By Steve Adubato, PhD

The nine tools of the compelling communicator. (A list of ten would be way too predictable.) The following are nine proven tools or techniques that can help you next time you have to make a presentation before any audience at any time.

  1. Use concrete, easy to understand examples that the audience can relate to. Examples are a powerful tool. They connect the audience to your main message. People tend to make presentations filled with facts, figures, statistics, charts and graphs and ignore the simple example. People appreciate examples.
  2. Analogies, like examples, can help an audience better understand a complex system or procedure by comparing it to something that is more familiar to them.
  3. Eye contact, steady, focused eye contact. One of the worst things people can do while presenting before a group is to not look people in the eye. I don't mean staring at people, I mean taking two or three seconds to look at a specific person in the audience. Talk to that person, connect with that person.
  4. Repetition. Repeat your main message several times throughout a presentation. You don't have to do it the same way every time, but make sure your message is crystal clear to the audience. Consider Martin Luther King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech. He repeated the phrase "I have a dream" numerous times. That's why it's called the "I Have A Dream" speech. Repetition is a powerful tool.
  5. Pausing. Don't you hate when people use "um", "ah", "like" or "you know" in their presentations? The reason they do this is because they're trying to get their words to catch up with their minds - or to get their minds in sync with their words. Don't be afraid to allow for silence. Think of silence in your presentation as "white space." I don't know about you, but I appreciate getting a written report with some "white space." I like print advertisements with "white space" around the message. The same holds true for a presentation. Pausing allows you to emphasize certain points and stay in sync.
  6. Hand Gestures. Hand gestures are but one of many body language tools that should be incorporated into your presentations. You can use your hands to count - "I have three points I want to make." You can use hand gestures to contrast the status quo with where you would like to be. Do this by putting your left hand by your waist and your right hand up over your head. Use your hands to demonstrate contrast. Hands can help your presentation a lot.
  7. Rhetorical Questions. Rhetorical questions get your audience thinking. They don't require the audience to blurt out an answer, but they do require the audience to think! Rhetorical questions keep your audience involved and engaged while keeping you in control.
  8. Open-Ended Questions. Like rhetorical questions, open-ended questions keep your audience engaged and involved, and do require that the audience participate verbally in the presentation. The key to using good open-ended questions is to make sure the question requires more than a yes or no answer. Another effective tool here is to follow up the initial response to your open-ended question with an encourager like "tell me more" or "Do you have an example?"
  9. Close the Deal. Any good presentation has to tell people exactly what you want them to do when you are finished. Too often, people give great presentations and the audience doesn't know what to do when the presenter is finished. Do you want them to get back to you by a certain date? Do you want them to change a current policy? Do you want them to just think about something you have told them? Bottom line is tell tem exactly what you want them to do when you are finished.

Are there any tools or techniques that work for you? Let me know so that I can share them in a future column.