Presentation Skills: Be More Productive Using a Facilitator Mode

There are many definitions for presentations. When you present there are also many different modes you can focus on. Are you a facilitator or an educator? The mode of facilitator is often misused in the corporate world and interchanged with words like trainer and educator. Facilitation is an exceptional skill, once you learn this skill you can boost your productivity and it can make you a better presenter.

A true facilitator is all about creating an environment where people feel safe and able to share their ideas freely. I believe the facilitator’s role is to act as a conduit. The first process a facilitator will undertake is to create operating agreements with their audience. It is the facilitator’s role to remove any blockages and conflicts within the group. They allow the thought processes of the group to be processed and expressed. They are responsible for establishing an environment that does that.

If this is a mode you are interested in developing yourself, the main proficiencies for this mode include:

Removing personal agenda – a facilitator’s role is to set the agenda with the group, not be running their own personal agenda. It is more powerful to seek to fill the agenda of the team and you will be more engaging to your audience.

Creating trust – this can be established in many ways for a presenter. It can occur before the presentation with communications circulated to the attendees, it can be built into the introduction for the facilitator and it can also be established when the agenda is set.

Respecting diversity - valuing each person’s input and recognising the variety of expertise and experience within the audience is the sign of a great facilitator.

Having active listening skills – one of the most important skill for any facilitator is the need to be able to listen and process what the audience is saying … and quickly. Listening intently will assist this.

A good facilitator may take several hours or days to create an environment where all the work may finally come together in the last hour. Don’t be fooled … some may think a facilitator comes into a presentation or meeting unprepared but that is not the case. An exceptional facilitator spends time preparing by taking a comprehensive brief from the client, researching the group/audience they will be working with and determining the questions that need to be asked to facilitate the best environment.

A quick note: Many organisations choose to bring in external facilitators to work with teams to achieve objectives. An external facilitator is neutral, doesn’t participate in office politics and is not influenced by the management hierarchy. If you team is grid locked or not co-operating, an external facilitator can be a great solution for you.

In a true facilitation style you may not even have the first question for your audience! Every discussion is a question i.e. does this feel right for you? Every facilitator should have an arsenal of great questions in their tool kit. Those questions include:

How is that working for you?

How do you feel about that?

I’m having trouble understanding that?

Does anyone want to add anything to that?

What’s that a part of?

If you knew the answer to that, what would it be?

In your experience, is that correct?

Does that ring true for you?

What do you need to get more out of this?

So what else is coming up?

If you had more time, what would the answer be?

If you knew the answer, what would it look like?

What is the biggest problem with the world?

What is the biggest issue with the world?

Facilitators are able to hold the space in tension to understand. They don’t try to fill the silence. They are able to capture conversations, check people’s understanding and expose all opinions. Learning questioning techniques will increase your mastery of this mode.

Here is a Facilitation checklist for you to help build your skills in this mode ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have an arsenal of questions?

Are you an active listener?

Can you “hold the space” in the tension?

Can you continually ask questions rather than try and find solutions to the discussions?

When you master this facilitation mode you will become a more powerful and engaging presenter. This skill can assist you when you have a tough audience, when you need to change the environment and when you are helping a client find a solution.

Do Influencing and Negotiation Skills Compliment Each Other?

Often when we think of negotiating and influencing, what comes to mind is the slick car salesman who is churning out every trick in the book to sell you a mediocre yet overpriced car. As much as we realize that we may be being taken for a ride, the passionate spins of the salesman can be very persuasive. But is there more to negotiating and influencing than just charisma and rhetoric? The answer is a resounding YES! Understanding basic human psychology is essential to this and in this article we are going to look at some key distinctions and advantages of differentiating between influencing and negotiating.

Negotiating Skills

Negotiating begins with listening to the needs of your listener. Often the temptation for the negotiator is to speak before he or she can listen but this results in missing out on hearing the important needs of the customer or client. The negotiator cannot make an intelligent offer without first knowing the expectations of the other party. This makes for effective negotiating. This of course entails that all the parties involved must make a conscious effort to see things from the other party’s perspective. This of course begins with establishing trust. Coming to an agreement that is mutual is hard if either party is wary of the other. This entails knowing when to make concessions or compromise. Body language also plays an important part in communicating openness and establishing mutual respect and trust. When it comes to negotiating, it is also crucially important to establish common ground – areas where multiple parties do see eye to eye. It is easier to work through areas of differences knowing that the parties involved start from a mutual place of agreement. Negotiation skills is something that can be honed effectively with awareness and sensitivity.

Influencing Skills

Influencing begins by developing a reasoned line of argument that is backed by logic and rationale. In this situation people need to be moved more by facts and practical benefits than by emotional or rhetorical sentiments. This also involves tactfully disagreeing with people’s views without making them feel defensive or judged. This could entail carefully showing flaws in the other person’s views while highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of your own position. This also entails using positive language but also emphasizing the positive aspects of one’s arguments. Influencing is just as much about getting one’s agenda across in a calm and persuasive manner as much as it is about the cold hard facts of the argument itself. When making one’s case it is important to positive arguments in a calm and assertive manner than simply disagreeing or asserting one’s perspectives over and above those of your opinions.

Negotiation Skills Training is an important aspect of equipping employees with the right tools and skills to be persuasive influencers, in promoting the services or products offered by the company. The better employees are at helping people to see from their perspectives and buy their agenda, the more successful they are likely to be in completing a service or transaction.

How to Give an Awesome Business Presentation!

