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Presentation Tips for Non-Profits

How many of us have felt like we wasted time sitting through presentations?  Time is valuable and the information you want to share is important.  How can you make sure your presentation is effective?

Presentations are a great way to share information consistently with a lot of people in a short amount of time.  But, if no one hears or remembers the information you want to convey, then the information is lost and not used. 

Presentation is a form of communication that is one-way delivery.  In a dialogue or conversation, we know if people are engaged by the questions and comments they share.  We can clarify if quickly if there is a misunderstanding.  These dynamics become more difficult in a presentation format.  However, there are some things you do to help your audience 1) ensure people are engaged 2) receive the information, and 3) check for understanding.

 Tip 1:         Interact with Your Audience.           “Warm up” your audience with a short story, humor or questions.  For example “Good morning!  Thank you for coming!  How many of you have a million things to do and would rather be doing them?”  Ask questions Yes/No type questions where the majority of people will respond “Yes”.  Having people in agreement with you and each other creates an open feel to the room.

Be sure that people can hear you.  Depending on the size of your audience, you may need to practice projecting your voice before you present.  Likewise, modulate your voice by breathing.  If you are talking so fast that they cannot understand you, your message will not be received.  Breathe deeply and pause for water if you need a break.

Practice your presentation before you deliver it.  If you practice, you will have a more smooth flow, be able to identify any trouble spots and re-word anything that feels or sounds awkward.

 Tip 2:         Provide Pertinent Information in Multiple Ways.      Have you ever sat through a presentation where it was obvious that someone recycled a previous presentation and it’s really not pertinent to this group?  Don’t be that person.  You have the opportunity to be of service to this group of people by sharing information that will benefit them and others.  Make sure your presentation has benefit for the specific people you will be addressing. 

People learn and receive information best in different ways.  For people who are auditory learners, listening to your presentation is a perfect way for them to learn.  However, auditory learners will only be about 20% of your audience.  What about people who are visual or kinesthetic learners?  For visual learners, reinforce your words with a Powerpoint or similar tool.  (See article on creating an effective Powerpoint document).  For kinesthetic learners, encourage note taking and provide paper and pens.  Have copies of the presentation available for people to take with them. 

In addition to the Powerpoint tool, use props and questions if appropriate to illustrate your information.  For example, if you are sharing quarterly customer service ratings with your department, ask them “Who will share a success story with us?”  Invite participation.

 Tip 3:         Check for Understanding.       Assume that there will be questions.  In fact, enourage questions.  It is the only way you will know before people leave if they heard the message you wanted to convey.  Instead of asking, “Are there any questions?” ask “What questions do you have?”  Be comfortable waiting 20-30 seconds – allow people to think of their questions and how they want to phrase them. 

If you have asked people to hold their questions until the end, be sure you provided paper and pens so that they can write their questions down as they think of them to be shared later.  Better yet, even if you do want to answer questions in the middle of the presentation (this is often distracting and can cause a rush at the end to finish the presentation), stop periodically and ask people for questions.  Write them down in a “parking lot” space on a white board or flip chart.  When the presentation is complete, you have questions to start with and your audience will have time to think of others.  If you do not have time to answer all questions, take them with you and email the responses out later to people who are interested.

 Presenting in front of a large group can be intimidating.  Instead of worrying about how you look or sound or feel, focus on how you can be of service to these people.  You have the attention of many people, it is a gift and an opportunity.  Create an experience that will be memorable and enjoyable for everyone.

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