In a long and varied career, I have spent a couple of decades in sales, sales training, sales management, IT and running my own businesses.
Time to Shine
Making any kind of presentation to a group of people, whether they are complete strangers or even work colleagues, fills most people with an impending sense of doom, but it doesn’t have to be that way. A successful presentation all comes down to the preparation. Get that part right and you are on your way to having any group eating out of your hands.
Presenting to a group a people often follows the same basic principles as presenting to a single person on a one-to-one basis. However, giving a presentation to a bunch of different personalities throws up some interesting challenges, and like any form of public speaking, it is often easy to let nerves kick-in. Below I’ve listed some simple group presentation tips you might want to have in mind when it is just you against the mob.
Why Are We Here?
Why are we here? I know it’s the big question and I don’t know the answer either, but I do know that you need to make sure the group of people that are at your presentation know why you are there—so ensure you introduce yourself properly. Tell them why you are there, make sure they know why they are there (and not just because the boss said they need to attend) and give them an idea of what’s in it for them (such as a big, broad benefit that they will take away at the end of the presentation). By the end of your presentation, they will have a great understanding of how to confidently present to a group of people.
Just as in preparing for a one-on-one meeting, visualisation is important when presenting to groups. In advance of the meeting, ensure you visualise yourself presenting your ideas/product/slides etc. to the group in the most positive manner possible, this includes: imagining how you will feel when you present to the group (confident, relaxed); how you will stand (relaxed, not always still but not running around either); how you will answer questions (confidently, assured). Visualise a very positive ending (the group applauding, or thanking you for a great presentation and you attaining your goal for the meeting).
If you can, try to take a look around and set up the room where you will be presenting in advance of your presentation, this will help you plan where you put things (flip chart to the right or the left of the room, where are the electrical sockets for the data projector/laptop). Getting familiar with the room will also greatly help you in your pre-presentation visualisation.
A Friend Indeed
It is often helpful to have a friend in the audience to strengthen your case by giving a third-party reference. This can often be a person you have met with previously and already sees the value that you will impart in your presentation. In a group of their peers, the friend’s opinion may count for more than yours; so, if they are positive about your ideas let them add ‘weight’ to your presentation. If you have a person in mind regarding this, check if it is OK with them beforehand to refer to them during your talk and maybe add ‘weight’ to any points you want to make. Adding weight can simply mean they make a positive comment in support of some point you are making during your talk.
Along with having a friend in your audience, it is often useful if someone is going to introduce you to the group (e.g. the leader of the group or a manager) at the start of your presentation. This can be a very positive thing, and if done well it should immediately impart some credibility to you. Before the introduction, however, make sure that you know exactly what they are going to say and that it is line with what you are going to say—otherwise you could end up with a very confused audience.
Interruptions and Talkers
A large group of people are generally much harder to manage than a one-to-one meeting. Within every large group, you may find some disruptive influences, and these need to be handled with care. Generally, these tend to fall into two categories, the first being interruptions, this can take the form of a heckler or a person that simply hogs the attention of your audience by constantly asking questions—often going off on tangents which disrupt your flow—and does not allow anyone else to ask questions. Often these people like attention, and one of the easiest things to do is to give them it to them, this might be a simply asking them to be a model (for example if you are presenting a product of some description) or to assist you in some way, this will give them the attention they need, but you can keep them close and under control - they are less likely to be disruptive if they are right next to you.
Talking is another disruption you may need to deal with, this is not generally aimed at you, but occasionally you will find some ‘chatterbox’ at the back talking all the way through your presentation. There are a couple of ways you might handle this, the first and probably the best is for you to simply stop talking, everyone else will also go quiet, then your chatterbox will realise that they are the only one talking and everyone is ‘waiting’ for them and promptly stop. If this doesn’t work, ask them directly if they have a question to ask—this usually cools them down.
The rule when it comes to answering questions in any group presentation is to be honest. Don’t make things up, you will be caught out in the end and your reputation will suffer. If you don’t know the answer to a question (and this will often happen), acknowledge that it’s a good and valid question, tell them you don’t know the answer, then tell them you will find out the answer as soon as possible (and make sure you do).
Another way of dealing with an awkward question is to ‘bounce it back’ either to the person who originally asked it by paraphrasing it (“…so what you are asking is…?”) or to the audience in general (“That’s a good question, does anyone one else have an opinion on that?"). Bouncing it back tends to either diffuse the question or more often than not the person who asked it originally or the audience will end up answering it!
Onward and Upward
I hope the above quick tips and strategies will help you feel more confident and be more prepared the next time you are preparing to make a presentation. Following these guidelines is simple and easy to implement, with practice they will become habitual and your confidence will grow even more for the next time you are faced with a crowd of expectant faces.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius
Jerry Cornelius (author) on June 09, 2020:
Thank you Lisha, happy you liked it.
Lisha C on June 07, 2020:
I found the latter part of your title quite amusing—"for the Terrified", that very accurately describes me when it comes to giving presentations!
You have some good points, thank you for sharing this article.
Gladstone Leslie Samuel from Coimbatore, India on February 19, 2019:
Thanks Jerry for your feedback.
Jerry Cornelius (author) on February 19, 2019:
Great comments, Gladstone Samuel, fully agree - the long boring sessions of interminable PowerPoint slides have had their day.
Gladstone Leslie Samuel from Coimbatore, India on February 18, 2019:
Good inputs. The current trend is less of content and more of images and videos. It is difficult to grab the attention of the audience for a longer duration. Hence another tip is to have short sessions and then regroup.