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Dave Hill – Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach

When people visualize presentations, they usually envision someone standing at a lectern delivering a speech or a PowerPoint presentation. Think about all the meetings you have attended where everyone is sitting at a table and someone is trying to convey information and get people to agree. Can you recall situations where you were delivering information and the meeting participants were not paying attention to you, they were flicking through your handout materials, and the discussions were going off on an emotional tangent?

This article discusses the success strategies for conducting a presentation while seated.

Preparation

Make sure you practice your presentation out loud until it starts to flow smoothly.

Determine what the least disruptive method of distributing handouts is.

Cell phones, Blackberries, I-pods etc. – what rules will you apply? Will you ask them to put their electronic devices on vibrate and ask them to refrain from using them unless something urgent comes up? A positive statement in this regard might sound like, “I would appreciate it if you would refrain from using your cell phones or laptops. I realize that some of you may have issues going on that you need to monitor, however, please leave your devices on vibrate and leave the room for any discussions.”

Room set up

If feasible, position yourself so you are sitting near the primary decision makers, directly opposite them if possible. This enables you to observe body language, make strong eye contact, and to be heard clearly.

It is also important to remember that everyone at the table is your customer; make sure you are in a position where you can make eye contact with everyone.

Posture & Gestures

Sit upright with both feet firmly on the ground. Good posture provides an image of professionalism and also maximizes the use of the diaphragm for voice projection. Your hands should rest above the table so that they are instantly available for purposeful gestures.

Handouts

Option 1) Place the handout or handouts at each seating place.

  • Advantage – it can be least disruptive. Once you need them to review a section you ask them to open the handout and guide them to the specific section you want to discuss.
  • Disadvantage – they may decide to read ahead instead of concentrating on what you are saying (unless you ask them not to review the handout until asked to).

Option 2) Pass the handouts out at the point in the presentation that you want to review the information with them (consider having an audience member as a helper).

  • Advantage – this method reduces the potential for the handout to be distracting
  • Disadvantage – if you do not coordinate it well it can disrupt the meeting and use up your allocated time. It can be disrupting to the dialogue if it is not coordinated well.

Success Strategy for Handouts

It is imperative that your audience can find the specific handout sections as quickly as possible. If they cannot locate what you are talking about, they may get frustrated or miss the point you are making. Some useful methods to keep the audience focused include:

  • If you have multiple handouts, you could color coordinate them (when guiding the audience you ask them to go to the handout that is a certain color)
  • The pages on each handout should be numbered (when guiding the audience you ask them to go to the specific page of the color handout)
  • Each of the handouts should be assembled using staples or put in a binder and separated with numbered or color tabs. The marked tabs can also be used to lead the audience to a specific handout
  • Keep the handout information as uncluttered as possible so that a simple glance will bring the audience to a specific section. If you have control over the handout design, consider including some white space to allow audience members to take notes
  • If the information on the handout is cluttered or difficult to navigate, consider marking the sections of interest in different colors, circling sections, or highlighting text to help direct them.

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