Delivering Presentations |

Respond to the following question with a minimum of a 100 word response How can the intended audience affect the delivery of a presentation?

Here is the Reading Material for the above question

Delivering Presentations

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Learning Objectives

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

  1. Describe how presentation delivery impacts your credibility.
  2. Deliver presentations with authenticity, confidence, and influence.
  3. Apply the SOFTEN model of nonverbal communication for presentations.
  4. Use slides and handouts to supplement your presentation effectively.
  5. Interact effectively with your audience.

Why Does This Matter?

Hear Pete Cardon explain why this matters.

Once you’ve settled on the content of your presentation, you turn to preparing for the delivery. Delivering great presentations involves art and skill. With each of your professional presentations, you’ll fine-tune your abilities. In this chapter, we focus on making your delivery as smooth and engaging as possible so that you will successfully connect with your audiences. Read the chapter case, which is a continuation from Chapter 14 and is the basis for many examples in this chapter.

Chapter Case: Attracting New Clients at Sinosourcing Experts

Who’s Involved

© Take A Pix Media/Getty Images

Shannon Browne

  • Has worked as a sales rep at Sinosourcing Experts for five months
  • Recently graduated with a major in supply chain management and a minor in Chinese

The Situation

Shannon has prepared a new presentation about how Sinosourcing Experts can help small manufacturers outsource some of their manufacturing in China. Now she is ready to try it on several groups of small-business owners and managers. She’s nervous, though, and uncertain about the outcome.

Task 1

Connect with audiences, gaining their trust and confidence.

Task 2

Deliver a persuasive and memorable explanation of the benefits of working with Sinosourcing.

Establish Presence

Presenting gives you an excellent opportunity to connect deeply with your colleagues, your clients, and your other contacts. It allows you to express your views in a rich, two-way environment. As you do with your written communication, you will aim to strike the right style and tone in your presentations. Moreover, you will strive to establish a “presence,” something great speakers and presenters are often described as doing. Having presence means commanding attention, garnering respect for your ideas, engaging your listeners, and even inspiring your audiences to action. In this section, we focus on strategies you can use to enhance your presence as you deliver your presentations.

Establish Credibility

LO15.1. Describe how presentation delivery impacts your credibility.

For internal presentations, you often present to people who know you well and who have already formed opinions about your credibility; they have a sense of your competence, caring, and character. However, internal presentations still provide you the opportunity to change others’ views of you. Without appearing self-serving, find ways to increase your perceived credibility. Use the presentation to show your thorough understanding of a business issue. Frame your ideas in ways that show clear benefits to your company, its employees, and its stakeholders. In every way, display honesty and openness.

For external presentations, you are often dealing with people who have superficial impressions of your credibility. You have opportunities before, during, and after your presentation to bolster your credibility. Before the presentation, you can make information about your background available or have someone introduce you with a brief statement.

During the presentation, you establish your competence by showing that you know the content well. You show your caring by connecting emotionally with audience members and adapting to their needs. You show your character by being open and honest. After your presentation, following up as appropriate with audience members shows your caring and character as well. Some audience members may raise issues for you to look into or ask for additional information. Comply with these requests promptly and you will establish a reputation for responsiveness.

Maintain Authenticity

LO15.2. Deliver presentations with authenticity, confidence, and influence.

Standing in front of an audience feels anything but natural for many business professionals. Yet, nearly all audience members are making judgments about you and your message based on their perceptions of your authenticity. One of your primary goals as you develop your presentation skills is to find ways to present your real self to your audiences. Barbara De Angelis, a well-known communication specialist and speaker, explained the importance of maintaining authenticity:

I often work with speakers who can’t understand why they aren’t more successful, or why they become so anxious in front of others. Often, they make the mistake of trying to imitate other speakers who they believe are more powerful or more skilled, or they mechanically follow learned formulas for successful public speaking. However, by doing this, they are unintentionally disconnecting from one of their greatest assets—and one of the secret ingredients for being successful: their authenticity. … People can sense when we are trying too hard, or faking confidence, or projecting an image that doesn’t feel natural. When people see us appearing inauthentic, it makes them uneasy. And we actually appear awkward or nervous.1

Principles for Establishing Presence

  • Establish credibility.
  • Maintain authenticity.
  • Know your material.
  • Speak with confidence.
  • Focus on people.
  • Start and finish strong.
  • Stay flexible.
  • Use the room to your advantage.
  • Communicate nonverbally.
  • Dress for success.

As you read this chapter about presentation delivery, focus on making a few changes at a time. Attempting to alter too many of your presentation techniques at once may detract from your ability to speak naturally and genuinely. Add new presentation techniques to your repertoire constantly, but also make sure to draw on your natural strengths.