Few of us have been fortunate; most of us have been victims of “death by PowerPoint”. Long, technically heavy, dry & business serious presentations has taken off ever since 1997 when it really took off with significant changes in Microsoft PowerPoint 97 and became widely available. Lots of people have presumed that business related presentation has to be content heavy and dry to display knowledge and seriousness. This often leaves the audience in a semi-catatonic state of mind, not listening or following, often resulting in the audience eager to make a run for the exit! This post is going to discuss some key ideas to keep in mind when you are presenting a new product, business proposal, research finding or sales pitch. It’s going to engage your audience, communicate your message and make you look good! We’re also going to have a look at some examples to see what mistakes not to make!

We’re going to break this down into key points:

Your presentation objectives.
Information; research, collecting & organising.
Aesthetics; theme, font & color.
Layout; slides, content & multimedia.
Supplementary materials; hand outs, pamphlets & notes.


What are the objectives & parameters of your presentation?

Whether it be team meetings, annual meetings, sales, consulting or new product overview your presentation objectives need to be clearly defined. Presentations should be tailored to your target audience. For what purpose are they here and what information are they seeking? This is the very first step in building an enjoyable, engaging and most importantly informative presentation.

You must be aware of the parameters for the presentations such as how broad or specific the topic needs to be and other factors such as time, size of audience and characteristics of your audience i.e. mums and dads, shareholders, executives, team colleagues, department colleagues or customers.


The type of information research, gathering and organising will largely depend on your presentation objectives and audience needs.

This is the stage where all the information required to make your presentation informative to the audience and in line with your objectives are collected and analysed. Organising the information is not vital yet, that will be required in the Layout stage of presentation building.

Research and collect any data that is relevant to your topic the visual layout of the data itself will be handled later. To emphasize it is extremely important to collect all relevant information, ensure their accuracy and be thorough.


Here is where we begin looking at the aesthetics of the slides; themes, color, font type & font size. I highly recommend not using fancy font, repetitive bold, italics, underlining or strike through. This complicates and reduces the readability and impact of the content itself. Don’t change font types in each slide and keep font size consistent i.e. headings, key points and sub points. Font color should also remain consistent throughout the slides, color can be used but sparingly and for emphasis. Other visual cues including fade away and sound effects should never ever ever be used! The only visual cue that can work effectively is content pop-up. This is where the slide appears with the heading only and as you list key points in your talk you can use the remote to make those dot points appear on the slide, no sound effects, fade-in or “fly” in, just appear.

Aesthetics are an important factor to consider in presentations, however content and its understandability always take priority. In saying that, good aesthetics should not be noticed since it is supplementing the material at hand.


How are you going to present your data, findings, product, performance or sales pitch?

These dynamics will determine the way you layout the information. It’s important to keep in mind that even the slides are supplementary to your talk. Slides should not have significant meaning or useability without you. So what does this actually mean? It means that the content on the slides are kept to the essentials. Presenters in the past have a plethora amount of information and data causing information overload in each slide. This creates a difficulty for the audience in processing, reading, understanding and building questions for you in Q & A time. Presenters who overload slides with information need to trim the “fat”. “Fat” here is the less significant but relevant data for the topic at hand i.e. there is an internal meeting on stock A performance and volatility. Instead of showing daily prices over the past 12 months which 1) shows price trend 2) shows price volatility, why not compress the data points to weekly or monthly price points with candlesticks (more on that here)

Some sub topics in presentations are technical heavy. And whether you your audience is there for the technical content should have been decided in the objectives section. If it was no then cut out whatever “fat” possible from the slides. If it was a yes then spread the technical information over a number of slides by breaking the information into more consumable pieces or do some creative thinking in presentation method e.g. cluster histograms, line or distribution charts.

Layouts for chart organisations and processes should be kept as concise as possible. As a rule of thumb keep one process to one slide to maximum of two highly related or integrated processes. This will keep keep the readability and focus high for the audience and will simplify your discussion points for the slide. If it is a highly complex and long process or chart, again, break it down. Start with a simplified bird’s eye view and then zero in on certain sections in subsequent slides.

Keep word counts to a minimum, use short and direct sentences. You can use your verbal material to expand and clarify any points you need. Where possible and appropriate use imagery that is in line with your discussion point, i.e. main qualitative KPI (Key Performance Indicator) maybe be team work, then use a sporting team image or it may be strengthening business relations with customers/vendors then an image of a handshake could be utilised. The utilisation of images is to provide visual stimulation and evoke curiosity amongst your audience. Your verbal material will be supplemented by the visuals.

If you are still having issues with the layout try story boarding, it will effectively help you plan the “story”and how you’re going to tell it to the audience. I will post about story boarding specifics in a separate post at a later date, alternatively you can email me at terence.tam1 @ gmail. com and request it early!

Supplementary materials

Since the slides are kept to essentials and some slides may not even have content but images only, it is and should be pointless to provide slide handouts. Instead provide supplementary materials to your audience that are relevant to the slides. These materials can range from complete company financial statements, product brochures, advertisement concepts, departmental KPI criteria report, sales performance or single page mission statements.

An audience take-away document can be made and handed-out after the presentation for those who want to review or pass on the keynotes. These types of material can be thorough since the audience do not have a time constraint to review the material.

If possible it is always useful in making auditory recordings of your presentation prior or during the actual presentation itself. This will allow the take-away supplementary material to compliment to the recordings and vice versa. I recommend making auditory pre-recordings of your presentation because it is more technically manageable with a time buffer to make edits and are readily available to distribute to the audience at the end via email or CD.

Remember, the slides are there to supplement your talk. So keep the slides to the essentials and use imagery where possible & appropriate to keep the audience visually engaged. Announce that supplementary materials will be provided and extensive materials handed out at the end. This will stop the audience from frantically taking notes down and falling behind with your presentation.