Paper after paper, college teaches us how to write. But out in the real world, how you deliver your pitch is almost more important than how you write it. Here with some expert advice on giving a successful presentation is one of my Stern communications professors, Professor Jay Rubin. Professor Rubin currently teaches Organizational Communication, an undergraduate management communications course at the Stern School of Business, and Public Relations Writing, a graduate course at the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. He splits his time between the NYU classroom and his consulting firm, Jay Rubin & Associates. Over the years, his clients have been in the media and communication business, such as ABC, CNBC and Scholastic.
What are some basic techniques everyone should master when presenting?
The first thing is to realize that very few people are "natural" presenters, and you have to practice -- and keep practicing -- your content and delivery skills. If you're disciplined enough to put in the time, you'll usually be fine. Most often, the individual or the team making the presentation is far more critical about the performance than the audience. When developing your strategy and content, always apply the watchwords that go all the way back to Aristotle and remain timely as ever: ethos (credibility), logos (logic) and pathos (emotional appeal).
What makes an effective introduction?
You have to grab the audience's attention, preview what's ahead, and make sure your audience knows WIIFM (what's in it for me).
What are some misconceptions about visual aids? How do we create effective visuals?
Visual aids are intended to help the presenter do his or her job, not take it over. That's why simpler is usually better. Unless you're intentionally giving a highly technical or numbers-heavy presentation, a visual should be able to tell its story in a couple of quick seconds so focus can immediately return to the presenter.
What to do when you draw a blank?
Always keep smiling (unless you're dealing with an especially somber event, which isn't often the case). The audience generally takes its cues from the presenter. If you appear confident enough as a presenter to accept a momentary lapse, the audience will usually be forgiving. However, if you show you're squirming, the audience is more likely to remember those unfortunate moments because you've made them uncomfortable watching you.
Who is the best presenter out there today?
There's a lot of great presenters out there. But the one who comes quickest to mind is Steve Jobs. He has natural charisma and is a master at blending both WIIFM features (e.g. here's the latest innovation) and benefits (e.g. here's why it's so cool).
What was your most memorable presentation? What did you learn from it?
Years ago, when I was fresh out of college and starting my career, I attended a journalism seminar sponsored by The Washington Post. Some of the country's most respected reporters were there. The journalists were asked tough questions, and their answers were sometimes surprising and controversial. But no one doubted their credibility. It was a great lesson about how the impact of any message depends on who's delivering it.
What’s the best advice you've received on how to give a presentation?
Practice and be your best self. Don't just try to mimic someone else's style; find your own.
Written by Jessica Ye
Edited by Sara Saldi