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Presentation Tips: How to Engage Your Audience

Greg Wojick, CGCS


Guest Post by Greg Wojick
Our industry has always been about so much more than growing grass. Eventually everyone has an issue arise, either agronomic or elsewhere in the operation. My belief is that whenever you're in trouble -- and even before you are in trouble -- you better be able to communicate well.
I'm usually impressed with superintendents' technical competence and professional conduct. If only that were all you needed for success! The reality is that a major part of your success as a superintendent is having the ability to present yourself and your ideas clearly and effectively before your Green Committee or general membership.
Unlike the casual conversations you have with your colleagues, crew, and golfing membership, presenting to a group requires thought and preparation. It's your opportunity to enhance your image as a confident, knowledgeable, and likable professional and to win favor on a proposal or idea that might not otherwise be taken seriously.
You'll find a lot written about the mechanics of composing and delivering a presentation. I want to talk, instead, about another aspect of presenting that I feel is equally important to a presenter's success -- and that is how your thoughts are divided among several things and which one is critical to your success.

...even the most pertinent, hard-hitting information can fall on deaf ears if you fail to connect or make contact with your audience.

I see presenters who give most of their attention to themselves. They are visibly self-conscious, their gestures are not natural, and they worry more about the technique of their presentation than the results.
Other presenters concentrate mostly on their messages. They try to produce perfect sentences and end up stumbling over their words. They search for the perfect word and end up saying "uh". They look at and talk to their visuals to a fault. 
The best presenters give the highest percentage of their attention to their audience. They connect or make contact with their audience by first taking the time to know their audience and then tailoring their presentations to their needs and concerns. Let's face it, even the most pertinent, hard-hitting information can fall on deaf ears if you fail to connect or make contact with your audience.
So how do you engage?
You make contact and connection with your eyes, your voice, your gestures, and your body language. This means you must look at the audience -- not at your notes, sound sincere and committed as you speak, use gestures to emphasize your words, and appear confident and secure with your stance and posture. Practice these skills until they become natural and you appear to be just "having a conversation with the audience." The more prepared you are and confident you feel about your presentation, the better you'll be able to respond to unplanned situations.
Practice your speech out loud -- even record it to help you spot areas that sound strange or unnatural, it's easy with phones now. But don't practice gestures and facial expressions in front of a mirror. If you rehearse too many gestures, that's exactly how they'll look. Rehearsed. Let them come naturally to you.
Get yourself prepared and comfortable so that you pay only minimal attention to yourself. Rehearse adequately so that you are thinking about the delivery of your message and not the message. When you can spend less time thinking about yourself and your message, you'll have more time to focus on what's most important in the room -- and to your success: the audience.

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