Mastering the art of presentation

Tuesday April 20 2021
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Ronald Mayanja Omugalanda (standing), the public speaking coach and executive director Ability Explored delivers a public speaking and pitching skills training to youth and women. PHOTO/COURTESY

By RICHARD LUYOMBYA

“Presentation is an art that requires research and rehearsals which contribute to your confidence.” These were the remarks from Mr Juma Godwin, a businessman who shared his first experience on making a presentation while in formal employment.

Mr Juma was not a professional orator neither was he expecting it in his course of employment.  But due to the nature of his work, he was given a PowerPoint presentation assignment at his former workplace in the 2003.

He was a laboratory technician with Hima Cement factory where he spent five years before venturing into personal businesses. His nature of work necessitated report writing after conducting thorough research.

“Although I have been involved in different types of presentations in school where I was in charge of speech days, it was only elementary,” Mr Juma recalls.

Fast forward 10 years later: “My first experience in presentation as a professional was in 2013 at Hima Cement, when I was asked to make a PowerPoint presentation from the research report I had done.”

The report was on a new product that was presented before the senior managers in the company. It had to be condensed in PowerPoint format with recommendations.

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Due to the technicalities in the report, Mr Juma says, he spent two weeks condensing the presentation. This was coupled with rehearsals on how to present. But he was still nervous.

 “I rehearsed several times. I remember standing in front of a mirror, pretending as if I was addressing an audience,” he says.

He adds: “Despite the rehearsals, I still got nervous. The unease that comes when you are going to meet your bosses to present a report is so discomforting,” he narrates.

Mr Juma’s nervousness, however, came moments before he began the presentation. His shock, he says, was the warm welcome they (bosses)  accorded him which erased the fears.

It is rather unusual for anybody to end a presentation without giving room for Questions and Answers (Q&A). The Q&A session, in most cases, is when you show some level of knowledge that you have done research on the subject matter before you. In many circumstances, the Q&A session calls for any type of question for you to respond to.

As you wait for the questions, your emotions can manifest through the body language as you posture for a comfortable position in your seat, waiting for either hard or simple queries to respond. These questions have to be answered against all odds.

Meanwhile, concluding without any question may also be a sign of poor presentation. Either the audience did not understand or they were tired or bored to listen in.

For Mr Juma, the one and half hour-interface attracted some questions which saw the report recommendations being adopted.

This “animal” called the ‘art of presentation’ is ranked top of the list of human fears yet it can open doors for you.

Former US President Baraka Obama and revolutionary leader, the late Nelson Mandela are ranked as one the world’s excellent speakers who majority attribute to their skill of presentation and public speaking as the major factors that highly contributed to their rise to the top.

Tips

During a webinar discussion on ‘executive presence: the art of presentation’ hosted by Makerere Business Schools (MUBS), Prof Waswa Balunywa a scholar in management, leadership, and entrepreneurship said to make an executive presence during a presentation, you need to exhibit a wide range of skills to have your message understood well.

Skills such as tone of voice, speed, word choice, dress code, and body language are paramount in the art of presentation.

According to Professor Balunywa, body language is the most important skill required in the art of presentation contributing 58 per cent to making a good presentation.

“To make an meaningful presentation largely depends on preparedness, personality, and speech. However, your body language communicates more because it is what people see first,” he says.

When making a presentation, strive to be yourself. Understand the medium of communication you intend to use that suits the type of message you want to put across.

Know your audience to create an impact by knowing what they want and the message you want them to take after the presentation.

A well-prepared venue contributes to making an executive presence during a presentation.

For instance, conducting a PowerPoint presentation in a conference room, you have to ensure that details such as having an elevated stage, enough room to walk around, a stable power supply, properly working equipment are in place.

A good presentation should last maximum seven minutes. But remember to insert a story in your presentation because storytelling is another way to keep your audience on their toes.

Some speakers may crack jokes to keep the audience alive. Much as it is a technique in the art of presentation, Prof Balunywa advises against inappropriate jokes that may be “dangerous” to the audience.

“If you do not know how to crack a joke, please avoid it because your jokes might be offensive,” he says.

Other tactics include time management, appropriate connection with the audience emotionally. It is also important to know what you are going to present, whether it is a lecture, philosophy, or motivational speech instead of mixing them thus creating boredom.

Lastly, is avoiding nervousness by shaking, or overreacting. Prof Balunywa adds: “80 per cent of people who get an opportunity to be on stage are always nervous when they get there.”

Executive presence in leadership

Executive presence should be exhibited by anybody in a leadership position because many leadership roles, no matter the duration, comes with some responsibility that requires some bit of authority when passing out a message.

Exhibiting executive presence in a leadership position is vital but with caution against egoism, and anger which Mr Balunywa says comes along with being a leader.

Good leadership skills come with a persona that determines a lot about your  ability to lead. You can be an introvert or extrovert.


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