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Presentation Skills: Q&A is Crucial!

Posted by on May 9, 2012

Last time, we talked about your presentation conclusion. I promised I’d go into more detail about question/answer sessions in another blog, and here it is!

Presentation Skills

Many people see the great challenge as the presentation itself. When the questions begin, the presenter breathes a sigh of relief and relaxes. This is when trouble can begin. Responding to a question with an appropriate, efficient answer is the real challenge!


The first step to successful Q&A sessions is preparation. Your audience expects you to be prepared for your talk, but they do not expect you to be prepared for the Question and Answer session. If you are, you will undoubtedly enhance the success of your entire presentation. The key to preparing for questions is to anticipate all questions that may be raised. Ask yourself:

  • What questions will my audience be likely to ask?
  • Who will be likely to ask questions?
  • Are there any provocative ideas that might threaten individuals in the audience?
  • What are the tough questions?
  • What are the questions I hope no one will ask?


To help you anticipate all questions, it is a good idea to review your presentation with:

  • Peers: who may be able to think of questions you overlooked.
  • Insiders: someone in the same industry as your audience will be able to think of questions from your audience’s perspective.
  • Outsiders: someone who is not in either your or your audience’s industry will be able to think of questions from a completely fresh perspective.

To assist you in anticipating questions, here is a list of commonly asked questions:

  • Do we really need this?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • What will happen to us if we don’t?
  • What will it cost?
  • Can we do it for less?
  • Is it in the budget?
  • What is the ROI?
  • How do we do it?
  • Who will do what?
  • How long will it take?
  • Will this action create new problems?

Once you have anticipated all questions, prepare answers for them as thoroughly as you prepared the presentation itself.


Q&A sessions give you an opportunity to continue making your point. The purpose of your presentation is to induce action. Be sure each answer you prepare will contain information that will help your audience take the action you want them to take. Always be sure your answers include benefits so your audience will understand what’s in it for them.

Karen Holmes is a U.S.-based CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, delivering programs such as Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills,Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Conclusion

Posted by on March 7, 2012

Presentation SkillsLast time, we finished up your presentation body, explaining how to piece together supporting information in a way that really speaks to your audience. Now that you’ve finished the bulk of your presentation, it’s time to address the conclusion. It is just as important as the rest of your presentation, and should be considered carefully. Remember, the conclusion is the last thought you share with your audience, and what they are most likely to remember.

Unfortunately, many presentations do not conclude—they just stop, sputter and die, or worse, ramble on and on. Many excellent presentations have been ruined by a weak conclusion. The purpose of the conclusion is to summarize and ensure that you’ve met your objective. A good strong conclusion adds the finishing touch to an excellent presentation. There are four important steps to an effective conclusion:

  • Summarize key points
  • Restate action steps
  • Ask for questions
  • Give a final conclusion

Summarizing Key Points

This is the first step when concluding. In a clear, concise manner, you must tell the audience what you just told them. When you restate the key points, you should be as brief as you were in the agenda. Do not bring in any new points! You don’t want to introduce anything new at this point in time.

Restating the Action Step

Reiterate the action request you made in the introduction. Be sure your action step is assertive and positive, such as, “I’m sure you’ll agree…” or, “As I have explained…” Restating your action step at the conclusion ensures a strong, active finish. It encourages your audience to move ahead on your request.

Asking for Questions

When you reach your conclusion, it’s important that you open up your presentation to questions from the audience. They may need clarification or more information, and it’s a great way to make them feel included. We will go into more detail on question/answer sessions in our next Presentation Skills blog post.

Final Conclusion

Yes, this whole article is about your presentation conclusion, but your final conclusion is the “end of the end.” You should restate your action request once more, and be sure to thank your audience.

Remember to have your conclusion clearly in your mind before you begin your presentation. You want to be sure you conclude as strongly as you began.

Delivery Tips for the Conclusion

Use a flip chart to summarize your key points. It will keep you and your audience well organized.

Use assertive, positive language when stating the action you want them to take, i.e., “I believe,” “I know,” “I’m confident,” “I’m sure,” not “I think,” or “I hope.”

I personally believe it is essential to get hands-on, practical training in the classroom to bring these concepts to life.

Karen Holmes is a U.S.-based CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, delivering programs such as  Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Body [Part 2]

Posted by on December 13, 2011

Presentation BodyLast time we got you started on your presentation body, discussing the need for a main point and its supporting evidence. That was a good start, but since the body is the “meat” of your presentation, we still have a lot to cover. I am so excited to share my knowledge with you because I know you can take these skills with you wherever you go!

