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Time To Speak Up! Part 2
by Gail McMeekin

Our discussion here will highlight developing your presentation and meeting skills. These two areas offer you a chance to demonstrate your leadership competence, organizational and project management abilities, and facilitation mastery. As I said before, if these activities are not currently in your job description, you want find a way to exhibit your capabilities in these two arenas.


1) Prepare thoroughly.

2) Introduce your topic and indicate what you will and will not be talking about.

3) Relate your topic directly to your audience and tell them why your information will be of interest to them. Refer to the Audience Analysis guidelines coming up.

4) Outline a few major points and cue the audience as you go through them. For example, I will be covering three major points today and my first is...

5) Summarize your main themes in your closing.

6) Ask for questions from the audience and respond graciously. If you don't know the answer, offer to find out and contact the audience member after your presentation and then do it!

7) Evaluate your presentation. Note areas for improvement and then think about how to get help with them. Congratulate yourself on what went well and set new goals.


Use this checklist before every major presentation or communication encounter where you feel anxious. It helps you to focus your energy on maximizing your chances for success. Goals:

My professional goal for this presentation is... 

My personal goal for this presentation is... 

Check off the following:

1) I have organized my presentation to highlight my major points.

2) I have defined all technical or ambiguous terms.

3) I have adjusted my presentation to the knowledge and background of the audience.

4) My presentation notes are concise and legible.

5) I have prepared for environmental factors such as time of day, size of room, visual aids, mechanical equipment, podium, etc.

6) I have rehearsed my presentation out loud and reviewed difficult sections.

7) I have done my relaxation exercises and am physically warmed up and ready to speak.

8) I have checked my personal appearance in the mirror and feel confident.

9) I have arrived at the room early and checked the lights, microphone, seating arrangement, and visual aids.

10) I have a worthwhile message for my audience and I am ready to turn my attention to them.


Some of the worst presentation horror stories happen because the speaker neglected to conduct a complete audience analysis. Sonya prepared a dynamic presentation for a group of professional women on managing stress. Since she only had twenty minutes, she decided to focus on the body symptoms of stress and use temperature activated stress cards to illustrate her point. Five minutes into her talk, the audience got restless and told Sonya that they already had stress cards from another presentation last year. Apparently, the program planner was a new member and was unaware of last year's presentation. Sonya had to abandon her prepared program and improvise an exercise on coping strategies for the group. Talk about stress, Sonya learned a painful lesson.

So before you agree to do a presentation, ask a myriad of questions to insure that this doesn't happen to you. Ask your contact person for information about the following issues in this group:

1) Age

2) Professional background or work experience

3) Sex

4) Their knowledge of the subject (prior training or other resources they have at their disposal)

5) Evidence that the audience is interested in this topic (i.e. survey results, etc.)

6) Educational level and experience

7) Cultural make-up of the group

8) Possible practical applications with your information

9) The usual format of the meeting including length of presentation, interactive versus lecture format, special traditions of the group

10) Time for questions

11) Hunger level and if food is served

12) Space for people to write or do group exercises

Typically, you may feel like you're pulling teeth to get the answers to these questions. Your contact person may shrug you off and say, "Oh, you'll be fine". But be persistent so that you are in control and prepared and don't have an unnerving experience like Sonya's.

Related Articles:

Time To Speak Up Part 1
Passivity is out; speaking up is no longer an optional skill. Successful people are both vocal and visible. Even if you've managed to avoid communication challenges to date, you will most likely not be able to cower in the back room much longer. Sitting quietly by the sidelines could put you at the top of the layoff list or place your business at risk.

Time To Speak Up! Part 3
there is nothing more boring than sitting through a meeting that is pointless or unfocused. It's a common time waster. Meetings are also very costly in terms of time and productivity. So if you're called upon to run a meeting, the first question you should ask yourself is, "Is this meeting really necessary or can I accomplish what needs to be done in a more efficient manner"?

1-2-3 Success!
Gone are the days where your value as an employee or vendor was linked to your loyalty and seniority. Today, companies are in a constant state of reorganization in response to the rapidly changing demands of the market. In a sense, you are functioning like your own personal corporation. And that means that you have the same need to differentiate yourself and build demand for your services among your target markets.

Career/creativity coach and writer on personal, professional, and creative development. Author of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor and The Power of Positive Choices, both with Conari Press. Subscribe to her monthly email newsletter on her website:

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