Know Your Material and Rehearse

By running through your presentations several times, you allow yourself to become more comfortable with the content, work out weakly connected areas, and identify parts that you want to emphasize through tone and nonverbal communication. Also, rehearsing allows you to time your presentation so you know if you need to add or remove content.

Far too many speakers and presenters avoid rehearsing. The presentation itself is often the first run-through. Executive speech coach Nick Morgan observed the following about this approach:

The sad truth is that when you wing it, the performance is rarely as good in the audience’s memory as it is in the speaker’s. The reason is that your heightened adrenaline literally makes you feel better—more energy, more enthusiasm, more acuity—and so you rate your own performance better. What the audience all too often sees, on the other hand, is disorganization, fumbled examples, and the vagueness that comes from not knowing your material thoroughly.2

Rehearsing may involve running through the presentation in your mind or out loud. Ideally, you do it out loud. Consider videotaping your presentation so that you can get a sense of the overall impact of your ideas, the flow of your content, and the delivery of your presentation.

Many speakers and presenters use notes. Notes are not necessarily considered a weakness; however, use them sparingly or, ideally, not at all. Rehearsing will help you determine if you want or need notes. If you use them, rehearsing helps you choose which notes you need and allows you to become comfortable handling your notes in a nondistracting way.

Overcome Fear and Speak with Confidence

Nearly everyone gets nervous and even fearful of presenting in public, especially in unpredictable and high-stakes circumstances. Many polls show that adults fear public speaking more than death. Responding to these various polls, Jerry Seinfeld once joked, “At a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”3 Other polls show that public speaking is among the most serious phobias among adults, with the fear of snakes the only phobia surpassing it (see Figure 15.1).4

Figure 15.1 Top Fears of American Adults

Source: Geoffrey Brewer, “Snakes Top List of Americans’ Fears: Public Speaking, Heights and Being Closed in Small Spaces also Create Fear in Many Americans” (March 19,2001), retrieved from Gallup Polls online, Copyright © 2001 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved. The content is used with permission; however, Gallup retains all rights of republication.

Experiencing ome nervousness as you speak and present is normal. Even experienced speakers get stage fright from time to time. Unexpected circumstances, for example, may cause unusual nervousness—unfamiliar or intimidating audience members, technology failure, pressure to perform with a skeptical audience, noticing the speech is being recorded, and many other reasons.5

Feeling some nerves is not necessarily bad. It shows you care about making an effective presentation. And feeling some nerves can heighten your ability to deliver forcefully and passionately. Nervousness is dysfunctional only when it impairs your ability to deliver your content. In most presentations, certain parts are the most critical—for example, a call to action (see Chapter 14)—and at the same time, they have the least-certain outcome. Sometimes, out of nervousness, presenters do not follow through completely at these moments. If nervousness means you shortchange yourself at those critical moments, use techniques to help you manage your nervousness.6

Consider some of the following recommendations:7

Engage in Relaxation Techniques

Consider some of the following options:

  • Stretching.
  • Meditating.
  • Going hiking or exercising (a day or so before your presentation).
  • Listening to music.
  • Going to a movie.
  • Watching a sunset.
  • Thinking about the things in your life you are grateful for, such as your cherished relationships.
  • Letting your mind go blank.
  • Counting backward from 100.

Become Aware of Your Breathing

Taking several deep breaths is a great technique to quickly alleviate anxiety. Also, consistently taking full breaths leads to improved tone and timber of your voice as well as better, more confident posture.

Practice Visualization

Envision yourself speaking with confidence and ease. Imagine making nonverbal connections with your audience. Think about how you will respond to audience questions. In your mind, play out your presentation and see yourself succeeding.

Focus on Friendly Faces Initially to Gain Composure and Confidence

Inevitably, the presence of some audience members will make you more nervous than others. It may be a critical boss, a skeptical client, a person you disagree with often, or someone who intimidates you for other reasons. In the opening moments of your presentation, when you are most apt to suffer from nervousness, look at those in the audience with whom you are most friendly. This will help calm you during those ever-important first moments.

Watch Your Food and Beverage Intake

Pay attention to foods and beverages that impact your nervousness. Some people avoid or minimize caffeine intake on speech days to avoid jitters. Others avoid dairy products, since they can coat the mouth and throat and make speaking feel less smooth. Notice how various foods and beverages affect your body and adjust accordingly.

Get Comfortable with Audience Members before Starting Your Presentation

One of the best ways of relaxing immediately before your presentation is to speak with audience members. Greet them at the door, walk around the room, engage in small talk, and find other ways to break the ice and help you and your audience members warm up to each other.

