This week I attended an Effective Business Presentations Skills workshop from Mandel Communications, a two-day session that is heavy on the practice of the guidance they provide. I came home with a DVD of six or seven sessions in which I practiced the skills discussed. It is interesting to see the improvement from the introductory video through the final videos. Along with that, I have a plan of action for practicing and improving the skill I've learned. Two of my big items: stop closing my eyes in thought (it was really noticeable); allow my arms to move, rather than clasping my hands.
The course focused on two aspects of the presentation: delivery and content. Interestingly, the specific advice they offer isn't anything more than you would find on reading books or websites on the topic: speak slowly, stand erect, make extended eye contact with your audience, use your arms and voice to emphasize points, don't kill them with PowerPoint, etc. etc. That said, there were a number of "that's interesting" moments or elements of advice that ran counter to what I had heard before. I even learned some mechanical things about using PowerPoint that I didn't know before.
What they do offer, and where they bring value, is in the practice of the skills. On the delivery side, you get to practice aspects of composure: posture, eye contact, pausing. You get to practice expressing your energy: gestures, vocal & facial animation, movement.
And there is plenty of practice designing and delivering the content* of the presentation. They provide a blueprint for designing a presentation that helps you walk through the familiar aspects: who is your audience, what is their goal, what is your goal, how will you open, what are the key points and sub-points, what is the closing, what elements of color can you add. Given that our class was smaller, there could have been more time spent on creating visual aids (white board, slides, or anything else that helps emphasize the point) and making them most effective.
* By the way, presentation content is not the same as your visual aids. Too many times have I gone to a presentation where the PowerPoint IS the content, the presenter is merely a person who can read the material to the audience. The presenter's job should be to bring value to the presentation - the visual aids are there when the presenter needs some assistance.