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‘The Exceptional Presenter: A proven formula to open up and own the room’by Timothy J. Koegel$21.95160 pagesSelf-published, Sept. 1, 2002
‘The Exceptional Presenter: A proven formula to open up and own the room’
by Timothy J. Koegel
$21.95
160 pages
Self-published, Sept. 1, 2002

Opinion: Practice makes perfect in power presentations

Posted online
Could you or someone you know use a tweak here and there on presentation skills? Then Timothy J. Koegel’s bestseller, “The Exceptional Presenter,” may offer some help.

Koegel contends that a person’s presentation skills are essential to one’s professional image and, ultimately, greater success.

While the title seems to portend a book for professional speakers or instructors, it is equally helpful for the occasional presenter who gives a short talk or delivers a report.

Packed with practical advice, techniques and helpful checklists, “Exceptional Presenter” offers sound advice for any level of presenter. Here are a few takeaways:
• Understand the importance of solid presentation skills. If you cannot get your point across, it diminishes your ability to have good ideas accepted. Presentation skills strengthen your image, earning potential and abilities to influence others and make strong first impressions. These skills also can send your career on the fast track.
• Be organized. The flow of your presentation is critical. It needs a good beginning, ending and transitions that keep your audience interested.

Tip: Tell your audience what you’re going to cover. Tell them. And then tell them what you told them. The attention span of most audiences has declined during the last decade as rapidly as sound bites, tag lines and multimedia have shaped the expectations of listeners. Say it with brevity, and say it effectively or perish on the platform.

Caution: Make your points the point – not your Power Point. Use technology to support and enhance your presentation, but use it wisely.

• Be passionate. Unless you are passionate or enthused about your topic, you cannot expect the same of your audience. Some presenters radiate passion, but how do they do it? According to the book, work on four keys: posture, hand gestures, voice (volume, tone and tempo), and on something Koegel calls verbal graffiti by cutting out “uh,” “um” and other fillers.
• Be engaging. Connecting with an audience can be elusive. You can improve engagement by working on elements such as eye contact, smiling, using names or relevant facts that demonstrate your knowledge of the audience’s situation, having visuals at proper times, asking stimulating questions and using group exercises or open dialogue.
• Be natural. Being well rehearsed and not coming off scripted seems like an oxymoron, but exceptional presenters pull it off. They communicate in a conversational tone and are at ease with their topic as well as their audience. To improve at being natural, thoroughly prepare working as much on context as you do content or verbiage. Also, work hard on being comfortable with the uniqueness of your audience and their situation.
• Understand your audience. A plethora of good tips here stimulates preparation questions and checklists.

The author also offers up some pretty good ideas on practicing before you present – it’s more of an admonition to rehearse really. I would have liked more on how to practice effectively on the weakest areas of one’s presentation skills.

I learned presentation skills from Robert Davis, the founder of Students In Free Enterprise forerunner National Leadership Institute and my first boss and mentor. Davis believed that great presentations consisted of great content and process, or as he implored in his own indelible Texas-twang, “Great content gets lost in poor process.” How true.

Bottom line
Buy the book if you want to improve your presentation effectiveness and you have the self-discipline to practice. Apart from a few dislikes, this is one of the best, most concise books on the topic I have read.  

Springfield-based consultant Mark Holmes speaks nationally on increasing employee and customer retention and improving employee performance. He is the author of “Wooing Customers Back” and “The People Keeper,” and writes a blog at www.managemyemployees.com. He can be reached at mholmes@managemyemployees.com.
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