Three out of four people have some degree of nervousness about speaking in front of others, and for at least 25 percent of the population that fear is severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria for public speaking anxiety. So, if you’re a manager or executive who dreads giving presentations to your staff, you’re not alone. You may even find some comfort in knowing that there are steps you can take to ensure that every work presentation you deliver is clear, informative, and engaging.
Types of Work Presentations
Giving a presentation is a great way to model public speaking best practices for your staff. Here’s how to handle some common public speaking scenarios.
You Have to Deliver Bad News
You may need to meet with your employees to let them know that profits are down, or that an ongoing crisis has come to light that might affect the company’s bottom line. You may even need to deliver the bad news that raises are on hold or layoffs are eminent.
You may fear that delivering negative information about your company’s performance will cost you top performers. But waiting until bad news trickles through the ranks is likely to drive even more defections. Instead, embrace transparency by delivering bad news as quickly and clearly as you can. Show empathy, focus on your core values, and give your audience time to process the news. End with positive information, even if it’s simply that you will be providing severance and laid off workers.
You Get to Deliver Good News
This is every manager’s favorite type of work presentation—getting to announce that:
- A new product has been developed and growth is expected.
- Sales are strong and revenue is up.
- You’re expanding operations and adding staff.
- Raises and bonuses are coming soon.
Onboarding and New Employee Orientation
When the boss welcomes new hires onboard and makes the company’s core values clear, it can help cement engagement in a way that feels personal and positive. Team leaders, department heads, even top-level company leaders can share:
- Your company’s history and legacy
- Key aspects of your company culture
- Overall mission and core values
- Recent achievements and current goals
- A description of your organizational structure along with an up-to-date org chart.
Upskilling and Course Correction
On the-job-training can help you fill key openings with internal candidates and show that you are invested in your employees’ success. There are a number of ways to provide upskilling to your workforce, including having managers deliver seminars to employees.
Another scenario where hearing directly from the boss can be effective is when your company is adopting a new strategy or making a course correction. This might include informing your staff about:
- A new management or leadership structure.
- A major shift in offerings or product line.
- A new sales or marketing strategy.
In-person vs. Remote Presentations
Some work presentation best practices are constant, whether you’re delivering information to employees in person or online. However, each environment has its own variables to take into consideration.
In-person Presentation Best Practices
- Check out the room where you will be giving the presentation ahead of time.
- Practice with the equipment, if possible.
- Memorize your opening and closing lines so you can make eye contact as you deliver them.
Online Presentation Best Practices
- Check the lighting. Check your image on the screen before you go live to make sure that your face isn’t in shadow. You may need to close the shades or set up the screen in a different part of the room.
- Curate the background. Stand or sit in front of an attractive design element, such as a bookshelf or work of art.
- Plug your laptop directly into your modem to secure the strongest signal possible.
- Appoint someone to monitor the chat, so you can focus on the information you need to share.
5 Tips That Can Improve Any Presentation
1. Think About Your Audience
Effective management communication drives employee engagement by focusing on how the information you are sharing affects your workforce. For example, if you are sharing good news about company revenue, be sure you explain how an uptick in earnings will benefit it.
- Keep it simple. The longer and more complicated you make your presentation, the less your audience is likely to retain. Don’t jam too much information onto each presentation slide. Keep the type large and legible, with plenty of white space. You can always follow up with more details later.
- Use visual elements. Incorporate graphs, charts, and videos, as well as interactive elements such as multiple-choice questions at the end of each section.
- Speak slowly and take breaks. Nerves tend to make people speak more quickly, so keep reminding yourself to speak slowly. During your work presentation, pause from time to time to check in with your audience and make sure they are keeping up.
- Avoid jargon. Use conversational language and active verbs. Yes, you can use some sector-specific terms with a specialized professional audience, but don’t let it get out of hand—no alphabet soup!
2. Write a Strong Script
You don’t want to read word-for-word from a script, but you should plan out what you will say by creating a detailed outline or storyboard.
3. Make a Good Start
Grab your audience’s attention by asking a question or sharing an anecdote. Your introduction should also set the expectation for the rest of your presentation: how long it will last, what will be covered, and how will it be formatted.
4. Tell a Good Story
Consider presenting the information you want to convey in the form of a narrative arc with a beginning, middle, and end, keeping in mind the elements of good storytelling, including:
- A protagonist or hero. This might be a customer or client, a member of your staff, someone from your audience, or you.
- An inciting incident. This is an event that takes place early in your story that sets your protagonist on their quest.
- Challenges and obstacles. These are the problems that stand between your hero and their goals.
- Turning point and resolution. Your protagonist has reached a turning point once they’ve found a successful resolution to their primary obstacle.
5. End Strong
When we listen to a speech, it’s often the final words spoken that remain in our minds days later. Make sure your presentation’s key takeaways appear in your final slide. Better yet, end with a call to action.
If you want to end with a question-and-answer period, don’t ask, “Do you have any questions?” Instead, ask, “What questions do you have?” Or even, “I’ll take a maximum of two questions from each audience member” (and then allow more if there’s time).
Humor and Even Errors Can Work to Your Advantage
There’s no such thing as a perfectly delivered presentation. Errors and technical issues are inevitable. But, as the boss, you can leverage your mistakes into opportunities to bond with your staff.
Small gaffes can provide opportunities to employ self-deprecating humor and underscore that in your workplace, care and effort are expected, but perfection is seldom in the cards (or slides)—even when the boss is the one whose work is on display.
You’ve Mastered the Work Presentation. Now Learn About More Management Best Practices
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