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The Importance of Presentation Skills

By John Almond - May 9, 2013

(First in a series)

Whether talking in an administrative cabinet meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time. We can do this task well, or we can do it poorly, and the outcome strongly affects how we are viewed as a leader. For that reason, public speaking often causes a great deal of anxiety and concern. The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your anxiety and nervousness and perform very well.

Even if you don’t need to make regular presentations in front of a group, there are many situations where solid public speaking skills can help you advance your career and create opportunities. For example, you might have to speak about your district or school at a county meeting or at a conference, make a speech after accepting an award, or teach a class to candidates seeking an administrative credential.

Good public speaking skills are also important in other areas of your life as well. You might be asked to make a speech at a friend’s wedding, give a eulogy for a loved one, or inspire a group of volunteers at a charity event. Simply stated, being a good public speaker can enhance your reputation as a leader, boost your self-confidence, and open up countless opportunities.

From my perspective, the great thing about public speaking is that it is a skill that can be learned. The following tips or strategies may prove helpful as you attempt to hone your skills as a public speaker.

  1. First of all, research your audience. Knowing the needs of your audience can help you tailor your presentation to address their interests. For example, if you’re going to be giving a presentation in front of a group of parents, you probably have a good idea of why they will be attending. Obviously, there is a big difference between parents who will be present for a scholarship night as opposed to a group of parents coming to express their dissatisfaction about something.
  2. In structuring your presentation, the classic format is to tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you told them. One well known California-based public speaking coach, Lisa Braithwaite, as well as a communication expert who has given more than one thousand presentations, Mike Aguilera, advise their clients to begin with the benefits of what they are going to say and then present and review. From their perspective, most presentations can benefit from this simple structure.
  3. Plan your opening carefully. Your opening, if at all possible, should be something that makes an emotional connection with your audience. If your audience is there to complain, it can be as simple as letting them know that you are aware of their concerns, and, above all, you want to be of assistance. They need to know that you care. If your presentation is more of an upbeat nature, you might want to begin with a story that represents your audience’s position in life.

In my next article, I will address a few additional tips on how to make certain that your presentations are successful.

Editor's Note:  John Almond is a Senior Advisor with the educational consulting firm Total School Solutions (TSS).