Focus on People

If you make your speech about people, your audience members are more likely to trust your commitment to them and others: People like to hear about people. Also, a strong people-focus will allow you to liven up dry facts and statistics. Try the following methods of making your speech about people.8

Make People the Subject of Your Sentences

Especially when you present numerical information, using people as the subjects of your sentences humanizes your presentation. Notice how Shannon does this in Table 15.1.

Table 15.1 Making People the Subject of Your Sentences

Less EffectiveMore EffectiveOur internal research shows that we have achieved an 82 percent client satisfaction rate in terms of perceived quality improvement since moving operations to China.Our quality inspectors consistently survey our clients to make sure we’re getting the right fit for them. The vast majority of our clients—82 percent—say that quality has improved since moving production to China.This statement is compelling but dry and impersonal to some audience members.This statement is compelling because of the people involved: the quality inspectors who conduct the surveys and the clients who are happy with quality improvements.Introduce Colleagues and Refer to Them by Name during Your Presentation

By naming members in your organization or other relevant people, you help your audience members feel they are getting to know these important individuals (see Table 15.2).

Table 15.2 Introducing Colleagues by Name

Less EffectiveMore EffectiveOur engineers have extensive experience in the Chinese manufacturing environment.Our engineers collectively have over 80 years of experience in the Chinese manufacturing environment. For example, our lead engineer, Jack Chang, completed his master’s degree in engineering at the University of Kentucky and has spent the past 15 years in outsourced manufacturing in China. Jack knows exactly how to identify manufacturers and suppliers to meet your standards.This statement is good but could be improved by elaborating on who these engineers are.This statement is stronger with its focus on Jack Chang and his experience. It helps some listeners relate to and even develop a feeling of trust for the company’s engineers.Use Names of Audience Members as Appropriate

When you know the names of those in your audience, consider using their names from time to time to personalize your presentation (see Table 15.3).

Table 15.3 Using Names of Audience Members

Less EffectiveMore EffectiveIt’s common for small-business owners to think about manufacturing in China for years without taking any real action.Just a few minutes ago, I was speaking to Jim here in the front row. He mentioned that he’s thought about the possibilities in China for over a decade. Five years ago, he went on a local Chamber of Commerce trip to China but ended up thinking his company simply didn’t have the time or money to explore this option any further. Jim’s experience is common. Many small-business owners have wondered about manufacturing in China but never thought it was possible for them.This statement is good but is not personalized. It is essentially a “faceless” comment and thus may be less persuasive.This statement makes the point in a personalized, relatable manner. It shows the presenter is connected to the experiences of the audience.Stay Flexible

Presentations rarely go as planned. Knowing your content perfectly will help you adapt to unexpected circumstances. Maintaining a flexible approach will help you think on your feet for unanticipated events. Consider the following ways of staying flexible.

Arrive Early

Arriving early lets you notice if you have any surprises in terms of equipment, room layout, or people in attendance. If so, you may be able to make adjustments before the presentation begins. When presenting in a place you’ve never been before, arrive at least an hour or two early.

Focus on the Needs of Your Audience

Some presentations can get off course when audience members raise questions or make comments. If you are preoccupied with your own agenda only, you can become flustered or disorganized if someone poses a question. Be ready to adapt to the immediate needs of your audience so you can quickly modify your presentation based on their requests. If you spend time anticipating possible questions, you will generally b prepared to answer them at any point in your presentation and segue back into the flow.

When You Lose Your Place, Don’t Panic

All presenters inevitably lose their train of thought from time to time. When this happens, you can try a few strategies. One is simply to pause until you regain your composure and your line of thinking. Within a few seconds, you will often get back on target. What seems like an eternity to you will be but a short pause to audience members. Many audience members will not even notice you lost your place. Another strategy is to repeat the last statement you made (five or six words). Doing so will help you regain your thought process.

Never Tell Your Audience Things Haven’t Gone as Expected

Many presenters instinctively tell the audience about problems that have disrupted the presentation (i.e., technology failures, misplaced handouts). Resist the urge to mention these mishaps. To many audience members, this sounds like excuse-making and detracts from your key messages and/or your credibility. Most audience members will never know that anything out of the ordinary happened if you simply proceed with slightly modified plans.

Always Have a Plan B

If you have electronic slides to display, be prepared for a situation where the projector does not work and you need to speak without them. If you recognize factual problems in your handouts at the last moment, be prepared to present without them. Know ahead of time how you’ll present under these situations.

Know What Your Key Messages Are

You can often leave out parts of your presentations as necessary with little change in impact as long as you know your three or four key messages and accentuate them throughout your presentation.

