If you are making an important presentation at work or school, nerves can be overwhelming. There are special presentation training courses you can go on to help with your skills, but it’s amazing how much you can do on your own, too!
It’s All in the Audience
What is the most important aspect of your presentation?
When writing and preparing your presentation, don’t get carried away with the things you want to say. You are probably very knowledgeable about whatever topic you are presenting on, and have a lot to fit in, but remember you are speaking to an audience, so your main aim is to present your ideas at the right level for them and to keep them interested.
Anything that isn’t completely relevant cut it out!
Anything which might sound a bit too complicated, lose it!
Practise Makes Perfect
This might seem obvious, but it’s incredible how many people still don’t practise their presentations properly before the big day. The best advice I can give is to:
- Practise in front of the mirror, to yourself. Do this a few times until you are really familiar with the content and have ironed out any problems that you come across as you go through.
- Record yourself and listen back. Are you speaking clearly? Are you speaking slowly enough? Do you sound confident? Hearing yourself in this way can give you key clues as to how you can improve your skills without involving anyone else.
- Get a friend or family member to listen to the presentation. Ask them to make a note of places they lose interest, places they don’t understand what you mean, or anywhere it dips. An outsider perspective is really important.
Slides and Props
Image: Hector Alejandro
It is great to integrate a slide show into your presentation. By all means use PowerPoint and add some colour and life to your presentation BUT do remember the following to be sure you are successful…
- Don’t cram too much information onto each slide. Use a large font, and bullet points so that your audience will realistically have a chance of reading it. Watch your colours too, a cream background and dark text is always a good idea. Some colour combinations make text difficult to see.
- By all means, use attractive graphs and images. Don’t, though, use unnecessary graphics that are either distracting or irrelevant. You don’t want people to be focusing on a moving graphic instead of listening to what you are saying.
Short and Simple
Split your presentation up into small sections and create a slide for each. Each section should have a central theme and lead smoothly into the next. Keep sentences short too, rambling can lose your audience’s attention. Make your points as concise and simple as possible. As Einstein once said…
‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’
Calm and Confident
Even if you are feeling really nervous, your audience have no idea of this. When it comes to the presentation, remember all the hard work you have put into practising.
Stand at the front, make eye contact with your audience and take a couple of breaths before you begin. This will ensure that you have everyone’s attention. Between each slide, also take a couple of breaths, pausing is good, and gives your audience time to digest what you have just said. Have an open stance, don’t fold your arms, and remember to smile.
And there you have it – hopefully your presentation will go smoothly and successfully.
If you have recently gone through a tough presentation, what best helped you to cope with it?
James Duval is an enthusiastic I.T specialist, with a history in HR. He is a prolific writer and has a strong interest in business. He currently blogs for Vine House.