It can be daunting to give a presentation or speech. But when it goes well, you can get a real sense of achievement and contentment. So, giving it your very best shot makes sense.
It is a complex beast though – you want to engage with a wide group on all levels, you want to captivate the whole room, to be able to hold the attention of your listeners for the whole presentation and you want to be able to put your topic across in a way that you feel you have done it justice. The good news is, that there are some simple things you can focus on in order to make that happen.
I know that there is a lot of advice out there, so I have picked out the bits that I feel are really important to think about – and the things that really help me when I gear up for a presentation.
Very few of us can get away with ‘winging it’ – the brain tends to seize up when we’re nervous and everything we thought we could say eloquently and with gusto tend to exit the mind. So, I would say my biggest tip for making sure you give yourself the best chance of a strong delivery is preparation and practice.
It’s the little things that need practice – if you’re using cards or looking to keep up with a PowerPoint behind you it’s the links between slides and the filler words as you move between cards which make a good presentation into a slick and excellent one.
A few examples of link phrases / words:
- Let’s look at that in more detail…
- To illustrate that point further…
- And with that in mind…
- To recap
- What do I mean by that…
- I’d love to hear if you agree with that point…
- I think it’s important to note that…
- So as we move through the presentation…
Practice the pauses and link phrases – use silence well. You are in control of your tone and speed so if you feel yourself speeding up or losing track, use silence and pauses to help you get back in the swing of it.
I think a way to help you to use silence is the let your brain work first before your mouth does. Just be mindful of what you’re going to say next. Slowing things down will help you to do this.
The Story Teller
The most engaging speakers that I have listened to have good stories to interject with and punctuate their speech. They show genuine enthusiasm and passion for the topic.
Think of yourself as an audience member – what would keep you engaged?
Speak with passion. If you’re truly invested in what you’re saying, you’ll find you will be able to keep your audience’s attention. Even though your heart may be racing and your hands sweaty – try and make eye contact with your audience as often as possible.
Remember to smile 😊
There is so much content out there on body language – I’d say that spending some time looking into the topic of body language would be a sensible part of preparing for any presentation. Your body language tells a story – what on earth do we do with our hands and feet, how should we hold our body weight, and do I walk around or stand totally still?
And then with all that swimming in your head, you’ve thought about it so much that you’ve forgotten what you were going to say. So again, practice!
Find a stance that you feel comfortable with and practice holding the PowerPoint clicker or your prompt cards or a glass of water. What makes you feel most powerful? You could video yourself and watch it back – see how your come across. Put this effort in for a few presentations and it will give you tips for all other speeches and you will find your own style that works.
Hand gestures during presentations are another interesting area where plenty of research has been carried out – ultimately the best presenters use their hands as a key part of their engagement toolkit.
Research other presentations – attend a few, pay attention to what they do / don’t do. Be open to self-improvement.
This TED Talks is excellent and well worth a watch – we recommend it highly.
In terms of content, I think the overarching rule is to try and keep things are simple as possible – and if the topic is more complex then the messaging needs to be concise. Remembering that the audience members will take things in at different rates and from different styles. The simpler the better will give you the chance to achieve maximum engagement. #
I think there is a lot to be said about realising that no one who has come to listen to your speech or presentation is willing you to mess up! So, you should believe in yourself and be confident in your delivery.
And…. Remember to breathe!
Good luck, we’d love to hear about presentation success stories or your own personal hints and tips that work for you. Get in touch.