Whether you are standing behind a lectern, interviewing for a new position, participating in a team meeting, speaking with a colleague, participating in a Skype job interview, or asking for a raise – you are “on” and presenting.

Make the most of all your speaking opportunities by following these presentation Dos and Don’ts.

When Making a Presentation Do…

1. Plan. A successful presenter begins with a plan. Research your topic, check your facts, and be crystal clear about the message you want to convey to your audience. Prepare an outline and include an opening or introduction, the body of the presentation consisting of 3 to 5 points, and a summary or conclusion. Plan to Practice, Practice, and Practice some more -- until you feel comfortable – and confident -- with your delivery.

2. Perceive. A successful presenter perceives the affect her body language has on the audience. Be aware of your body language or nonverbal cues and the messages they send. If you have poor posture and a weak trembling voice, you look and sound tentative and unconvincing. If your gestures are rigid and you fail to make eye contact, you look nervous and untrustworthy. Failing to engage with the audience makes you look aloof and unfriendly. If you want the audience to embrace you and your message, Watch Your Nonverbal Cues! Know what they are telling others about you.

3. Polish. A successful presenter knows that a polished and professional appearance matters. First impressions are important and lasting. Your appearance contributes significantly to your career success and influences how people react to you and your message. Whether your presentation calls for a conservative suit, or less formal attire, always be sure your outfit is clean and pressed. Steer clear of flashy jewelry or loud prints. Remember! You want the audience to pay attention to you -- not your accessories.

4. Ponder. Successful presenters take time to consider, or ponder, how they treat others. Remember to say, “Please and Thank You” and give credit where credit is due. Little acts of courtesy and civility go a long way to make you a memorable presenter. Your lectern etiquette and attitude toward others influence how they respond to you and to your message.

5. Participate. A successful presenter knows her words are important – and so is her silence. One way to engage with the audience is by participating in an exchange of ideas and by actively listening to what others have to say. The best way to convey your message is to listen to others, reflect on their comments, and frame your message accordingly.

When Making a Presentation Don’t…

1. Assume. Don’t make assumptions about your audience. Do your research. Identify who will be attending your presentation. How many are expected to attend? Is the audience familiar with your topic? Do they know you and your
position on the topic? Do they support your position? Will you face opposition to your position? If so, have you considered how you will persuade your audience to consider the point-of-view you are presenting?

2. Forget. If you are one of several speakers at a conference, or on a panel, don’t forget to provide the inviting sponsors with an advance copy of your presentation.
Also ask for copies of the other speakers’ remarks to avoid parroting similar themes. The audience will tune-out if the speakers repeat similar material and duplicate each other’s efforts.

3. Hide. Don’t use the lectern as a shield between you and your audience. Many speakers are nervous and stand rigidly behind the lectern. This sends a signal to the audience that you are afraid or trying to hide something. Relax! Take a few deep breaths, focus on your message and engage with your audience. If you are wearing a lapel microphone, step from behind the lectern and move casually around the stage. This simple act will help you connect with the audience and make you more credible and approachable.

4. Fail. Don’t fail to repeat questions that are asked during the Q&A session. Frequently, a member of the audience asks a question that cannot be heard by the rest of the audience. It’s the presenter’s responsibility to repeat or paraphrase the question. This ensures that the presenter understands the question and repeating it lets everyone hear the question.

5. Fear. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer, say so. You are not expected to know all the answers. Ask the person asking the question to see you after your presentation. Exchange business cards and tell her you will ask someone to contact her with the information she needs. Then follow-up and be sure she received the information you promised to have relayed to her.

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.”
― Lawrence Clark Powell

Author's Bio: 

Ellen Wagner has a Master of Arts in Public Communications from American University in Washington, DC. Ellen obtained a corporate etiquette and protocol certificate from The Protocol School of Washington and is a certified Associate of Color1, an international image consulting organization. To find out more about Ellen, visit Big Pond Communications.