Okay, let’s get to it. Once you have decided on your point, or message, you need to present evidence to support it. But although you may know something, how do you put together supporting information in a way that speaks to your audience? Here are some specifics for each of the 5 types of evidence:

  1. Personal Experience: A specific firsthand situation in which you participated that supports or clarifies your point.
    • The personal experience should always be communicated in the first person. For example:                  I said “                       .” He said “                       .”
    • This allows you to use actual dialogue which adds an emotional dimension to the incident, makes it more interesting to the listener and is easier for you to relate. Literally relive the experience.
    • Remember, to most listeners the personal experience is the most interesting and unique form of evidence. People remember stories long after they have forgotten the storyteller.
  2. Analogy: A similarity between things or situations otherwise unlike.
    • This can be a very creative form of evidence and when presented visually, can be quite dramatic.
    • For example, to communicate the concept that we only see part of something and do not have the whole picture, the iceberg can be an effective analogy. To communicate the fact that we do not have the proper equipment, an analogy might be “like trying to keep a football field dry with a box of tissues.”
    • A good analogy allows the speaker to graphically exaggerate a point without offending the intelligence of the listener.
  3. Judgment of Expert: A statement made by a person the group will recognize as an authority on the subject.
    • The statement should be supportive in either a positive or negative manner. If the source is not readily known to the entire group, credentials, qualifications and accomplishments should be identified prior to using a quote. Some sources for judgments of experts are newspapers, journals and trade magazines.
  4. Example: A specific situation where various key factors are similar to those that support your point.
    • Examples make a presentation more interesting and help your audience understand your point.
  5. Facts/Statistics: A fact is something that already happened or a condition that exists.
    • Statistics are a quantification of a fact and are used primarily for comparison. Statistics are used to report on a past activity or to predict the results of future activity.
    • When using statistics, ask yourself:
      • What do they represent? (Results? Predictions?)
      • What do they tell the listener? (Comparison? Conclusion?)
      • How do they support or clarify my point?

It is most important to use visual aids to display statistics. Be graphically dramatic; you will be amazed at the amount of statistical information your audience is able to retain!

Delivery Tips for the Body

Use a flip chart for each key point. This will keep you organized, emphasize points to your audience and allow you to speak from the chart without looking at your notes.

What next? Oh yes, the dreaded conclusion. Let’s leave that for next time

It is essential to get hands-on, practical training in the classroom to bring these concepts to life.

Presentation Skills

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Body [Part 1]

Posted by on December 5, 2011

Presentation BodyLast time, we talked about creating your presentation introduction. Now it’s time to work on the body, which will consist of your key points and the evidence you will use to support each key point. Evidence makes your key points more interesting and helps you emphasize them more strongly. By providing evidence, you clarify and expand your point and answer any questions you anticipate your audience might have.

When developing the body of the presentation, you should use the following format:

  • State the point (the message you want your audience to receive)
  • Back up each point with evidence (information the listener needs to know about that point to understand it and take action)

To help you develop your supporting ideas, discuss each point with yourself. Keep your audience in mind and remember your objectives. Imagine yourself conversing with your audience. You know the subject. Each point will probably trigger another related point. By talking each point out, you will see in which direction your thoughts take you. Decide which thoughts you need. Look for details. Be concrete. Avoid generalities. Reinforce ideas with specifics.

Evidence can take many different forms. There are five forms of backup evidence we will cover in this program:

  1. Personal Experience
  2. Analogy
  3. Judgment of Expert
  4. Example
  5. Facts/Statistics

This is an excellent beginning to your presentation body, but there’s a lot more to it. Don’t worry…we have all the tips and tools you need! Next time, we’ll dig deeper into how to create your presentation body. Before you know it, your presentation will be ready for the real world, and you’ll be ready to shine!

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Introduction

Posted by on November 14, 2011

Your Presentation IntroductionLast time, we talked about organizing your presentation. Now you need an intro!

Your introduction can make or break your presentation. Sound drastic? It is! If your presentation introduction is good, you’ll capture your audience’s attention. If it’s weak, you could lose them in the first two minutes, and possibly never get them back. The introduction is the most critical piece in your presentation skills toolkit.

