By Bryan Flanagan Sales & Presentation Skills Educator
We have discussed the visual and verbal skills of effective presentations. For this last installment, let’s focus on validation.Validation is the technique used to ensure your message is conveyed to the audience, and it comes in many forms. In fact, all the skills we have addressed so far are techniques to assist in conveying meaning. Here, we will evaluate two additional elements: audience involvement and conducting a Q&A session.
Audience involvement is actively engaging the audience in your presentation. Your gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and voice all contribute to active listening on the part of the audience, but there are additional methods you can employ, as well.
Using participants’ names brings them into the presentation. Physical participation is also effective: directing participants to write down a statistic or quote, having them discuss a concept, or calling on volunteers for a demonstration.
Tailoring the presentation to their specific situations is another strong tactic. This requires research on your part, but it helps the audience to connect with you and your message.
One of the best ways to involve the audience is also one of the most threatening: conducting a question and answer session. If you don’t handle this properly, it can destroy even the best presentation. Consider the following four steps in conducting a Q&A session:
1. Step forward and ask for questions
By stepping forward, you indicate that you are receptive to questions. This gives you an appearance of confidence and poise.
Listen for two things: content and intent. Content is the wording of the question, whereas intent is the meaning. Listen for emotions, support, or disagreement.
3. Answer to the group
You must involve the entire room with your response. If you don’t, you will fail to achieve audience involvement. Use the eye contact skills from Part 1 of this series, moving from one audience member to another in order to involve as many people as possible.
4. Conclude with a positive close
Once the session is over, you must reach closure. Thank the group for attending, and briefly summarize the points you want them to remember. Failing to do so may result in the audience remembering the last question, but forgetting the majority of your presentation.
Q&A sessions can make or break a presentation, so be prepared for the questions. If there is one you don’t know, be honest. Tell them you don’t know but will find out.
With this three-part series, you’ve learned several vital skills to present with confidence, competence, and comfort. You will never be rid of the butterflies, but these skills will help you handle them—and do it well.