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Don't let things slide

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur des Englisch-Magazins Business Spotlight.
Gnade! Ein Dutzend Zahlen und Fakten pro Minute sind mehr, als der gemeine Zuhörer verkraften kann. Straffen Sie Ihre Präsentation, bevor Ihr Auditorium vor Langeweile stirbt, empfiehlt Ian McMaster.
Gnade! Ein Dutzend Zahlen und Fakten pro Minute sind mehr, als der gemeine Zuhörer verkraften kann. Straffen Sie Ihre Präsentation, bevor Ihr Auditorium vor Langeweile stirbt, empfiehlt Ian McMaster."Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to begin by telling you a little about our company's history. It was founded in 1912, when it had 2,000 employees. The next year, this went up by 25 per cent to 2,500 employees, and sales rose by a third from £12,000 to £16,000. The following year, ...

Anyway, here on the next slide is a summary of our balance sheet (Bilanz) for the past seven years. You probably can't read the figures, so let me read them out to you. The table is in your handout on page 6. Starting with the column on the left, our turnover (Umsatz) was approximately £15.95 billion in 1998. In 1999, it was £16.1 billion ... Our profit rate increased between 2002 and 2003 by one per cent, from 8 per cent to 9 per cent ...

Anyway, sorry I've taken 20 minutes longer than planned, but I think it was important to give you a full picture of our company and its history."

To which, I can only say: "Get me out of here before I kill either the speaker or myself!" Unfortunately, such presentations of figures are all too common. The speaker made a number of classic mistakes. Here are some tips how to improve your speech:

Cut the history
Do not start at the beginning of time and work forward chronologically. Begin with an interesting or surprising fact from the present ("First the good news: we lost 20,000 customers last year"). Keep the history lesson as short as possible.

Have a clear message
You may find the detailed facts and figures of your company fascinating, but have you thought about what your audience wants or needs to hear? What message do you want them to take away with them? Start there.

Don't overload your slides
One of the biggest sins is putting too much text - or too many figures - on a slide (Präsentationsfolie). A maximum of six short text lines is a good guide.

Don't read
Even worse than having too much text on your slides is reading it out. Either let the listeners read for themselves - if the text is short - or forget the slide and just explain the information.

No useless slides
Recently, I saw a speaker show an organigram, with some 100 different departments. He then said, "I don't expect you to be able to read this." No? Well, don't show it to us, then!

No handouts
Don't give out a handout (Handzettel, Zusammenfassung) of your slides until the end of the presentation. Otherwise, no-one will listen to you.

No mixed messages
When giving figures, don't mix percentages ( "25 per cent") and fractions ("a third") in the same sentence, as you will confuse people. Note: "per cent" is pronounced "per CENT".

No exact approximations
Either give exact figures - £15.95 billion ("fifteen point nine five") - or say "approximately £16 billion". Other phrases you can use to approximate figures include: "just over", "just under", "around", "roughly" and "about".

Know your numbers
A billion is a thousand million, in both British and American usage. Also, an increase in profitability from eight per cent to nine per cent is not a "one per cent increase". It is either a "one percentage point increase" or a "12.5 per cent increase" (nine minus eight, divided by eight, times 100).

Stick to your time limit
Audiences will love you for this.

However, the presentation at the beginning of this text wasn't all bad: The speaker started well, at least up to "telling you ...". It is good to structure your talk clearly into sections ("First, second, next, last" etc). He referred to changes correctly: "this went up by 25 per cent to 2,500 ...".
He also referred to his slide well ("here on the next slide is a summary ..."). Other useful phrases are "as you can see on this slide ..."; "I'd now like to turn to ..."; "if you look at the next slide ..."; "I'd like to draw your attention to ...". When referring to a table of figures, he uses the phrase "starting with the column (Spalte) on the left". The opposite of column here is row (Zeile).
And he used the correct tense (simple past) when talking about the past: "went up", "founded", "increased" etc. A final tip for your presentation: sound enthusiastic! If you're not, how can you expect your audience to be?

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Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 28.01.2005