Presenting around the conference table

Posted on February 2, 2010

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While stand-up presentations in front of large audiences may cause presenters to become nervous, presentations around the conference table often are more important.  That’s where projects and budgets are discussed, finalized or rejected.  It’s also where you need your best presentation skills, because you may be “competing” against other presenters at the table arguing for their own interests.  Here are eight techniques to employ during tabletop meetings:

  1. If you are “presenting” to the group, stand up at the table and use your presentation gestures.  This position gives you more command of the conversation and allows you to meet all participants eye to eye.
  2. While sitting, keep your hands above the table and, again, use natural (but smaller) gestures when engaged in discussion.  Avoid hiding your hands in your lap–this position can make you look meek. 
  3. During discussions, turn toward the individual or group you are addressing and make eye contact. 
  4. Lean slightly toward the speaker–or toward the person or group you are speaking to–to show personal interest and command attention.
  5. Avoid interrupting others. Take reminder notes, if necessary, and state your views after the speaker has made his or her case.
  6. Know the message you want to instill in the group.  Begin with it in your presentation and reinsert it during discussion. 
  7. Ask for objections before others interrupt you with them.  Then empower the objector to seek a solution and report back. Transform objectors into your collaborators. 
  8. Actively support the views and actions of others that you favor if you expect them to support you in the future.
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