In business school, a large percentage of overall class grades are determined by oral presentations. But with so many different factors involved – and a general disdain for public speaking by most students – how do you succeed?
The Formula for Successful Presentations
There are dozens of different speaking styles, and you’d do well to carve out your own unique approach, but here are a few key factors that will allow you to achieve better results:
1. Know Your Audience
You can’t deliver a successful presentation if you don’t know who your audience is. In a business school setting, this can be difficult to zero in on. Sure, you know who makes up the audience – they’re students and professors – but what is it that they’re seeking? And what level of engagement is there among those in the crowd?
In lower-level, general business classes, you’re likely to find a lot of disengaged students who are simply waiting for class to end. If this is your audience, then you have to speak to them in a direct manner that grabs their attention and motivates them to listen. If, on the other hand, you’re in an upper-level business class where the students are engaged and want to be there, you can take a more finessed approach.
It’s all about knowing who you’re speaking with so that you can deliver a message that resonates with them precisely where they are. If you don’t tailor your approach, you’ll risk coming across flat.
2. Know Your Objective
Zero in on your primary objective and figure out exactly what it is you’re trying to do. Are you informing, influencing, convincing, arguing, explaining, or motivating? Is your goal to get a good grade, pass a class, win a competition, or earn an internship opportunity? Every situation calls for a nuanced approach. When you know your objective on the front end, you can filter everything else through this lens.
3. Dress the Part
What you say during a presentation is only part of the equation. What you wear and how you carry yourself also has a tremendous influence on the outcome. This is true in a couple of ways.
First off, what you wear communicates something to the audience. People will immediately develop first impressions. These impressions can be positive or negative and will stick with you throughout the presentation. They’ll be hard to shake and will, to an extent, dictate how the message is received.
Secondly, what you wear can actually have a tangible impact on how you feel and, therefore, how you perform. According to one study, dressing in professional attire increases abstract thinking and gives people a broader perspective. It can also make a person feel more successful and deliver a presentation with a higher degree of confidence.
4. Nail the Intro
Believe it or not, you may only have eight seconds to grab your audience’s attention and convince them to continue listening to what you have to say. If you don’t immediately cut through the noise and compel people to listen, they won’t.
The introduction is, without a doubt, the most crucial aspect of your presentation. Starting with a question, story, joke, or personal anecdote is always a good idea. Just make sure you don’t tarry or get sidetracked. Efficiently segueing into your main point is critically important.
5. Create a Memorable Moment
Every good presentation has at least one memorable moment that people in the audience recall hours, days, or weeks later. You can create memorable moments in any number of ways, but you’re much more likely to have success if you do something hands-on.
For example, you could try using an online printing company to print brochures, flyers, or booklets. By handing them out, you leave people with a tangible item that they can touch and feel. In the age of PowerPoint, this sticks with people longer.
Storytelling is another great option. When you break up your presentation with personal stories, you give coverage to the topic you’re discussing and allow people to relate. And while the bulk of your presentation will be forgotten in a few hours, a good story has the potential to remain with someone for years and years.
Preparation for the Real World
It’s easy to get caught up in the stage of life you’re in. When you eat, sleep, and breathe business school, you can be misled into thinking that grades are everything. And while grades are definitely important, they aren’t the end goal. Ultimately, you’re being refined so that you may enter the real world with the skills needed to find success in business. It is also important to develop any hobbies one may have into a useful skill - photography has become a very popular past time, especially with the rise of social media so it proves to be well versed in the world of aperture and shutter speed, as well as framing.
Another important skill to pick up is public speaking which, for better or for worse, is a key factor in being a successful business leader, manager, executive, or entrepreneur. By taking business school presentations seriously and viewing them through the context of the real world, you can emphasize the skills and experiences that matter. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.