Skip to main content

Improve Your Small-Group Presentation Skills

Most of us will do many more small-group presentations in our life than standing in front of a large crowd. Whether you’re presenting to an internal team or a group of shareholders, here are a few suggestions to keep your audience engaged and your points remembered.

Provide an overview of what you’re going to say. Set the scene. You don’t have to have a formal speech written out, in fact, please don’t do that. People will tune out. But you shouldn’t completely wing it. Jot down an outline of key points, even if you don’t refer to them when you’re talking. They will help you make a mental map and ensure you hit the points you want to make. It will also help you make them quicker. You will ramble less.

Establish yourself as an expert. But do it quickly. People want to learn from you. Not listen to your life story, though I’m sure it’s fascinating.

Ask if anyone has an experience to share. This invites participation and immediately makes it more of a conversation than a presentation. This kind of discussion can enrich the presentation by making it more relevant and real. Just don’t lose control. Manage your time and move on when you need to.

Present the material. Clearly, concisely and in a manner that helps people remember your message later. That can be through bold visuals, props, a listing of your top three to five points, and through stories. We remember anecdotes, the more personal the better. “I witnessed… I experienced…”

Modulate your energy level to capture and maintain attention. Provide variety. Raise and lower your volume to create interest and emphasize key points. Enunciate so people don’t have to strain to catch your words. Show your enthusiasm.

Help people understand the relevance of what you’re sharing. If something appears to have no connection to you, you’ll tune it out. Find commonality. This requires an understanding of your audience. Why should they care about what you say? Answer that question in your presentation.

Think about what your audience needs and wants to know. The curse of knowledge can make us blind to key points we should make but don’t. Put yourself in their place.

Watch your audience. Make eye contact. Ensure people are engaged. Pick up on cues people may be sending. Are they acting restless? Checking the time? Even worse, nodding off?

Leave ample time for Q&A. Too often we squander the front end of our presentation with useless chitchat or meandering, then scramble and cut things short toward the end. The question-and-answer period can be the most important part of your presentation. Don’t give it short shrift.

Open your Q&A by asking, “Before I close, do you have any questions?” This lets people know you will remain in control and you will close the session on time, not simply trail off. Always repeat questions to ensure everyone heard it – and that you heard it correctly, too. This also buys you a little time to formulate your answer.

If you get unfriendly or combative questions, answer them as factually as you can and move on. Same thing with soft questions. If someone asks something that doesn’t advance understanding or add anything new, don’t spend any more time on those than you need to. Try to add some new information then move on.

Close by repeating your key points. Thank your audience and provide your email or a link where attendees can download your presentation or resources or follow up with you individually. Do all this and your next presentation ought to be a winner.

Humor can be a good way to capture attention in small-group presentations. I’ve been known to put on a flight suit on occasion to get our team to listen to me at agency retreats and lunch and learns. Yes, I’ve even impersonated my father, aviation photographer Paul Bowen, as a way to get my points across.
The Wichita Aero Club has afforded me many speaking opportunities as longtime gala chair, vice chair and now board chair. While I consider this a friendly audience of fellow aviation enthusiasts, sometimes talking in front of people you know can be more nerve-racking than standing in front of strangers. Why is that? Maybe because you care more.

This column ran in the August 10th issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.

YouTube or Vimeo? Use Both

Video is an increasingly vital part of your marketing mix. Are you hosting your videos directly on your website? Doing so lets you customize the player’s look to match the rest of your site, eliminate ads, control what videos are seen in a playlist and appear super sharp.
But these advantages have a cost. Video gobbles up space and bandwidth, which can mean having to buy more from your hosting provider. You can avoid those fees – plus gain other benefits – by using online video hosting services such as YouTube or Vimeo. Each of these popular, mostly free platforms has its advantages. Use a combination to get the best from each.

YouTube for Mass Sharing
Put your video on Google-owned, streaming giant YouTube when you want the world to see your stuff. Its massive audience offers more search and sharing. At last count, YouTube was pulling in 1.7 billion unique visitors and 14.3 billion total visitors a month.

YouTube has become the video hangout. To be seen, go where the eyeballs already are. This video-dedicated search engine gives you a much greater opportunity to have your video discovered organically. Search is a key YouTube activity. If you want to find a video, you turn to YouTube.

Just go in with your eyes wide open. YouTube gets crazy amounts of video uploaded each and every minute of the day. You see it all. Both in the videos posted and in the totally random, irrelevant and sometimes hateful comments they generate.

Public is the default setting when you upload a video to YouTube, but it’s easy to change the privacy settings. Private makes it viewable only by you. Unlisted lets you share it while keeping it restricted, i.e. unfindable through search. Unlisted videos won’t appear in subscribers’ feeds.

Vimeo for High Quality
Turn to the smaller (230 million monthly viewers and 1.9 million paid subscribers) Vimeo platform for quality and maximum control. A Vimeo-embedded video on your website looks better because it compresses better. Videos are larger and have less clutter around the frame. The focus is the video.

A huge plus for viewers (and as a marketer it does hurt a bit to admit this), but viewers are not forced to watch a commercial before your video launches or get distracted by a banner selling this or that. Vimeo has no ads. It lets you control whether to allow other videos to be recommended, what site can embed your video, and if the Vimeo logo appears when your video posts on another site. Note, YouTube allows you to choose whether or not to monetize your content – so if you don’t want an ad to play before your video, you can set it up not to.

Vimeo, by contrast, never puts ads before, after or on top of videos or the video player. It does have limited display advertising below the player, though, on some pages. There is an out, though, if you want it. Plus members and above don’t see display ads when logged in.

Vimeo’s smaller, more targeted audience tends to be genuinely interested in what you have to share. Because Vimeo serves up less fluff, viewers come for more professional content. That’s reflected in the comments, which tend to be more constructive and professional.

You can password-protect your videos and share them discriminately before going public. Simply share the link – and the password.

Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too
It takes a bit more work, but it’s worth it to upload your videos to both YouTube and Vimeo. You probably invested a tidy sum to create highly branded, professional-quality product videos. Make sure they get seen by the right people and the most people – in the best possible way.