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3/31/2005
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SmartAdvice: Look To Novell's Open Enterprise Server As Migration Path From NetWare

Moving to Open Enterprise Server will be the least-disruptive path as your company decides what operating system to go with in the future, The Advisory Council says. Also, some tips for beefing-up your presentation skills.

Question B: How can I develop the presentation skills to communicate effectively with business management?

Our advice: To communicate effectively with business management, several skills need to be mastered. These include understanding the material you are to present, understanding different presentation techniques and their characteristics, and understanding the audience being addressed.

First, establish the goals of your presentation. Why should the audience listen to you? What is the critical message you want to convey? Identify the key points you want to make, but avoid technical jargon unless your audience is technically oriented. Preparing an outline is essential. Create strong opening and closing statements that support the position(s) in the presentation. This will help grab the audience's attention.


Related Links
Presentation Skills for Emergent Managers

Common Visual Aids

How to Deal With a Hostile Audience
Second, impart the right image. Know the pros and cons of different visual aids.

  • A computer/projector combination focuses attention on one slide at a time. Avoid falling into the trap of just reading your slides, however, and remember that a poorly executed presentation design can be painfully obvious.
  • A flip-chart works well for a small group, especially if you're brainstorming an idea. Using a flip chart requires you to turn your back on the audience, however. Also, if you're a bad speller, this will be evident to everyone.
  • Handouts give the audience something they can take away with them, and on which they can make notes. Handouts can prove distracting, however, if people start to read them during the presentation, and stop paying attention to you.
  • A physical model or item of what you're talking about can grab the audience's attention. It, too, can prove distracting, however.
  • Use words, vocal tones, and body language to demonstrate your knowledge of the topic and connection with the audience. Practice your delivery, along with any visual aids, to overcome any hesitation or nervous behavior. Listen for words you overuse or misuse, as well as for vocal pauses.

    Third, and most important, you must know your audience. What are they expecting you to cover? Do they need to know the technical details, or should they be given the "50,000-foot" overview? Each audience is different, so assess who you're presenting to each time. Is your audience made up of senior executives or hands-on technicians? The most effective communication technique is different for each group, so don't take this for granted. It's essential to build rapport with your audience, to have them accept you as their peer. This will enhance and facilitate communication with them.

    Finally, be prepared for questions and discussion. One can't be expected to know the answer to everything you're asked, but when you don't have the answer, note the question and the person asking, and promise to get back to them. Then do it. If you don't, your credibility with that person is ended.

    --Stephen Rood


    Peter Schay, TAC executive VP and chief operating officer, has 30 years of experience as a senior IT executive in IT vendor and research industries. He most recently was VP and chief technology officer of SiteShell Corp. Previously at Gartner, he was group VP of global research infrastructure and support, and launched coverage of client-server computing in the early 1990s.

    Stephen Rood, TAC Expert, has more than 24 years experience in the IT field specializing in developing and implementing strategic technology plans for organizations as well as senior project management and help-desk operations review. His consulting experience has included designing and implementing a state-of-the-art emergency 911 call center for the city of Newark, N.J., and managing technology refreshes for a nonprofit entertainment organization as well as a large, regional food broker. He also worked at Coopers & Lybrand, General Foods, and Survey Research. He is the author of the book "Computer Hardware Maintenance: An IS/IT Manager's Guide" that presents a model for hardware maintenance cost containment.

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