Presentations and Talking to Groups

Talking directly to people in their own setting is a good way of getting your information across, using a variety of communication methods. It is an opportunity to focus on the topic in hand and answer any questions from your audience. For some people, speaking to groups of people comes naturally, while others may be more anxious. For anyone considering giving a presentation or talking to groups, preparation is vital.

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How to do it

Preparation

  • The most important part of your planning is ensuring that you are clear about why you are there and what you want to take away with you at the end of the event (information; names of potential participants).
  • Consider the characteristics of your audience in terms of: numbers, age range, gender mix, background, level of knowledge of the subject, etc.
  • Make arrangements to identify and meet any support needs, such as interpreting, carers' expenses, loop system, etc.
  • Think about what information you want to get across and what you need to find out from your audience, and plan carefully. Make a list of the main points – these should be included in your presentation and on any handouts.
  • Work out a structure for your presentation, bearing in mind that generally you need an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. Ideally, the introduction should explain what you will say, the main body is for saying it, and the conclusion should include a summary of the main points discussed. Pay particular attention to your first and last sentences – make sure you grab the audience's attention and try to finish on a positive note.
  • Decide whether you will use a script, abbreviated notes or speak from memory. If you are inexperienced it is tempting to read from a script, but this has the major disadvantage of tending to disengage the audience. If using notes, number each page or card so that they can easily be put back in order if you drop them; or, better still, link them up with e.g. a treasury tag.
  • Consider the need for handouts. Will it be appropriate to produce a verbatim script of your talk, a summary or hard copies of your slides? (But don't give your audience the full information on slides and handouts – they will lose concentration and engage less with your presentation.)
  • If you plan to make a presentation, choose a format that will suit the group. Use of PowerPoint and handouts may be too formal for some groups. Use your organisation's logo and presentation format on any visual materials and/or handouts. Make sure your slides (if used) are uncluttered in presentation, and can easily be read from the back of the room.
  • Identify the questions you are most likely to be asked and make sure you will be able to give correct answers in a concise manner.
  • Consider how you will record ideas and opinions. Can someone take notes for you?

The Session

  • Arrive well in advance to check out the venue, equipment, seating arrangements, etc.
  • Have a glass of water readily available – your mouth can become very dry if you're nervous.
  • Welcome your audience at the start of the presentation and thank them for their attention at the end. Introduce yourself and the organisation and tell the group what you are hoping to find out from them.
  • Advise on how you will handle questions before you begin your presentation. Can the audience interject at any point or do you wish to reserve questions until the end? If you don't explain the 'rules', you may find yourself dealing with unwanted interruptions during the course of your presentation.
  • Take your time and check that everyone can hear you. Concentrate on projecting your voice and pace yourself. Pausing briefly between each sentence will help to ensure that you don't run away with your speech.
  • Maintain eye contact with the audience and try not to look constantly at your notes. As an alternative you can use your PowerPoint slides or similar as a guide to what you will say.
  • Don't use jargon.
  • Pause regularly and check that the group is following you.
  • Start by breaking the ice with an easy question that people will be able to answer, such as "What have you been involved in previously?" or "How did you become involved?"
  • Repeat each question as a matter of courtesy to the audience, as some may not have heard it the first time.
  • Keep your answers brief and to the point. Answer all questions politely and courteously, no matter how seemingly irrelevant they may be. Don't panic if you don't have the answer to a question immediately to hand. Be open: explain this to the questioner and invite him/her to stay behind afterwards to discuss the issue further.
  • Be ready with prompt questions to keep the conversation going.
  • Ask the group to agree the three main issues under each of your questions.
  • Ask group members if they would like to be involved in future.
  • Agree how you will give feedback to the group.
  • Keep an eye on the time. Be prepared to be flexible; concentrate on the priorities if you are running out of time.

Immediately after the Session

  • Think about what went well and what didn't. What can you learn for next time?

Pros

  • This is an opportunity to meet with people at a time and place that suits them and where they feel comfortable.
  • It is a way of building an ongoing relationship and conversation with groups and building trust.
  • It is inexpensive.

Cons

  • Some people might not be used to formal presentations – consider your audience and be prepared to be informal.
  • IT-based slide presentations can be intimidating – try to think of new ways to present your information and engage your audience.
  • It may involve evening meetings and some travel for the presenter.

Resources

  • Minimal resources are required if visiting established group meetings.

Top Tips

  • There are one-day courses available in public speaking and many people who have gone on to become competent public speakers have attended them. If you feel you need this, don't be afraid to ask.
  • Run through your presentation with family, friends or colleagues. They will be able to point out any jargon and offer you constructive criticism.
  • If you will be using a microphone, practise with the appropriate type, particularly if you are inexperienced with their use.

Sources and Further Information

  • Bradbury, A. (2010) Successful Presentation Skills. London: Kogan Page.
  • Hadfield-law, L. (1999) Effective Presentations for Health Care Professionals. Oxford: Butterworth & Heinemann.
  • Mandel, S. (2000) Effective Presentation Skills. Owensville, MO: Von Hoffman Graphics.
  • Sampson, E. (2003) Creative Business Presentations: Inventive Ideas for Making an Instant Impact. London: Kogan Page.