If you’re feeling a bit unnoticed at work, do something bold – try giving presentations.
Learning how to speak effectively is a huge career booster, says Ryan Avery, author of “Speaker. Leader. Champion: Succeed at Work Through the Power of Public Speaking.” (McGraw-Hill, 2014) Avery, of Portland, Ore., was at age 25 the youngest world champion of public speaking in the history of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills.
Organizations such as Toastmasters offer opportunities to practice and receive feedback from others in a nonthreatening setting. The group also teaches best practices on the visual design, which is often an overlooked aspect of delivering a speech. As you gain practice speaking in groups, Avery says to also keep in mind basic rules of presentation design, including:
• Limit the number of slides used. Spend two to three minutes on each slide. Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki suggests the 10-20-30 rule: no more than 10 slides delivered in no more than 20 minutes with text no smaller than 30-point font.
• Use high-quality images. Use your own photos to document the experience you are discussing. If you must use stock photos, license them from a quality service. If you are confronted with choosing between an image copied from the Internet and clip art, choose neither.
• Avoid tables in electronic presentations. They make an audience invest more mental energy into interpreting than almost any other type of chart. However, tables are effective and can be utilized for showing qualitative information or displaying small bits of data.
• Use a pie chart to highlight single data points. Pie charts are the right choice when the relative importance of the items matters, such as when showing market share. The items in the pie chart must total 100 percent.
• Use column charts for categorical information. Column charts are most often used to display categorical data when you can label each item on one of the axes. Examples of common categories include geographical regions, industries and time periods.
• Develop telling headlines. Every slide headline should be a so-what, not a what. For example, the headline “Colbertios financial performance” is a what that leaves it to the viewer to figure out what matters. A better headline is “Colbertios Revenue declined 5 percent last month.” Your audience should be able to read only the headlines to understand the whole story.
Avery adds that embracing public speaking opportunities positions you as a leader. Even if you are not in a job that enables you to give presentations at work, you can assist those who are presenting by asking to help with the research or to design the presentation.
“The idea is to get involved and become more comfortable with public speaking so that when your moment comes, you can really show what you know and stand out,” he says.
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