Some of us are natural born presenters, and when we stand up and take the mic, everyone knows to be silence. This is our time, and the audience listen, because they are confident that what is about to come is going to be the words that inspire a nation, inspire a generation, or help to start a revolution.
Perhaps, as opposed to being like Mr Motivator, we are more like Mr Bean when we take the stage. For us, being asked to say a few words at a wedding is our idea of hell — slowly turning into a 2002 Marshal Mathers, ‘knees weak, arms heavy’.
Standing up in front of a group of people and speaking doesn’t come naturally to most, but we are here to help. Here are your top ten tips to help you deliver the perfect presentation, without hearing the tumbleweed blow past.
Imagine you’re robbing a bank, you aren’t going to take the time to introduce yourself, you need to grab the attention of the teller and get out of there. A presentation is no different, get in, and with a piranha-like bite, you attack, ensuring your audience hones in. Often you are going to be using a digital presentation that will include your topic title, and they will already know your name. ‘Different’, in this circumstance, is detrimental.
It may seem like a given, but the major failings of most speeches are that the audience simply cannot understand it. The best speeches in the history of time were delivered succinctly and weren’t overflowing with jargon. The biggest mistake one can make is to overcomplicate the language used — it doesn’t simply confuse the listener, but it will more than likely cause you to trip up as well.
As much as we might not like to accept it, no one in life owes us anything — it is up to us to earn their attention. We cannot expect to warrant someone’s appreciation straight off the bat, simply because of who we are. They are going to give up their precious time to listen to us, but why should they? Tell them of your experience in the area, and reason why you are the one standing up to make the presentation as opposed to them.
If you are expecting your audience to pay attention to you, you need to pay attention to them. That said, learn your presentation, or at the very least, the basic structure beforehand. Yes, off-the-cuff might work for one in a thousand, but no one wants to listen to someone stumble their way through their presentation with Mr Blobby-like co-ordination. Rehearsing a handful of times in front of family, friends, or even the mirror, will give you the confidence to act upon their reactions, as opposed to aimlessly talking to a screen.
No one is here to suggest that a slide of a PowerPoint should take an hour, but if you try and rush through the first slide, by the second you will have lost all your audience in transit. Take a step back when you are initially planning your presentation: work out exactly how many ideas you wish to propose and assign an appropriate amount of time to each. Similarly, breathing can be incredibly under-rated — don’t starve yourself of oxygen.
No one wants to walk out after a presentation and think, ‘well there goes half an hour of my life I’m never going to get back’. Therefore, add at least the tiniest portion of emotion. You don’t have to put in a performance deserving of an Oscar but showing your audience you are interested in what you’re speaking about is essential —if you don’t care, how can you expect them to? Obviously, we won’t always be tasked with speaking about a topic we would die for, but by racking your brain and coming up with why it’s important to you, you’ve certainly made a start.
Gauge your audience
Not many of us would have the same conversation with our mother and grandmother as we would do in the pub on a Saturday afternoon after football. The reason we don’t is because we can successfully take heed of our audience — and a presentation is no different. Jokes are often inappropriate in a presentation, but if you’re going to use them, at least make sure they are going to be understood.
Using pictures and diagrams throughout your presentation can be a fantastic method of grabbing attention, as an overload of text can often prove to be challenging to divulge, particularly if it’s a large group. However, if you are going to go down the road of using images, make sure that they can be easily seen and interpreted. The sheer quality of a picture can act as a make or break for the entire success of your presentation.
Tell a story
This is something that many people will struggle to do — it requires a lot of creativity. Rather than telling jokes, this can be the perfect way to get your audience laughing, and for that, they will remember you. Your story can be whatever you want because it’s your story. Make the detail as extravagant as you like, just be confident that the content of the story relates to the purpose of your presentation.
What the audience will hear at the end is the first thing they are going to remember afterwards. It is no surprise that the cliché of ‘going out with a bang’ has stuck around for so long — because if we don’t, we’ll be forgotten in a flash.
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