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Speaking in Meetings

Speaking in meetings and making mini-presentations in meetings can be nerve wracking at the best of times. Even experienced speakers can feel nervous and anxious when speaking at meetings. So here are the top 10 tips to make sure your presentation is enjoyed and remembered by everyone:

  1. Preparation is key. Make sure you know what the key points of your presentation are. Are you providing information for others to make decisions? Are you persuading the meeting to buy/sell/hire/change something? Make sure you know what time you’re on and how long you’ve got! If possible, try to find out what others are speaking about, so you can usefully link the items and also so you do not repeat things.
  2. Be prepared for questions. You will be asked! Prepare for this by considering what others will need to know about, or know more about, from your presentation. What might they resist and so need reassurance on? How will your presentation affect each individual? What will they have to do or change as a result of your presentation?
  3. Be brief, especially if it has been a fairly long meeting, because attention levels decline after 90 minutes of meetings. If you keep in mind the purpose of your talk, you are unlikely to bore the participants or outstay your welcome by wandering off on a tangent.
  4. Speak fairly quickly. Do not drone on about your topic. Get to the point quickly and express yourself accurately.  If you have a copy of your slides or a bullet point list of notes that you can hand out or attach to the agenda, you can use this as a framework useful to keep your presentation tight.
  5. Raise and lower your tone of voice. Using inflection helps listeners’ understanding of the topic and makes you interesting to listen to. Practise in front of a mirror, and record yourself, if possible. Would you like to listen to yourself?
  6. Keep calm, be fearless. Remember, you are the best person the firm has to put your point across at that moment in time. Carry in your head the authority that gives you. If you don’t know all the answers, promise you will find out and get back to questioners.
  7. Use the PROEP principle to persuade or influence. Proposal – outline your idea clearly and concisely.  Reason – the one or two best reasons for your idea. Save any others for question time or to sum up with. Objections – why others might object (their “Yeah, but … ” responses). Have your answers ready. Evidence – practical reasons why, where, when, how much, etc. If you can also demonstrate the benefits that others are having by using your idea, this will help enormously. (Everyone wants the “me too” factor!) Proposal – repeat your initial idea so your audience is clear about it all. All this can be put across in about three minutes. And because this technique matches listeners’ inner thought process, it has a better chance of being accepted.
  8. Remember your body language. Match what you say with your facial expression, tone of voice, body language and enthusiasm for your topic. If you don’t believe in what you are talking about, it will send that message.
  9. Summarise– Keep it simple, and save some of your information to shine when it comes to question time. If nobody asks you a question, you can save the information as additional material when summing up.
  10. Enjoy yourself! The thought of speaking in a meeting may be daunting, but once you have done it, you will want to do it again. 

Judith Di-Castri is a specialist communications consultant at Zee Associates (www.zee-associates.co.uk). She can be contacted on 01825 733621 or judithdicastri@zee-associates.co.uk

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