In order to be a high-performing auditor, you must be able to deliver messages in a clear and compelling manner. From kickoff meetings and status reports to internal training sessions, executive committee reports and even ordinary staff meetings, auditors are often required to communicate with tact, diplomacy and conviction.
For some of us, a presentation environment is no problem. For others, the idea of presenting even the most benign message in front of a group is a nightmare.
Ann Butera, president of The Whole Person Project Inc. (an organizational development consulting and training firm), is a frequent conference speaker as well as an experienced business owner, business school instructor and consultant.
For those of us who haven’t mastered public speaking, Ann has shared her ten top tips for developing and delivering high-impact presentations.
- Speak about something you know – and if you don’t know it, spend time on research. As a rule of thumb, allow at least two times as much delivery time for preparation. For example, if you are a subject matter expert who needs to deliver a 15-minute presentation, plan to spend at least 30 minutes organizing your message. Expect to spend much more time planning if you are unfamiliar with the topic.
- Understand your audience and their predisposition to your message. If your audience is already predisposed to agree with your message, it is likely that they have some technical background and understanding. Consequently, you already have credibility and don’t have to spend time trying to win it. Therefore, you can delve more into your message without spending too much time on setting a common ground. You also have more leverage in eliciting some form of action from this type of audience. If they are uninformed, you will need to educate them, using effective analogies, examples and demonstrations. They may have a preconceived attitude toward your subject, and since it is technical in nature, those feelings might include apprehension, confusion or impatience. Prior to presenting to people who may be negatively or neutrally predisposed to your message, spend time anticipating their possible reactions, then plan how you will respond.
- Eliminate audible pauses and fillers like “um,” “okay” and “at the end of the day.” Instead, deliberately slow your speech rate and substitute a pause and a breath at the end of each sentence. Keep in mind that your audience needs time to process your message. Your pauses – instead of audibles – give them time to do this.
- Implement page numbers on your handouts. Refer to them regularly so that everyone is literally on the same page during your presentation. The insistent rustling of papers when you are speaking generally indicates that at least one person has no idea what page you are referencing. Maintain control by stating the page number and the title of the page as you discuss its content so that individuals can catch up.
- Organize your message in a manner that is easy for you to remember. Use a chronology (past, present, future) or follow a process (inputting, processing and outputting) in order to minimize your note reliance. If you, the message creator, can’t recall the progression of your ideas, your audience won’t be able to follow either.
- Plan your transitions in detail. Decide the wording of the question you will ask or the statement you will make ahead of time, so your moves from one topic to another are seamless. Record these phrases at the bottom of each page to remind you of upcoming content and retain the appearance of subject mastery.
- If your health or physical condition allows, stand up so that everyone can easily see and hear you. Use a microphone if the room is large. Depending on the room layout, sitting on a chair, behind a desk or on a desk can make it difficult for your audience to hear and see you. To your best ability, give your listeners an optimal opportunity to see you so that they are not craning their necks or asking other participants to repeat what you said.
- Ensure that your presentation has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning should provide context for your message and level set your participants’ expectations (i.e., what happened in the past that precipitated the need for this meeting). Your opening remarks should also summarize your presentation’s purpose and the middle should convey your message. The end should summarize key points and next steps, including an explicit call-to-action if your goal is an approval to implement your idea.
- Express your presentation’s purpose in terms that communicate the answers to the questions on each meeting participant’s mind. What’s in it for me? Why should I be here? How will I be different and better as a result of listening to you?
- Begin and end on time. Prioritize your points and practice your message so that you are sure you can convey them within the allotted time.
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About Ann Butera
Ann M. Butera, MBA, CRP, president of The Whole Person Project, Inc. (an organizational development consulting and training firm), is a frequent conference speaker and serves as audit committee chair for a financial services firm. She welcomes your reactions and questions, and can be reached at [email protected] or (516) 354-3551. Please visit www.wholepersonproject.com for more information on her consulting and training services.