Have you ever watched someone give a presentation and thought that they made it look easy? Believe it or not, they were probably shaking in their knickers a few minutes before they stepped upon the platform. Accept the fact that you may be nervous and move on to the more important things, such as turning an idea into a stellar speech.
No pressure … but, giving a presentation before a live audience is a big deal. People are giving you their most valued resource: Their time. So everyone — you, the audience and the event coordinator — all want you to be a success.
There is an art to presenting any type of information. Begin with a few tips and move on from there. The hope is that the following information will get you moving in a positive direction from your first presentation forward.
1. Take it slow:
People have a tendency to speed up their speech when they get nervous or are afraid that they will forget something. And some of us talk fast when we’re excited to share some cool information. However, speaking more slowly is good for you and your audience. Slowing your speech slows your heart rate and it gives the audience a chance to hear you and process your information.
2. Tell a story:
It used to be that introducing yourself was the first thing you said in a presentation. Today, people want to be entertained. They search for relevancy from the beginning, so give it to them. Open your speech with something strong that engages them and gives them a clue as to what you will be talking about. If you can couch this information within a story, you’ll be even better off.
3. Choose a topic and stick with it:
There is nothing worse than losing your audience on some tangent. Stick to a clear and concise topic throughout the presentation. And don’t let audience members lead you on a tangent, either. If an off-topic question comes up, either let that person know you’ll cover that in another part of your presentation (if that’s the case) or tell them you’ll speak to them after the speech if they’ll come up to you.
4. Include the audience:
Don’t talk “at” them; talk “with” them. Make the audience feel like they are a part of the presentation. It prevents boredom and snoozing. There are many ways to do this, which goes beyond the scope of this post.
5. Use relevant visuals:
Visual aids are fun but can be distracting when they have nothing whatsoever to do with your topic. Stay focused. And don’t make your visuals too busy, either. They are called visual aids for a reason.
6. Get set up ahead of time:
Don’t wait until the last moment to make sure that your laptop sound is working with the speakers in the room. Or that you have the correct cords and adapters. Murphy’s Law says that it probably won’t since you didn’t check it beforehand. And, if you check this stuff out in advance, you’ll have more time to come up with a backup plan if something goes wrong.
7. Make eye contact:
For some, making eye contact with a few people in the room helps to quell the nerves. For others, it can make them more nervous. Regardless, you need to give the audience the perception that you are making eye contact. If you can’t actually look into someone’s eyes while on the platform, look in their general direction or at their forehead.
8. Use as few slides as possible:
If you are using slides, tailor the background to the lighting in the room (for example, a dark background and white lettering in low light). Keep the wording to a minimum. See tip #5 above.
9. Become transparent:
Audiences like presenters who are real. Using big, fancy words, just because you can, only makes you seem arrogant. Stay on their level, speak their language, and they will keep listening.
10. Show enthusiasm:
When you are excited about your topic, your audience will be as well. The Power of Passion is probably the number once public speaking superpower!
Maybe you already implement these 10 tips and maybe you don’t. Try to add at least one new piece of advice with each subsequent presentation you do. In that way, you’ll be able to continuously improve.