A good introduction contains the Three A’s:

  • Arouse Interest
  • Agenda
  • Action 

Arouse your audience’s interest right from the start. Make them want to listen to you. People come to your presentation with their minds on their concerns (that last phone call, the upcoming meeting). They may come in with a preconceived notion that this will be boring. You must capture their attention! Your “interest-arouser” should refer to their problems or concerns. The following list may assist you in developing an interest arouser:

  • outline an incident
  • ask for a show of hands
  • ask a question
  • make a promise
  • get them laughing
  • make a provocative statement
  • use an arresting statistic

Next, state your agenda. Audiences don’t like to be kept in the dark. It detracts from successful communication. Your agenda should be a clear, concise outline of the key points you will be making in your presentation. An agenda helps your audience listen to you because it keeps them organized.

Finally, your audience should be told what action you want them to take. Busy people become impatient with mystery stories. They want to know how the story will end before they take the time to listen. Always state your requested action (your recommendation) at the beginning of the presentation.This also helps them to be better listeners because they can evaluate what you are saying against the decision you want them to make.

Credentials are optional in an introduction. If this it the first time you are talking to this group, you should give them a brief description of your background. If you include your credentials in the introduction, you should do so right after the Interest Arouser and before the Agenda.

When you include the Three A’s in your introduction, you will have an effective introduction, one that captures your audience’s attention and tells them what you’re going to tell them.

Since the introduction is so critical to your presentation, it is recommended that you write it out word-for-word so you will know exactly what you are going to say. Once you have written it out, you can condense it into key words, or an outline. You should never read your introduction to the audience, but you should know exactly what you are going to say. There are two good reasons for this:

  1. The very beginning of your presentation is when you are the most nervous. Knowing exactly what you are going to say will alleviate some of the fear and help make you feel calmer.
  2. Initial impressions are lasting. You want the initial portion of your presentation to be outstanding.

Delivery Tips for the Introduction

Before you begin to speak, pause for three seconds. This gives you time to organize your thoughts, lets your audience get ready to listen, and makes you appear extremely confident.

  • Look down at your notes, look up and then begin to talk. Never begin talking while looking at your notes.
  • Outline your agenda on a visual aid. It helps clarify the points for your audience and keeps you and them organized.
  • Do not rush through the introduction. It is probably the first and only time your audience will hear these remarks.
  • Practice, practice, practice your introduction before the actual presentation.

Remember…good first impressions are critical to your success!

Please tune in next time to learn about Your Presentation Introduction.

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Presentation Skills: Organizing Your Presentation

Posted by on October 31, 2011

Organizing Your Presentation resized 600

Last week, we talked about how to plan your presentation. Now you need to organize your material to add clarity to your presentation. It’s important to create a structure that helps your audience understand your message. If your presentation isn’t organized, your listeners will have to search for that message. But that’s hard work, and most audiences won’t do it. If you force them to search, you will lose your audience’s attention. But organizing your presentation will keep them right there with you.

There are two ways in which you can organize your key points:

  • most to least important
  • natural progression

Most to Least Important

Look through your key points. Think in terms of what is of most interest to your audience: What is their primary concern? This is your most important point and should be the one you present first. Organize the remaining points in terms of what is most important in conveying your message, which points help people take the action you want them to take. When you are finished with this process, your key points will end up in a most to least important order.

Your most important points should be stated first because people are most attentive at the beginning of a presentation. Also, if there is a time limit, you don’t want to be cut off without having made your most important points. What a tragedy that would be!

Natural Progression

If there is a natural progression to your topic, present the material in its natural order. Natural progression include chronological order (past, present, future), time sequences (an unfolding schedule), cause and effect, advantages and disadvantages, etc.

Well-organized material helps your audience get the message!

Presentation Skills

Please tune in next time to learn about Your Presentation Introduction.

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Presentation Skills: Planning Your Presentation

Posted by on October 24, 2011

Last time, we discussed how important it is to decide on your presentation objective. Why, after all, are you presenting in the first place? Now that you know how to create your objective, we can move on to the next step: Planning Your Presentation. How are you going to get your point across?

Planning Your Presentation

A well planned presentation follows the old adage, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you just told them.”

Benefits of planning your presentation include:

  • Forcing you to define the purpose of your presentation
  • Increasing your understanding of your presentation

When you plan your presentation, you must decide what you are going to tell your audience. To do this, look at your objective and ask “What does my audience need to know to act on this?” Write down every point that comes to mind. List anything that could be relevant to your subject. Use single words or phrases, don’t write sentences. Don’t question anything you’ve written until you are finished. Making these rough notes should take only a few minutes. Then look through the list and weed out all irrelevant facts, being sure all your major points are covered. Limit yourself to essential points. You want to give your audience just what they need to know, no more and no less. Remember, don’t cloud the issue with too much information. The points that remain on your list after the sorting process are your KEY POINTS.