Use the Room to Your Advantage

You will inevitably present in rooms of various sizes and layouts. Generally, you connect with your audiences best if you position yourself close to them and establish eye contact with them. Consider the following advice.

Position Yourself Where People Can See You Easily

Walk around the room before your presentation to check the vantage points that various audience members will have. After you do this, you can generally determine where you can stand to get the most eye contact with your audience. Also, think about how you can be closest to them. If your audience members have taken all the back seats and left the front seats empty, move closer to them to reduce the spatial barrier. Or, politely ask your audience members to move forward to the front of the room.

Move Around But Avoid Distracting the Audience

During presentations of more than five to ten minutes, you can keep the audience more engaged by moving around the room. This draws the focus to you and allows you to gain spatial proximity with most of your audience members at some point during your presentation. However, some movements can be distracting. For example, excessive pacing may show that you’re nervous. Or, since you will likely be standing and your audience members will likely be seated, getting too close may make them feel that you are hovering over them.

Use Podiums and Tables Strategically

Many rooms are set up with podiums or tables, where presenters can place notes and other materials. Standing behind a podium or table can help you project authority and add to the formality of the presentation. If you do use a podium to achieve these goals, make sure you stand upright. Avoid leaning on or gripping the podium, which indicates nervousness. Also, consider whether a podium, table, or other object placed between you and your audience creates a barrier to connection. If you stand in front of the podium or table, you can get closer to your audience physically. As a result, you may achieve a more friendly, accessible, and casual tone.

Communicate Nonverbally

LO15.3. Apply the SOFTEN model of nonverbal communication for presentations.

Your audience members consciously and subconsciously make a variety of judgments about your credibility and your message based on your nonverbal behavior. Gary Genard, president of Public Speaking International, had this to say about nonverbal communication:

How comfortable a speaker is in his own skin, how he stands and moves, how he looks at others in the room, his tone of voice, even the clothes he wears—together, these variables constitute a constant flow of data running underneath whatever the speaker is saying … leaders know how to move boldly and decisively. There is nothing tentative about their movements and gestures—instead, they literally command the space through which they move.9

Consider the SOFTEN model of nonverbal communication in your presentations: smile, open stance, forward lean, tone, eye contact, and nod. By focusing on these nonverbal behaviors, you can display confidence and strength while also showing warmth and concern.10


Use your facial expressions to connect with your audience members and show your enthusiasm for your topic. Audience members are more likely to warm up to you when you put forth positive, can-do emotion.

Open Stance

Most people consider an open stance as more warm and inviting. Excessively putting your hands on your hips, folding your arms, crossing your legs, and gripping a podium or other objects closes you off from some people and implies less warmth. Keeping your arms to your sides or gesturing with palms up is more inviting to the audience.

Forward Lean

Facing your audience directly with a slight forward lean and upright posture shows confidence and interest. By contrast, leaning back, slouching, and lowering one’s shoulders imply timidity and lack of confidence.


Use your voice to express enthusiasm or other intended emotion. To make sure everyone in the room can hear the confidence of your message, project your voice adequately. Also, speak at a reasonable pace. Rushing your presentations is often a sign of nervousness. First impressions of self-confidence and empathy often come from a slower rate of speaking with fewer gestures.11 On the other hand, many audience members tune out when you speak too slowly and may even think you are unprepared.

Evaluating your own voice is difficult, since the voice you hear is not what your listeners hear.12 Consider recording your voice so you can evaluate your tone and pace. Also, ask people you trust to evaluate the tone, pace, and emotion conveyed by your voice during presentations.

Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact with your audience is among the most important forms of nonverbal communication. It creates an immediate sense of connection when you meet audience members eye to eye. The very act of keeping eye contact forces you to think about your listeners. It helps you evaluate and adjust your presentation as you observe your audience members’ reactions. Perhaps most important, eye contact facilitates trust. Many people partially judge the truthfulness of a message from eye contact.13


Use gestures that show affirmation and acceptance of your audience members. For example, nodding indicates that you agree or recognize the value of what others say. Gesture with your hands, arms, body, and head to achieve positive connections with your audience. Attempt to read your audience and get a sense for how much energy they have. Research shows that morning speakers should have medium energy and match most audiences’ lower energy levels with a conversational tone. Afternoon and evening speakers can increase their expressiveness and energy.14

Remember to be natural. While you can improve your nonverbal communication to better connect with your audience, it takes time. Try out new forms of nonverbal communication incrementally. And be aware that people often misread body language. The more you pay attention to your audience’s reactions, the more you will be able to identify how people respond to your nonverbal communication.15

Dress for Success

Business professionals are frequently advised to dress for success, especially for important events such as speeches and presentations. How you dress can make a big impact on how others perceive you. In a recent survey, 41 percent of employers stated that employees who dressed professionally were more likely to be promoted. This figure rises to 55 percent in certain industries, such as financial services.16

Most attire can be placed on a continuum from formal to casual. Common categories along this continuum are formal business, business casual, and casual. Formal business dress, at one end of the continuum, is intended to project executive presence and seriousness. It is distinguished by business suits, typically dark and conservative, accompanied by collared, button-down dress shirts. For men, neckties are essential.

