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Applying Lean Principles to Presentation Skills: Respect People

Gilda Bonanno

Applying Lean Principles to Presentation Skills: Respect People

Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy which has its roots in the Toyota Production System and focuses on creating customer value while eliminating waste.

These principles have been applied to many industries and services. And as a presentation skills coach with work experience as a project manager using Lean principles to run process improvement projects, I believe Lean principles have a valuable application to presentation skills.

A key Lean element is "respect people," which means creating an environment of mutual trust, engaging the people on your team and valuing their creativity and contribution. "Respect people" is directly applicable to presentation skills and translates into "respect your audience."

Here are 8 ways to respect your audience:

1. Know Your Audience
Find out as much as you can about their background, interest level and what's important to them. For example, do they prefer details or big picture, data or stories, problems or solutions?

2. Follow the Golden Rule
I define the Golden Rule of Communications as: to communicate unto others as THEY want to be communicated to - not as YOU want to be communicated to. So once you understand how the people in your audience want to be communicated to, you can shape your presentation accordingly and make an effort to "speak the audience's language."

3. Know Your Subject
This should be obvious but we have all seen speakers who lack a solid understanding of their subject matter. Before you present, take time to do your homework and prepare so that you something valuable to share with the audience.

4. Set Expectations
Somewhere near the start of your presentation, set the audience's expectations about your message, the level of detail you will provide (introductory, intermediate, advanced, etc.), how long you will speak and whether or not/when you will take questions.

5. Stay Within the Time Limit
No one will object if you end your presentation a few minutes early, but if you go over time, you are disrespecting the audience. Practice your presentation so you know how long it takes to deliver and cut out anything that is not essential to your message.

6. Tell the Truth
In order to set up an environment of trust with your audience, be honest. If you don't know the answer to a question, admit it and commit to finding out and getting the answer to them later. And if you have to communicate something controversial or negative, I strongly recommend that you tell your audience the full truth upfront. Honesty – especially upfront rather than after the truth is discovered - is the best policy.

7. Make Eye Contact With Everyone
Eye contact is an important element of non-verbal communication and allows you to connect with the audience, helps you keep their attention and demonstrates your confidence and sincerity. Rather than looking at the screen or your notes, make a conscious effort to make eye contact with everyone in the audience. And if there are too many people in the audience to make eye contact with every individual, be sure to make eye contact at least with every section of the audience.

8. Engage the Audience.
An engaged audience is more likely to understand and retain whatever you are presenting. Make sure they can hear you - use a microphone if necessary. And use relevant stories and animated body language to capture the audience's attention.

If you follow these 8 guidelines, you will demonstrate your respect for the people in your audience, which will help build a positive environment in which they are more likely to pay attention to you and appreciate your effort in sharing your knowledge, skills, experience, expertise and stories with them.

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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