Key Elements of an Effective Presentation

By: Ann Ahmadi

Director of Innovation and Senior Project Manager Ann Ahmadi has delivered hundreds of presentations during her 30-year career in healthcare. As Sr. Project Manager at Yellow Brick, Director of Transition Planning at Mercy Merced, Administrative Director at Good Samaritan Hospital, and instructor at Merced College, Ann understands the importance of clear and precise communication and has perfected the art of delivering messages so that clients have a definite understanding of what expectations are, what deliverables need to be met, and the timeframe for projects to be completed. Her experience provides her insight into whether the audience understands the message and when she may need to communicate information in alternate ways. Below are four best practices she has developed when delivering presentations.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein

Prepare your Content

Satisfy your audience's needs and expectations by delivering the content they want and need at the appropriate time. Obviously, you need to know what you are talking about, but you need not burden your audience with all of the nitty-gritty details. Use information gathered during previous interactions so that they know how the information relates to them and their role. Explain your plan to help them implement/use this information. Share personal best practices and lessons learned from past projects. This will resonate more with clients and adds a genuine touch to the message.

Understand your Audience

You may think that the presentation that you have prepared is perfect, but the success of a presentation is judged on how the audience responds. It is important to do your research and know who you will be speaking to. Having a sense of what an audience already knows, will help you to reinforce what they know and then add to this knowledge. People tend to listen more if they know you, so take the time to greet attendees at the door and introduce yourself. If you present regularly to a group, become familiar with who they are, what their role is, and other pertinent information that you can use while delivering the presentation; “in Juan’s area this applies …”.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to improve your presentation skills is to practice. I practice in the car, in the shower, while weeding, or when folding laundry. Become comfortable with the sound of your voice and if needed record yourself speaking; most will be surprised by how they sound. Be aware of the use of filler words such as “um, like, or so” by counting them or asking someone to count for you while you practice. Your use of nuisance words will decrease with self-awareness. Gauge the speed of your presentation, most speakers need to slow down. I naturally can slow my speech when I pretend that English is not the first language of my audience. Be aware that communication is not just words but also visuals, stance, and sound. At Yellow Brick, we have employed a “Buddy System” so we can provide supportive feedback for the presentations, both internally and externally. Selecting a goal to improve one aspect of your speaking will allow you to track your progress and celebrate your achievements.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Steve Martin

Deliver Confidently

Arrive early to test AV equipment and room set up. There are going to be situations that happen that are beyond your control like lack of audio, a projector not working, or a larger audience than expected, so be flexible and adjust accordingly. Start your presentation on a strong note by starting on time and with a smile and prepare a strong ending. So often we see presenters end their presentations abruptly with “ah, OK, that’s it." Most of all, manage your stress. Even after all of the presentations I have given during the course of my career, I still get the pre-presentation jitters and that’s okay. Develop a routine that helps you relax; I take a few deep breaths and an extra trip to the restroom. Often this is all you need!

My best advice to any public speaker is to relax, enjoy your audience, and have fun. A little practice goes a long way. Before you know it you will be well on your way to winning over your audiences with your presentation skills.