Business casual dress is one step down in formality along the continuum. It is intended to project a more comfortable, relaxed feel while still maintaining a high standard of professionalism. Business casual dress is interpreted broadly and varies significantly by location and company. As a result, business casual can be divided into high-level business casual and low-level business casual. In Figure 15.2, you can see three levels of attire: formal business, high-level business casual, and low-level business casual. Business casual dress is probably the most common form of dress in the workplace today, with 43 percent of adults in a recent survey identifying that as their typical workplace attire.17

Figure 15.2 Formality of Workplace Attire

Formal Business

  • Men
  • Tailored business suits
  • Dress shirts
  • Neckties
  • Leather shoes
  • Women
  • Tailored business suit with pants or skirt
  • Dress shirts
  • Hosiery or socks
  • Leather shoes

© Justin Horrocks/

© Neustockimages/

Business Casual (high-level)

  • Men
  • Suit coats, sports coats, or blazers
  • Button-down collar shirts
  • Neckties optional
  • Leather shoes
  • Women
  • Pantsuits and tailored separates
  • Closed-toe or closed-heel shoes

© 4×6/

© drbimages/

Business Casual (low-level)

  • Men
  • Button-down collar shirts or polo-type shirts
  • Khakis or chinos
  • Leather belts and shoes
  • Conservative footwear
  • Women*
  • Dress shirt
  • Dress pants or skirt
  • Conservative footwear

© g_studio/

© Ann Marie Kurtz/

*Standards for women vary more than for men.

Casual dress is the least formal option. It is rare in a business-related setting.18 While some companies have implemented casual Fridays, nearly half of executives and managers feel that employees dress too casually on these days.19 If your company allows casual Fridays, make sure your attire continues to project a professional image.

Your attire, and the level of formality you choose, projects a range of messages (see Figure 15.3). Generally, formal business attire projects authority and competence, high-level business casual is associated with productivity and trustworthiness, and low-level business casual is associated with creativity and friendliness.20

Figure 15.3 Messages Sent by Formality of Workplace Attire

Source: Peter W. Cardon and Ephraim A. Okoro, “Professional Characteristics Communicated by Formal versus Casual Workplace Attire,” Business Communication Quarterly 72 no. 3 (2009): 355–360.

For business presentations, you should generally dress up slightly more formally than your audience. Also, consider the messages you intend to send. Younger professionals may not yet have established traits such as authority and competence, whereas they are often assumed to be friendly. So, younger professionals can gain significantly by dressing more formally.

Use Visual Aids and Handouts

LO15.4. Use slides and handouts to supplement your presentation effectively.

You can powerfully supplement your presentations with visual aids and handouts. In fact, many audiences expect both. In this section, we discuss how to use these items to increase your presentation effectiveness.

Use Visuals without Losing Focus on You

In Chapter 14, we discussed the design of electronic slides. Another option for presentations is the screencast video, described in the Technology Tips feature on page 455. Regardless of the technology you use, your goal is to keep yourself as the main focus of the presentation. Even with well-designed slides or videos, however, keeping the focus on you during the presentation can be challenging. Keep in mind the following tips as you present:

Avoid Turning Out the Lights in Most Cases

Many presenters turn out the lights so that the audience can more easily view the slides. This makes the slides, rather than you, the focal point for the duration of the presentation. Some audience members may also get drowsy in low light. In some rooms, you can dim the lights next to the screen, but if you do, make sure that you are in full light to your audience.

Don’t Start Your Slides Right Away

The opening moments of your presentation are too valuable to devote to slides. Use at least the opening one to two minutes to make a personal connection with your audience. Then begin your slides.

Speak to Your Audience, Not the Screen

The single most important strategy is to face your audience. Presenters often spend too much time looking at their slides with their back or side to the audience.

Interpret, Don’t Read Your Slides

When you simply read your slides, you reduce yourself to nothing but a narrator. Since audience members can read your slides more quickly than you can recite what they say, the slides become the primary source of information. When you explain and elaborate on the content in your slides, you draw your audience’s attention to you as the primary source of information.

