Polish Your Presentations

Most safety directors and other leaders with safety responsibilities must give presentations of one form or another from time to time. From speeches at staff meetings to discussions about a successful program they have implemented at a professional conference, the ability to present one’s knowledge to others can be an important skill for today’s safety professionals.

Any improvement in your presentations will make you more effective in selling safety to those who need to understand it most. The following six suggestions will help you communicate better.

1. Be Realistic About Your Knowledge

Stick to areas of your expertise, or when put into a position to present on an area in which you do not feel competent, find a qualified associate who can assist with the presentation.    Another way to present on a topic out of your body of knowledge is to research the topic and properly cite the work of viable experts. Be honest with the audience, and they will respect your work to research and present the findings of authorities in the field.

2. Know Your Audience

Whether addressing the school board to seek additional funding, training internal staff or presenting at a national conference, matching your presentation to the audience is crucial to a good presentation.

For example, when presenting to a school board to implement a new safety initiative, you might mention the reduction in civil liability because you know that is a concern for the board president. Discussing long-term cost savings might help you gain the support of a businessman on the board who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility. Most presentations need to be multifaceted to have the most effect.

3. Have Backup

Audio-visual aids can be a powerful enhancement as long as the presenter is competent with them and is prepared to use an alternate presentation method if the tool fails. If using an LCD projector, be sure to have a printed copy of every slide close at hand in case the bulb blows in the last 10 minutes of the presentation. Don’t be overly reliant upon audio-visual tools for your presentation. Be sure you can still talk about the issues at hand in an interesting manner.

4. Practice Your Delivery

We get much of our information from nonverbal cues, tone of voice and other means of communication besides the spoken word. Practice presentations in a mirror, watching yourself as you present. A key to a good presentation can be keeping the body in almost constant motion. While presentation styles are best when the speaker is comfortable with them, moving hands and the body can go a long way to keeping people focused on what you are saying. Alternating the voice tones is also helpful.

5. Learn From Other Speakers

You can learn a lot by watching a skilled presenter and even more by watching a bad one. Every time you are forced to sit through a presentation that makes you fight to remain awake, try to figure out what they are doing wrong and make a commitment to never do that to others yourself.

6. Plenty of Help Is Available

The preceding tips can go a long way to help communicate your important knowledge to others. If you must regularly make presentations, consider reading books, listening to audio programs and watching videos on public speaking. Another excellent resource is membership in your local toastmaster’s organization. Whatever your situation, learning to effectively impart your valuable knowledge to others can improve your ability to make a difference on your campus.

An internationally recognized authority on campus safety and the author of 19 books on the topic, Michael Dorn is the senior public safety and emergency management analyst for Jane’s Consultancy. Dorn, a member of the Campus Safety Advisory Council, works with a team of campus safety experts to make campuses safer around the globe through Jane’s offices in nine countries. He can be reached atschoolsafety@janes.com.

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the September/October 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

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About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at mike@weakfish.org. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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