Fore!

Whether it’s giving a standard project status update of delivering bad news on a project that has gone awry, how you convey yourself can make or break your reputation.  Do you have what it takes to deliver a winning presentation?

For me, speaking in front of an audience is like learning how to play golf.  It looks easy when watching others; yet when doing it myself, well, that’s a different story.   Here are four things to think about for your presentations as well as your golf game:

  • Natural talent is irrelevant to great success

Some believe it is not natural talent that makes someone great; it is years of constant practice.  Ever heard of the 10-Year Rule?  It means it takes about ten years of dedicated practice to excel at what you do.  Tiger Woods started playing golf when he was 18 months old; it took him 18 years to achieve champion status.  Don’t have ten years to practice your presentation?  How about 10 minutes at the start and end of each day for ten days before your scheduled appearance.  There are a number of free recording apps are available that will allow you to hear how your sound.

  • Be simplistic in your approach. 

When you think about everything you have to do to master a great presentation or 18 holes of golf, you can get carried away quickly.  In golf, you need to have the right grip, retain a natural stance, maintain a sweeping swing, and maximize coil for distance.  When making presentations, remember to know your content, tell the truth, keep materials to a minimum, and engage the audience.

  • Know your stuff.

Do you speak the right language?  In golf, an ace is a hole in one; a buzzard is two strokes over par, and “Fore!”  is what you shout to warn players ahead of an approaching ball.  When making a presentation, remember to reduce or eliminate jargon, slang or abbreviations.  If the company has its own language, be sure that everyone in the audience knows it before you say it, especially if you have external parties in the audience.  If using PowerPoint, never read your slides.  Your audience can do that without you. Refer to audience members by name to establish rapport.

  • Know your equipment.

Can the right equipment help you play better golf?  It certainly can.  And if you’ve done any shopping lately, you know that you can pay a whole lot for the latest high-tech driver if you want to.  Does the person who owns the $400 driver perform better than the person with the $10 find at the local garage sale?  Not always.  When making a presentation, don’t get carried away with high-tech software and gadgets.  Unless you are Steve Jobs, you don’t need to woo your audience with bells and whistles.  They are there to hear the business, not be mesmerized by lasers and lighting.  If you have virtual members in the audience, be sure to know how to use the equipment.  A simple test run is usually all that is needed to master conference room equipment.

While I can’t guarantee you’ll drive like Tiger and putt like Ben Crenshaw, once you start using these techniques you’ll be hard to forget.

Lisa DiTullio, Principal, Your Project Office, www.yourprojectoffice.com

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