Preview the Slides before Showing Them

To keep the focus on you and more effectively control the timing of your message, introduce your slides before you show them. When you move to a slide without any introduction, the audience automatically focuses on the slide more than on you.

Technology Tips: Creating Screencast Videos

Business professionals—especially executives, human resource professionals, and sales and marketing professionals—increasingly use screencast videos to reach audiences remotely. Many software packages, such as Camtasia, Adobe Captivate, and Jing, allow you to develop presentation videos that record the activity on your computer screen and combine it with video, audio, and other files. As you develop these screencast videos, keep in mind the following tips:

Plan your production and make several trial runs. A screencast video requires you to take the roles of producer, director, and actor all in one. You can choose elements to display on your screen, such as PowerPoint slides, spreadsheets, word processing documents, or other types of files. Simultaneously, you can narrate as you display the content and can even provide video of yourself. After recording, you have many tools available to edit your production.

Create short, concise videos. Most screencast videos are short. For example, most how-to videos created by companies and posted on YouTube or their own websites last one to five minutes.

Use the right resources. You can use free screencast software and inexpensive video cameras and microphones to make screencasts; however, it’s generally worth the investment to purchase state-of-the-art screencast software and the right cameras and microphones, especially if you intend to create professional-grade screencasts.

Use a Remote Control to Advance Slides When Possible

Using a remote control to move from slide to slide allows you to move around as you talk and more effectively engage with your audience. It also allows you to maintain more eye contact, since using a keyboard requires glancing down.

Avoid Standing in Front of the Slide Projection

Make sure to stand to the side of the slide projection area. Standing in front of the projection causes two problems. It makes the slide more difficult to view. But, perhaps worse, it distorts your appearance.

Use Blank Slides Strategically

If you plan to speak for lengthy periods without referencing your slides, consider displaying a blank slide so that the screen does not become a distraction.

Use Handouts Effectively

Handouts generally make sense for detailed, numerical, and other information that is difficult to project adequately onto a screen. Also, you may want audience members to complete certain handouts during or after the presentation. For example, Shannon provides a handout on which seminar participants describe a manufacturing project they want to outsource.

However, handouts can distract your audience and take attention away from you. One primary advantage of presentations is that you have high control over what message your audience members hear, especially compared to written communications. As soon as you distribute handouts, you may lose this control, since some audience members will immediately begin looking through the handouts and lose their focus on you.

If you can, wait until the end of your presentation to distribute handouts. This allows you to maintain more control over the message. If you need to use handouts during the presentation, consider how you might distribute them without losing control, especially during the opening one to two minutes of your presentation. Recall that audience members form many of their deepest impressions during this initial part of your presentation. Many presenters have lost the opportunity to connect effectively during their openings because of rustling handouts.

Interact with Your Audience

LO15.5. Interact effectively with your audience.

Good speakers involve the audience as much as possible without getting off message and taking too much time. A few ways to interact with your audience include fielding questions during the presentation as well as mingling and following up with audience members afterward.

Field Questions

Many of your presentations will involve a question-and-answer (Q&A) portion. You may ask for questions at the conclusion of your presentation or invite questions throughout. When you take questions, you show you are interested in your listeners’ real concerns and needs. You also have an opportunity to clarify points you may have misstated or omitted. Of course, fielding questions involves a number of risks: Your audience members may ask you difficult ones and may even get you off topic. The solution is to reinforce your key messages while also addressing the needs of your questioners. Practice the following strategies to make the Q&A go as smoothly and effectively as possible:21

Pause before Answering

This gives you time to reflect and quickly develop the best response. It also gives the impression that you are thoughtful. In some cases, you may feel under pressure during questioning. Pausing helps you stay calm and collected.

Be Honest

During questioning, many presenters are so committed to supporting their own positions that they respond with exaggeration or with excessive confidence. This is a mistake. Admit when you do not know the answer. Explain that you would like to get an answer to the question and seek an opportunity to continue the conversation later on. Notice in Table 15.4 how Shannon responds when she doesn’t have a firm answer to a question.

Table 15.4 Responding Honestly to a Question

Less EffectiveMore EffectiveQ. Recently, the Chinese yuan has been strengthening against the dollar. Won’t that mean smaller savings for your clients in the future?A. The exchange rates move around from time to time. I don’t follow this much, but I do know that sometimes it’s actually in your favor. You really don’t have to worry about this much because the changes are relatively small and pretty much even out over time.A. I’m not exactly sure how much the exchange rates have impacted savings for our clients in recent months. I know that we expect the Chinese yuan to continue strengthening, and this will definitely impact how much you can save. I can get a good answer to you within a few days. I’ll talk to one of our finance specialists and several of our clients. If you’ll be available, I can give you a call then.Shannon’s response glosses over the fact that she is not informed enough to give an accurate answer. Although she attempts to put a positive spin on the issue, she may appear to dismiss some listeners’ genuine concerns.Shannon states that she is uncertain. However, she demonstrates a willingness to get the answer from reliable sources and promises to provide that information within a few days. Overall, she gains credibility with her upfront, helpful response.Show Appreciation

Fielding questions allows you to develop an emotional bond with the questioner. You can do so by sincerely showing thanks, recognizing the importance of the question, and otherwise validating the questioner, as Shannon does in the more-effective example in Table 15.5.

