Giving presentations is an expected part of the internal auditor’s job description. But the presentation skills that you were likely taught in high school and college in no way prepared you for the reality of delivering reports in front of boards and audit committees. The ability to masterfully craft and execute a message — even when it’s “just reporting” findings — is one that many aspire to have, but few take the time to actively practice.

This article is your crash-course in small group presentations and gives you two key areas to consider: (1) nonverbal barriers, and (2) effective small group delivery.

Note: In last month’s article I discussed ways to make sure that your visual aids and presentation decks don’t miss the mark. Be sure to give that a read if you haven’t already, as it will work in tandem with the two key areas in this article.

Nonverbal Barriers

The goal in any communicative episode is to transmit information and, often in business, persuade those in the audience to believe your report and/or act on it. In order to be maximally effective, you need to remove any hurdles to trust that may be in your way. Nonverbal barriers are those things that interfere with the message or the perception of the person giving the message.

When we hear the phrase “you need to give a presentation” many of us picture standing in front of a conference room, accompanied by a PowerPoint deck of some sort, with people sitting around a table looking at us while we present.

If that is indeed the scenario that you’re presenting in, standing is likely the last thing you should be doing.

That’s right. If the group is 12 people or less (sometimes even 20 or less, depending on the room set-up) and you’re able to see everyone from your seat, don’t stand and give a presentation. Instead, present from your seat.

When you stand up in a small group, you create a nonverbal barrier between you and your audience. The act of standing and presenting in front of a room creates a power distance. Especially when you need the buy-in of the people in the room to act on or execute your report, the last thing you want to do is place this nonverbal barrier between you and those you’re trying to influence.

The same goes for presenting behind a podium. It’s often subconscious, but we are less trusting of people who posture behind a podium than we are those who move around it, face us with their full bodies, and eradicate the barrier.

Before any presentation, survey your environment. How can you get rid of any nonverbal barriers present, so you can be the most impactful presenter possible? How can you remove barriers that will make those in the room feel comfortable and receptive to your message? Using the tips above, combined with those below on small group delivery skills, you’ll be well on your way to presentation success.

{tweetme}Consider these presentation tips when you're presenting to the audit committee or board next time. #audit #internalaudit{/tweetme}

Small Group Delivery

Ever been in a situation where you were listening to a presenter in a small room, and your neck hurt from having to look up at him or her while you were sitting in a chair at a conference table? How uncomfortable!

Unfortunately, this is all too common. After reading the section above you know how to change that for the better. So how else can you make your presentation more impactful? By understanding expectations and inclusion strategies.

Before any presentation, it’s important to set expectations. If you’re uncomfortable about sitting to give a presentation, for example, but now know it’s the right thing to do, you can set the expectation by saying something like, “We’re all colleagues here and you don’t need me to stand and lecture; instead, let’s sit down and I’ll reveal the relevant and necessary information and we’ll have a conversation,”

Can you imagine the difference in tone and environment that will yield?

Similarly, setting expectations for interaction and collaboration is also important. When will you handle questions? How will you interact with others? What do you want your audience to take away from the presentation? What are the goals?

All of these things should be set as expectations up front. Even if you’ve done similar meetings and presentations before, don’t assume that everyone is on the same page. You know what they say happens when you ass-u-me…

Inclusion in a small group delivery setting involves making everyone at the table feel like they are part of the process. Setting expectations and getting buy-in on those expectations — especially on the goals of the meeting — is a big step towards inclusivity.

Another strategy for inclusion involves letting others put data into perspective. Let’s say, for example, that you have a finding to report and that you really need to get those in the room to take action. Giving them a chance to suggest actions and contextualize any findings from their perspective will help them feel a part of the process and will bring other viewpoints to the table. People support what they help create, and by including them in the presentation they are more likely to follow-through on action.

Finally, give those in the room a chance to summarize what they heard for everyone else. This ensures that you’re checking for mutual understanding so that everyone is on the same page. This is also a great time to allow everyone in the room who will have follow-up actions to state them to the group as a while, aiding in accountability and driving action.

Looking to learn more about this topic and others? Join MISTI and Jill at the SuperStrategies Conference & Expo where the communication expert will be conducting a workshop and hosting a session.