Review your objective. Be certain that the key points you have selected are the ones your audience needs to know in order to take the requested action. You are now ready to organize your presentation.

Please tune in next week to learn about Organizing Your Presentation.

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Presentation Skills: What do I want these people to do?

Posted by on October 10, 2011

Presentation SkillsPresentations are a regular feature of our business landscape. Successful business people must have effective oral presentation skills. It is during those presentations that you explain, present, analyze and sell your ideas, plans, proposals and decisions. Successful business people realize that a presentation meets a need that a written report cannot fill. It allows your audience to see and judge you, allows questions to be answered on the spot, hastens decision making, and leads to action.

One of the difficulties of making a presentation is deciding what you want to say. What should your audience take away? What action should they take? If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there? All of us would agree this is true for an automobile trip. Clear, concise directions ensure that you will reach your final destination. This is also true of a presentation. A successful presentation begins with a clearly defined objective. A well-conceived objective will tell you “where you are going.” It’s important to write down your objective before you get started.

The first step in writing your objective is to determine what action you want your audience to take when you are finished with your presentation. Be sure to use a verb that indicates precisely what you want your audience to do. The following list may assist you in selecting the correct verb.

Action Verbs

  • to buy
  • to invite
  • to comply
  • to select
  • to introduce
  • to change
  • to use
  • to call
  • to organize
  • to monitor
  • to authorize
  • to meet with

Once you have stated the action you want your audience to take, the next step is determine why they should take that action. What’s in it for them? How will they benefit? You must have the benefits clearly defined in order to convey them to your audience.

People are more likely to follow the action you request when they see the benefit in it for them. Your objective must state the benefits as well as the action.

The final step in writing your objective is to be sure it’s realistic. If you ask for more than you can achieve in your presentation, you are just wasting everyone’s time. Be sure you’re asking for something that your audience can say “yes” to.

When you have completed your objective, put it through this check list:

  1. What action do I want my audience to take?
  2. How will my audience benefit?
  3. Is it realistic?

If your objective answers each of these questions, it is well-written and will assist you in achieving your goal. Your direction is clear, and your audience knows where you are going.

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Overcome your fear with top-notch Presentation Skills!

Posted by on July 18, 2011

  • Presentation SkillsDo you get nervous presenting in front of groups?
  • Not sure how to give your presentation maximum impact?
  • Want to impress your boss, team, or customers?

The key to giving a great presentation is your own comfort level. You already know the subject matter, but how do you feel about presenting it—alone—in front of a group of colleagues or customers? Don’t let nervousness or lack of organization sabotage you!

CGWA has developed a proven process for organizing, preparing and delivering your best presentation. In our Presentation Skills workshop, we combine in-depth coaching with easy-to-implement steps and tips, taking presentations from merely average to absolutely outstanding!

Here’s a sample of what our Presentation Skills participants walk away with:

  • High comfort level with all presentation situations and settings from the boardroom to the executive team or presenting in informal meetings
  • Knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses in front of any group and how to overcome them
  • Planning process for upcoming presentations where the stakes are high
  • Ability to deliver impromptu presentations with certainty and confidence
  • Techniques for capturing audience attention

Perfecting your presentation skills will not only help you in front of groups, but in everyday conversations too! Just like improving your golf or tennis stroke, mastery takes time, feedback and practice.

But we would never leave you without a little something to start you on the path to becoming a top-notch presenter…

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.

Move Forward with Positive Action!

Posted by on June 27, 2011

Influence Skills

This week’s tip is built around one of my favorite quotes:

The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” – Voltaire

What does this mean to you? To me, it means I need to stop living in the past and move forward with positive action. It’s a little cliche, but Voltaire is illustrating an axiom here. This quote is still remembered today because it contains a universal truth.

Simply letting go of wrongs inflicted on us by other people–or simply negative events in our lives–can determine whether today will be a good day. It can even improve your outlook on life in general. So often, our personal happiness depends on how we react to the things that happen to us. We make that choice.

What choices have you been making? Are you letting the world get you down? It’s tough out there, and it’s perfectly normal to find yourself in a negative rut from time to time. But don’t let that attitude define you.

I encourage you to move forward with positive action today! CGWA can help you and your team develop your influence skills, negotiation skills, presentation skills, selling skills, and so much more!

We’d love to have a conversation with you, so reach out and contact us right now!

Contact CGWA