January’s Training Tip

Happy New Year! For many of us the new year also means a new semester and a flood of students coming in and out of our offices. With that thought in mind, this year’s theme for the Training Committee is customer service. All of us know how complex financial aid policies and procedures are, and while we love to get together and mull over all these complexities between ourselves, it is often challenging to try to breakdown our financial aid lingo to the students and families we serve. That is why I have decided to go over a few tips and tricks I have acquired about how to give great presentations.

For many of us, public speaking is something we frequently get volun-told we have to do. And for many of us being able to meet our individual institution’s enrollment numbers means that we need to be financial aid rock stars on our respective stages. So here are a few fool proof tips to make holding that microphone a little more bearable:

  • Use a microphone. You never know if there is going to be someone in your audience who is hearing impaired, so by using a microphone it is easier for everyone to clearly hear what you have to say. Also, if you are speaking for a long period of time or have back to back presentations, using a microphone will help you to sound less strained after a lot of talking.
  • Stand to the left of your visual aid. English speakers read left to right, so it is easier on the eye if the presenter stands to the left of their presentation.
  • Keep your feet pointed towards your audience. Good presentation posture is generally to keep your feet pointed towards the audience with your shoulders very slightly turned towards your presentation. It is also helpful if you are using a clicker, to place your clicker in the hand closest to your presentation screen. If your clicker is in your other hand it can look awkward if you are frequently crossing your hand over your body to click to your next slide. If your clicker is in the hand closest to the presentation screen, you do not have to cross your arm over your body every time you change slides.
  • Avoid podiums. Podiums separate the speaker from the audience which can feel very impersonal. It is also common for people to grip the sides of their podium, lean against it, or look down a lot which can make you look nervous and less engaging to your audience.
  • Don’t over gesture. Over gesturing can make you look nervous and once again can distract from what you are trying to convey to your audience. Try to keep your hands at your sides or practice choreographing your gestures to important transitions in your presentation.
  • Wear your power clothes. Try to avoid clothes with busy patterns as they can distract from what you are telling your audience. Generally red and black are viewed as power colors, but I am sure many of us often wear our institution’s colors when we present which is very appropriate and helps to identify you as the presenter.
  • Find a few friendly faces. To avoid awkwardly staring at one spot in the room, try to find three or four friendly faces in the room and routinely try to make eye contact in their general direction.
  • Use your time wisely. On average you have about 18 minutes before you start to lose your audience’s attention. Try to incorporate pictures, stories, and screenshots to break up text heavy slides and keep the audience engaged.
  • Follow Art Young’s advice. Art Young, Financial Aid Director at Utah State University, said that a presentation needs three things: content that is meaningful to the audience, treats, and to end early.

I hope you find these presentation tips helpful. If you would like to hear more or would perhaps like to see a webinar about how to give successful presentations, please let the Training Committee know. In the meantime, I know many of us are very busy, so remember to take a moment and savor that cup of morning coffee or do something for your own enjoyment in the evening.

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