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Applying Lean Principles to Presentation Skills: Eliminate Waste

Gilda Bonanno

Applying Lean Principles to Presentation Skills: Eliminate Waste

Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy which has its roots in the Toyota Production System and focuses on creating customer value while eliminating waste (in Japanese, "muda"). Building on the original 7 wastes that Lean identified, here are the 7 wastes that you should eliminate from your presentations:

1. Overproduction

Value is defined as what the customer is willing to pay for and overproduction occurs when you create more than your customer needs at that time. Applied to presentations, this means that first you must determine what the customer (in this case, your audience) really wants and then deliver specifically and exclusively that. Be clear about the purpose of your presentation and the message that you want to deliver to meet their needs; what is the one thing that you want your audience to walk away with from your presentation? Look at every example, detail and story you'd like to include in your presentation and eliminate any that do not directly relate to your message. Otherwise, you will "overproduce" and overwhelm the audience with too much detail while going over the time limit.

2. Lack of Confidence

Before you can command the attention of your audience, you have to believe that you have a message worth listening to and that you have the ability to communicate it effectively. Your self-confidence will allow you to tap into your background and your knowledge to deliver the best presentation that you can. And if something goes wrong during the presentation, self-confidence will help you think on your feet without self-destructing under the pressure.

3. Lack of Preparation

You cannot deliver value to your audience if you try to "wing it" and pull together the presentation at the last minute. Instead, take the time to prepare your material and practice it so you can deliver a focused, well-organized presentation within the time limit, answer questions with confidence and comfortably handle the room environment and logistics. And you don't have to be perfect -if something unexpected happens or you make a mistake, acknowledge it with grace and humor and move on.

4. Filler Words

Filler words include "um," "ah," and words such as "like," "so," and "ok," which you use to fill in space while you remember or think of something to say next. Overusing them can make you sound uncertain and unprepared. Instead of using filler words, pause and take a breath – and then move on to your next words.

5. Mismatched Body Language

Body language, or non-verbal communication, includes elements such as facial expressions, voice, eye contact, gestures, posture and movement. Your body language has to match the message you are conveying or it will confuse the audience and distract from your message. And making eye contact, smiling and varying your voice and body language will make it easier for you to engage with the audience and keep their attention.

6. Crowded Slides

First of all, think about whether you really need to use slides or not. Remember, you are the presentation and the slides are only there to assist you, not the other way around. If you do decide to use slides, make sure they are relevant, easy to read (even from the back of the room) and focused on your message.

Cut out the endless bullet-pointed sentences and the columns of data in 6-point font. Think about how the slides will look to your audience and try using less text and more high-quality photos or images to convey your message.

7. Sloppy Q&A

Answering questions can be an integral part of your presentation. Set expectations at the start of your presentation by letting the audience know if, how and when you will handle questions. Be prepared for questions and have extra material that you didn’t use in your actual presentation available to answer questions. Be mindful

of your body language while responding so you convey respect, confidence and energy. If you don’t know an answer, don’t bluff – admit that you don’t know. And keep control of the time by agreeing to handle off-topic or in-depth questions later.

Eliminating these 7 wastes will allow you to create, practice and deliver a presentation that will clearly convey your message and deliver value to your audience.

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.

Copyright (c) 2012

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