Observe Presentation Ethics and Etiquette

Adapted excerpt from “Secrets of Successful Public Speaking: How to Become a Great Speaker” by M.S. Rao, Ph.D.

“Don’t reserve your best behavior for special occasions. You can’t have two sets of manners, two social codes―one for those you admire and want to impress, another for those whom you consider unimportant. You must be the same to all people.” ―Lillian Eichler Watson

As a public speaker and presenter, you must observe ethics and etiquette to stand out as a professional. Observing ethics builds your credibility and adopting etiquette enhances your professionalism. Here are some ethics and etiquette you should observe during your presentation:

  • Be early to the venue as this creates a good impression and helps you prioritize your tasks.
  • Maintain proper dress code. Wear professional clothes, preferably business formal.
  • Keep your cell phone in silent mode.
  • Thank the host for giving you the opportunity to speak and greet your audience. Greet the dignitaries and other special attendees.
  • Demonstrate the right attitude and aptitude. Present positive body language. Maintain adequate eye contact with your audience.
  • Express your ideas, insights, and factsnot your opinions.
  • Don’t sound harsh and rough. Keep your voice soft but strong. To improve your voice, video record and take feedback.
  • Avoid pointing the figure at your audience as it signals negative body language.
  • Avoid apologizing often for any lapses.
  • Use a laser pointer when you refer to a specific portion on the slides to draw the attention of your audience. Put it down when you don’t use it.
  • When you don’t know the answer to a question, admit honestly that you don’t know it. Don’t justify the reasons for not knowing the answer.  
  • Don’t criticize organizers for any lapses. Don’t forget that you are there because of them.
  • Don’t offend your audience members. They invested their time, money, and energy to listen to your presentation.
  • Avoid cracking jokes directed at audience members. Have respect for all individuals and communities. A presentation is not a forum to thrust your personal opinions on others and settle your personal scores. Don’t attack your competitors in public places as it presents you in a poor light.
  • Handle critics carefully and hecklers assertively. Be professional while handling them. Don’t lower your dignity by attacking hecklers or critics. Apply soft skills to handle hecklers and a hostile audience.
  • Avoid discussing your professional fees and commercials involved in delivering your presentation.
  • Don’t present the wrong statistical and research findings. When in doubt, avoid referring to them. If you still want to refer unverified information, use the word, “perhaps.”
  • Avoid using other speakers’ content without their permission. Be original and natural in content and delivery.
  • Trust is the currency for any speaker. Hence, build trust and transparency to grow as a professional speaker.
  • At the end of the presentation, thank the audience for their presence and time and thank the organizer or host for giving you the opportunity.
  • Ask for feedback at the end of each presentation to improve yourself.

Manage Your Time Slot

The time slot allotted to deliver your presentation is a contract between you and your audience. You must know how to complete your presentation within the given time and honor it without encroaching into others’ programs and activities. At times, the audience might stretch your session by asking more questions. You must be very careful to stick to your presentation schedule to avoid upsetting the organizers’ other programs. It is a tough task, but you must manage it successfully.

Have a clock or timekeeper. Ask someone to remind you. If time is running out, move directly to your conclusion by emphasizing core ideas and insights. Remember that live presentation usually takes 20 percent longer than the rehearsal time. Your presentation time should includes your presentation and the Q&A session.

Don’t allow any audience member to hijack your presentation. Don’t allow the same questioner to ask you questions repeatedly. Encourage other audience members to offer their queries. Allow more members to participate actively in your presentation to make it effective and successful.

Lessons Learned

“Ethics is the maintaining of life at the highest point of development.” ―Albert Schweitzer

Professional presenters and speakers make mistakes. However, they learn lessons from their mistakes to improve and grow. Hopefully, adopting the ethics and etiquette noted above during your presentation will help you grow as a distinguished speaker and orator.

Abraham Lincoln once remarked, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” So deliver your best without craving attention and recognition. Remember, work for satisfaction, not for recognition. If you earn recognition, treat it as a by-product. To conclude, avoid biases and stereotypes. Always provide honest information. And show respect for your audience and host to stand out as a professional speaker.

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” ―Albert Einstein

Adapted excerpt from “Secrets of Successful Public Speaking: How to Become a Great Speaker” by M.S. Rao, Ph.D. For more information, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Successful-Public-Speaking-Speaker/dp/1628656107

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.is the father of “Soft Leadership” and founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an international leadership guru with 38 years of experience and the author of more than 45 books, including “21 Success Sutras for CEOs” (http://www.amazon.com/21-Success-Sutras-Ceos-Rao/dp/162865290X). He is a C-suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. His vision is to develop 1 million students as global leaders by 2030 (http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.in/2014/12/professor-m-s-raos-vision-2030-one_31.html). He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe) and was honored as an upcoming International Leadership Guru by Global Gurus (http://globalgurus.org/upcoming-leadership-gurus). He developed teaching tool Meka’s Method; leadership training tool 11E Leadership Grid; and leadership learning tool Soft Leadership Grid. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs, including http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com. He can be reached at: msrlctrg@gmail.com.