Getting your solution accepted – Making your presentation

The way you present your information is crucial to success, whether it's done verbally or in a report. In general you should aim to make your presentation clear, simple and to the point. To help explain your solution in a way that people will understand easily, follow these guidelines:

  • keep it short and simple - don't confuse them with too much data or a very complex argument - but make sure that you coverall the important factors
  • avoid ambiguities
  • prepare your presentation according to your audience's level of knowledge and understanding of the topics covered
  • avoid any words or terms people may not understand, eg jargon and technical terms.

With complex issues you should concentrate on the major advantages and disadvantages, leaving the others for discussion later, if necessary, or inclusion in an appendix to your report. You should state at the beginning of your presentation that this is what you intend to do. Most important of all, your presentation should be a logical progression from the facts of the current situation to how your proposed solution will deal with the problem effectively.

verbal presentation

Verbal presentations

With verbal presentations the order in which you present your ideas is particularly important  If you reveal your solution at the outset, for example, people may foresee disadvantages and raise an objection before you have explained how you intend to handle the situation. This can lead to confusion and early on people may get the impression that the solution is impractical. First impressions are difficult to change.

The best way to avoid this type of situation is to follow these steps, checking that your audience agree at each stage before moving on:

  • state the overall objective in solving the problem
  • describe the constraints on the situation
  • briefly describe all the results that you felt were required and their relative importance
  • briefly state all the options you considered without saying which you have chosen
  • describe the criteria of evaluation you have used and their relative importance
  • state which option you have chosen, explaining how it is the best solution available and the associated risks that you have identified
  • explain how the solution will be implemented
  • state how the results will be identified and measured.

women making a presentation

This strategy uses the same methodical approach that you used in constructing the solution, making it easier to explain clearly and to deal with objections step-by-step.

Many people get very anxious about making verbal presentations. Thorough preparation and rehearsal will help you to overcome this fear and to ensure that you convey your ideas effectively. Factors such as overt signs of nervousness and continual hesitation can convey uncertainty about your solution or that you are trying to hide something. Following these guidelines will help you to create the right impression: Use unobtrusive keyword notes if you cannot remember all you want to say

  • use unobtrusive keyword notes if you cannot remember all you want to say
  • use visual aids if they help to get your ideas across more effectively
  • speak confidently
  • project your energy and enthusiasm through your voice (lively, but not over-effusive), posture (upright and relaxed) and gestures (natural)
  • watch your audience for signs of how they are reacting to what you say (eg confused, impatient, inattentive) and respond accordingly
  • answer questions carefully and succinctly (your preparation should have uncovered most of the likely questions).

Making effective verbal presentations is a skill which requires practice. Rehearsal, preferably with an audience which can comment on your performance, will help you to perfect a specific presentation.

Written presentations

Reports can vary from a simple one-page outline to a large bound volume of 100 pages or more, but they should never contain unnecessary information. The features of a good report can be grouped under four headings.

Contents

A written report can be perused at will and digested at the reader's own pace. There is a temptation, therefore, not to worry about keeping the report short and simple. However, the easier you make it for people, the more likely they are to read and accept what you have to say. Interest will be sustained if you get to the point quickly.

Structure

The structure of a report should help people to understand your proposal. This means following the guidelines given for verbal presentations, presenting information in a logical, step-by-step fashion. With complex issues only the main points should be covered in the body of the report, with supporting evidence and the less significant information given in appendices. If the body of the report is more than about ten pages, it may be desirable to give an abstract at the' beginning covering the essential points, eg the problem, its effects, and the recommended solution.

Style

The writing style you use should make the contents easy to read and understand. All the factors relating to jargon and so on, mentioned for verbal presentations, also apply to reports. Sentences and paragraphs should be short and written in a conversational style unless the subject or application demands otherwise.

Layout

The layout of words on the page should give the appearance of being easy to follow and understand. Don't crowd pages, leave wide margins, give clear headings and emphasise important points.

Writing reports effectively is a skill that can be developed with practice. A good book on the subject will help you to use reports effectively.

What to do if your solution is rejected

It is not uncommon for ideas to be rejected, particularly when they involve major changes, are innovative, or require extensive use of resources. If your idea is rejected you have a number of options:

  • first. check that you presented your idea effectively; if not, it may be worth re-presenting, it if you have the opportunity
  • consider whether you can present the idea to someone else with the appropriate authority to sanction it, or who could bring pressure to bear on the decision makers, eg those who will benefit most from your solution     .
  • improve your solution to overcome the objec­tions and re-present it
  • look for another solution, bearing in mind the reasons your first solution was rejected.

Trying to get your solution accepted can be frustrating and difficult, particularly in situations where you are encroach­; on other people's territory or where there is no existing yardstick to measure the likely outcome. If it's an idea that you believe in, perseverance often pays off.

Remember

  • It may be necessary to obtain other people's approval and cooperation to implement your solution successfully.
  • Carefully planning how to present your solution will improve your chances of gaining acceptance and cooperation.
  • There are a variety of persuasive tactics you can use to influence your audience.

Read the next article: Implementing your solution

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