Table 15.5 Showing Appreciation

Less EffectiveMore EffectiveQ. Do we work completely through sales reps here in the U.S., or do we get to talk directly with your contract specialists and engineers in China? Do we get to talk directly with the manufacturers you work with?A. We try to arrange for you to talk with anyone involved with your contract by …A. That’s a good question. Most business owners are quite concerned about communicating directly with those who are responsible for manufacturing their products. We facilitate this direct and timely communication by …This is a good, rational response but could be improved with additional validation of the questioner.By briefly validating the importance of the question, Shannon demonstrates that she relates directly with this concern and that Sinosourcing is committed to facilitating this communication. The response is strong on both the rational and the emotional levels.Be Concise

Short responses are effective for several reasons. First, the question may be of interest to just one or a few of your audience members. Second, the longer your response, the more likely you are to stray from your key messages or excessively repeat them. As a rule of thumb, keep most responses to between 20 and 45 seconds. Pay close attention to your audience members during Q&A to see if they are remaining interested and engaged. Notice Table 15.6 to compare Shannon’s less- and more-concise responses.

Table 15.6 Being Concise

Less EffectiveMore EffectiveQ. Can you give me another example of a small business that’s saved more than 50 percent on manufacturing?A. Sure. I could give you dozens of examples. Let me tell you about one of our client companies that manufactures souvenir items … (continues on for three to four minutes largely repeating the same key points).A. On our website, we present case studies. You can read about 15 of our client companies and find detailed information about their performance in terms of savings, time to market, and quality control. With so many cases, you can easily find a company that manufactures a product similar to yours and get a good point of reference for your set of challenges.By providing such a lengthy answer, Shannon may inadvertently lose audience members who have already gotten her key points.In this brief response (20 to 30 seconds), Shannon provides new information (a section on the website with case studies) and touches on but does not belabor key takeaway points. This response has broad appeal, since it offers audience members a resource where they may locate companies facing challenges similar to their own.Reframe the Question to Match Your Agenda

You should have fairly clear objectives for your presentation. When your listeners ask questions that could derail your agenda, find ways to tactfully reframe the conversation in favor of your objectives, as Shannon does in the examples in Table 15.7.

Table 15.7 Reframing a Question to Match Your Agenda

Less EffectiveMore EffectiveQ. I’m quite skeptical that our company could save as much as you’re suggesting. Can you really guarantee that we’ll save at least 40 percent on manufacturing?A. Well, actually, we can’t guarantee how much you’ll save. But, I can tell you that the average savings for our clients is between 40 and 60 percent.A. The average savings for our clients is between 40 and 60 percent. Sometimes it’s slightly less, and sometimes it’s slightly more. The great part about our system is we get bids from reliable suppliers, and then you can determine what the savings will be. We guarantee enforcement of any contract you enter. In other words, you can receive bids without cost or commitment and estimate your own savings. If the savings are attractive by your estimation, then you can choose to move forward.This question challenges the basic premise that Sinosourcing can help a company manage risk in decision making. It may raise doubts throughout the audience. While the response is true, it fails to reframe the question to expain how Sinosourcing can help companies manage risk.This response reframes the conversation by emphasizing how Sinosourcing helps clients manage risk and take control in the decision-making process.Mingle and Follow Up

When you complete your presentation, your work is not complete. In most cases, this is a good opportunity to work the room, further connecting with your audience. You can get additional feedback and discuss future endeavors with your listeners.

Similarly, in the days following the event, you can reach out to your audience members. Follow up on any promises you made about providing additional information. If possible, send a quick email note to thank people for attending. Set in motion steps that turn a onetime presentation into an ongoing professional relationship.

Be a Supportive Audience Member

You will likely be an audience member more often than you are a presenter. Take this role seriously. Do all you can to support the presenter. Show interest by maintaining eye contact and sitting up straight. Avoid behaviors that may distract the presenter, such as glancing at your mobile phone or yawning. Make comments and ask questions that help the presenter stay on message. Publicly express appreciation for the merits of the presentation. Privately offer advice for making the presentation more useful.

