. Anecdotes or metaphors: People identify readily with stories that help them put information into context and that make it clear how a theoretical concept worked in the real world. Metaphors, too, are a powerful means of helping people to see logical connections.

9. Integrate dramatic visuals: the majority of meetings depend largely on auditory stimuli (talking) to get points across and yet most people absorb information much better if there is also a visual component and even better yet if there is a kinesthetic segment where they get to actually work toward an action plan. With the widespread availability of easy-to-use presentation tools, such as PowerPoint, almost every presenter can boost impact by giving meeting participants visuals, too.

10. Use dramatic vocals: even good information presented in a boring monotone can leave listeners asleep. If speaking in public is something that really unnerves you to the point where you seem unable to employ dramatic vocals (tempo, pitch, volume, etc.) consider a professional development program in public speaking to shore up your skills in this area—it really is not difficult and once you acquire a few skills and experience success, you’ll wonder why there was ever a problem.

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