Presentation Skills: Presentation Format: Informal Presentations
Making the "Un-Presentation"
Beware: That "Meeting" or "Informal Chat" Could Be a Presentation
It happens every day. The unsuspecting
mark gets a request to “talk” at a meeting. It sounds informal,
but it isn’t. Every word, every gesture, every answer to every question
will be under “formal” scrutiny.
To dodge this hoax, learn the warning
signsand be ready with a few tricks of your own.
Here are some of the ways you may
be led down this pathand some tips on turning things to your advantage:
“It's no big deal,
just an information meeting”
This is another way you may be lulled into thinking the presentation is
just a casual exchange, with no need to prepare yourself in advance. If
there’s any chance you'll end up pitching your ideas or selling
yourself, your team, or your company, you need to be ready to make a persuasive
Prepare to make a persuasive argument.
Know your audience, your goals, and the key points that will be persuasive
to your listeners.
“The deal is set.
The ‘presentation’ is just a formality.”
Well, maybe. If you show up unprepared, you’re putting yourself
at risk. Very often, this final meeting is very important and worthy of
a full preparation for a presentation and whatever questions may arise.
Expect to be challenged. That way you’re ready for anything, and
you’ll be better prepared to gain your listener’s full confidence.
The alternative, arriving unprepared, can put you and your deal in jeopardy.
“We'll just be sitting
around the table. No one needs to get up to speak.”
This lulls you into believing you'll be attending a purely casual gathering.
It implies you won’t have to leave the security of your seat. Don't
be rooked. In most cases, you should get up in front of the group to make
your case. That gives you a few advantages right off the bat. For one,
your listeners are better able to see you and to see your full body language.
Body language is an important tool in gaining people’s trust and
support. (For advice on body language for a standing presentation,
see our archived article, While
You're Talking, What Is Your Body Saying?)
Standing up also gives you quicker
access to flipcharts, marker boards, and other off-the-cuff visual aids.
Sketch out “spontaneous” visual aids in advance so you’re
ready when that “impromptu” moment arises.
Should you get up to speak
in every instance when you’re presenting "informally?"
Use your judgment. Read the room and adapt to the specific circumstance.
You may sense the setting does not warrant a stand-up presentation. But
if you determine that standing up to present best serves your purpose,
then use the opportunity. If you decide it’s best to remain seated,
then do what you can to keep control of the room and to maximize your
impact as a speaker. In either case, go into the meeting well prepared.
Effective Body Language for
the Seated Presenter
If you must remain seated for the duration, then follow best practices
for a seated presentation. Sit up straight with your feet flat on the
floor. Your body should form right angles at your pelvis and knees so
that your upper body is upright. Your arms should be relaxed (unless gesturing);
if you’re at a table, rest your hands gently on the table (don’t
lean on the table at all—this can impede your gestures).
Now get a feeling for how this all
comes together. Start with your feet. Make sure they are both flat on
the ground and actually bearing some of your weight. This will help keep
your body and energy forward. You can actually test this right now if
you’re seated. Get a feeling for your position and your weight being
forward. If you make some big movements with your arms, you should feel
them reflected in the points of contact on the soles of your feet. Now,
try crossing your legs. You will probably feel your weight shift backward
in the chair. It won’t be as easy to gesture. You also won’t
look (or feel) as attentive. Then, return to the forward balanced position
with your feet flat on the ground—see how much better that is?
Next, practice your gestures. Make
sure they arise from the shoulder, not just the wrist or elbow. Your arms
should not be touching the table while you’re gesturing, since that
will impede your movement. Reach away from your body with at least some
gestures that are large enough to encompass all your listeners, but WATCH
OUT! Be careful not to hit anyone or anything as you gesture. It’s
all too easy to get carried away with a point that ends up slapping your
neighbor in the face or spilling a glass of water over your lap.
Keep your guard up!
Remember: A presentation is always a presentation, no matter
how it’s disguised. And a presentation is always an opportunity
for you to showcase your ability, persuade your audience, or advance your
career. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. What may
seem small or informal or “just another meeting” can turn
out to be something much more important. Make certain you take advantage
of every opportunity.
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