Speaking to the public in a structured way is not an easy task. Being able to convey the message in an understandable and well-accepted manner is even harder. Leave alone how difficult it is to give a really impressive presentation to make your audience fascinated and moved.
IS IT NECESSARY to know how to run a presentation?
You bet! Small kids start presenting to their schoolmates since kindergarten. Elder children undertake projects that often include a presentation of the topic they have worked on. Students are supposed to be ready to sustain their arguments or present their thesis through a formally planned presentation session. And professionals, well, they cannot avoid running presentations in small or larger groups; it’s part of their daily routine (and performance evaluation, sometimes).
IS IT POSSIBLE to be able to make a really good presentation?
Absolutely! It’s neither charisma nor an inherited advantage. It’s simply consistent practice. And disciplined following of specific rules. Let’s call them “tips” to make it sound friendlier and more contemporary.
None was born knowing in advance how to deliver a stunning presentation. It is something one can learn though! There are practical tips to help you deliver an outstanding presentation and, moreover, enjoy the preparation time you’ll spend on it! After all, why bother if not for a fulfilling experience?
THE 24 (basic) TIPS FOR A REMARKABLE PRESENTATION
1. First of all, know your subject! If not, study, ask, search. Do all the prep work you need until you feel comfortable with it. Do not learn things by heart. Obtain a deep understanding of all aspects of your topic and be able to discuss it informally. Only then can you present it in a convincing way.
2. Identify with your audience. Get to know, in advance, as much about who will attend your presentation as possible. Ask the event organizers if you have no other access to such information. And try to make your content as relevant as possible. You are there for them not for you!
3. Make a couple of rehearsals, BUT do not push yourself to use the same wording every time (“by heart” approach does not help). If you know your subject you’ll find the appropriate word the moment you need it.
4. Do have a straightforward structure in mind (how you start, how you proceed, how you conclude). Keep some key-words in mind to help you “draft” a full picture of your presentation. Visuals might also be helpful if you are this kind of person. Make a one-page drawing to include all your main points in a self-explanatory order.
5. Be calm and confident during your presentation, but also before. If you are well prepared there is no reason to feel anxious.
6. Do smile to your audience. They are more likely to listen to a happy person than a stressful arrogant presenter.
7. Try to avoid “trap” words repeated every now and then (like “well”, “so” etc). You have a wide vocabulary, use it!
8. Do not stand still all the time, do not walk all the time. Do not turn your back to your audience. Walk smoothly and make some “stops” when you want to emphasize something important.
9. Look your audience straight into their eyes. Scan the room like a radar. Do not look toward the same people all the time. It’s tiring (for you) but it builds a connection with your audience.
10. Use your body, your hands, and your posture to express what you say, to support your arguments. You’re not an actor, but you’re not a robot, as well.
11. Use your tone of voice for the same reason. “Flat” presentations are boring.
12. Pause every now and then for a couple of seconds. This helps your audience to better comprehend your messages. It also helps you to prepare your next statement and take a breath.
13. Don’t be in a hurry; don’t be too slow. Find a balance in between. People should be able/willing to follow.
14. Also, find a balance between general statements and examples/cases. Not all people are able to realize general frames and patterns at once. Many get a better idea of what you are talking about if you provide concrete cases and details.
15. If you are using a PowerPoint type of presentation, apply bullet points on your ppt, not full paragraphs. You want people to listen to you, not strive to read your long-sentenced analysis.
16. Use photos and colors in your ppt. Make it “attractive” and comprehensible.
17. Say a couple of (not “freezing”) jokes, especially in the beginning to “break the ice”.
18. Make questions to your audience; you don’t necessarily expect a reply, but it’s always good to give an interactivity tone.
19. Do not forget to thank the organizers at the beginning of your speech and your audience at the end, of course.
20. Finish with your contact details in case people want to find (about) you later on. You can have a slide with name, email etc.
21. In case something bad (and unexpected) happens (lights off, ppt does not work etc), do not panic. Continue your presentation like nothing serious has happened. Again, if you know your subject you’ll have no issue at all. Let the technicians handle technical issues.
22. In case someone interrupts you, ask him gently but firmly to submit his question/comment after you finish your presentation. You are the master of the game.
23. Never ever finish without a sum-up and a conclusion. Think of what you want people to take away with them after leaving the room. Give that to them at the end of your speech. A simple and concrete message to carry with them. They won’t be able to remember everything they heard, anyway.
24. Last but not least, remember that a successful presentation assumes a well-built communication relationship with your audience. Although it’s practically a monologue, make it feel like a charming dialogue. There are plenty of smart tools to help you do so.
Giving a presentation is like driving a car: the more you practice, the better you become.
I’ve given hundreds of presentations and I still feel this little anxiety before I utter my first couple of words. I’ve done nearly all of the “mistakes” I mention above (and advise you to avoid) and I still do some from time to time (especially when I’m all “IN” my topic). And although I consider myself an experienced presenter, I do spend quite some time preparing. For two reasons: a. It makes me feel more confident, b. as a sign of respect toward those who will be there to listen to me.
You might enjoy the extroversion of a public presentation, you might not. Whatever your natural tendency, I am strongly supporting that YOU CAN DO IT … in case you have to. Just follow the (basic) “tips”. You will – at least – do it better next time!
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