Communication Q&A: Conversations with Current Business Professionals

Pete Cardon: Do presentations generally go as expected?

James Robertson: You can have many things working against you when presenting. Everything from the audiovisual equipment not behaving to the slide deck not working as expected, and then there’s the dynamics of the audience. Many technical problems can be corrected by spending a few minutes beforehand making sure everything works, but always be aware of the presenting “gremlins,” and always have a plan if something does trip you up. The key to overcoming these problems is to know the subject, know the audience, and practice the presentation so that even if the technology fails, you still deliver on message.

The hardest thing to plan for is the human factor: How will the audience react to your message? Will they agree or disagree with your point of view? and Will they speak up or keep quiet during Q&A? Be prepared by thinking about some of the questions you’d ask if you were looking at the information presented. Anticipating and planning the answers will help you get all the way to closure.

James Robertson is vice president of Global Data Networks and Information Technology Security at Turner Broadcasting. He has worked at Turner Broadcasting for 15 years and runs a global operations team of over 200 IT professionals.

Courtesy of James Robertson.

PC: What are some of the keys to connecting with your audience?

JR: I’ve found that you need to set the stage with a scenario or situation that’s applicable to the subject you’re discussing. Linking this topic back to your message provides a powerful opening and grabs the audience attention from the start. This can be as simple as opening with something you’ve read in a magazine or a newspaper or something you’ve seen on TV or a life experience you’ve had. The key is to make sure you bridge between the experience you’re opening with and the topic you’re presenting on.

During the presentation, always talk to the audience and not to the slides. Practice makes perfect.

At the end of the presentation, leave them with a closing that reinforces the message. Again, it can be an experience or just a good summary of what you discussed, but with a punch that they remember. I try and leave my audience with no more than three points they can take away with them, but those three points should encapsulate the essence of the message.

PC: For young professionals, what concluding advice would you give about developing skills to give great presentations?

JR: Much of real success in business is being able to “tell your story” well. Whether presenting a project to gain financial funding or rolling out goals to staff, it’s critical that you are confident and persuasive. People will follow a leader they believe in, so it’s important to cultivate your credibility. Being able to connect to any audience is a critical skill, so look for any opportunity to present and hone your presentation skills. It will become one of your most important skill sets.

Being a supportive audience member has many advantages. In most cases, you share professional interests with the presenter. As a result, the success of the presentation is a team effort. Furthermore, your reputation for being a supportive audience member may be reciprocated when you take the role of presenter. For further insights on delivering presentations, read the Communication Q&A with James Robertson.

Chapter Takeaway for Delivering Presentations

LO 15.1. Describe how presentation delivery impacts your credibility. (pp. 445–446)

Delivering presentations demonstrates your personal credibility.

It shows competence when you know and provide valuable content.

It shows caring when you are responsive to the expectations of your audience.

It shows character when you display complete openness and honesty.

LO 15.2. Deliver presentations with authenticity, confidence, and influence. (pp. 446–451)

Principles for Establishing Presence

  • Establish credibility.
  • Maintain authenticity.
  • Know your material.
  • Speak with confidence.
  • Focus on people.
  • Start and finish strong.
  • Stay flexible.
  • Use the room to your advantage.
  • Communicate nonverbally.
  • Dress for success.

Principles for Focusing on People

  • Make people the subject of your sentences.
  • Introduce colleagues by name.
  • Use names of audience members.

See examples of focusing on people in Tables 15.1, 15.2, and 15.3.

Principles for Staying Flexible

  • Arrive early.
  • Focus on the needs of the audience.
  • When you lose your place, don’t panic.
  • Never tell your audience things haven’t gone as expected.
  • Always have a plan B.
  • Know what your key messages are.

LO 15.3. Apply the SOFTEN model of nonverbal communication for presentations. (pp. 451–454)

Principles of the SOFTEN Model

  • Smile
  • Open stance
  • Forward lean
  • Tone
  • Eye contact
  • Nod

LO 15.4. Use slides and handouts to supplement your presentation effectively. (pp. 454–456)

Principles for Using Slides

  • Avoid turning out the lights in most cases.
  • Don’t start the slides right away.
  • Speak to your audience, not the screen.
  • Interpret, don’t read your slides.
  • Preview the slides before showing them.
  • Use remotes to advance slides.
  • Avoid standing in front of the slide projection.
  • Use blank slides strategically.

LO 15.5. Interact effectively with your audience. (pp. 456–459)

Principles for Fielding Questions

  • Pause before answering.
  • Be honest.
  • Show appreciation.
  • Be concise.
  • Reframe the question to match your agenda

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