For some of us, even if we don’t like to admit it, presentations are a task that we dread. For some people, the pressure of the moment and being the centre of attention is motivating, but for the others, it’s like having to walk through a spider’s web, or even worse, having to get out of bed on a Monday morning! Semester’s end is usually marked with loads of assignments, frantic exam prep and, like it or not, a couple of presentations here and there. Whether you’re a presentation pro or a nervous newbie, I’ve compiled some tips that should help you get through your next speech:
- Remember the 10-20-30 Rule
- Be Entertaining
- Slow Down
- Make Eye Contact
- Don’t Read
- Speeches are About Stories
- Project Your Voice
- Don’t Plan Gestures
- “That’s a Good Question”
- Avoid the Presentation Killers
- Arrive Early
- Practice, Practice, and then Practice Again
- Put Yourself in the Audience
- Have Fun
This rule states that a PowerPoint presentation should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes, and have no text smaller than 30 point font. The important thing is to get the message across, be clear and concise, and do not beat around the bush.
Speeches should be entertaining and informative. I’m not saying you should act like a dancing monkey when giving a serious presentation, but keep in mind that simply reciting dry facts without any passion or humour will make people less likely to pay attention.
It is common for people to be nervous when giving a presentation. Some speakers, whether nervous or inexperienced, tend to talk way too fast, so it’s a good idea to consciously slow your speech down and add pauses for emphasis.
Match eye contact with everyone in the room. This not only makes you look more confident, but also holds the attention of your audience.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but somehow PowerPoint makes people think they can get away with it. You need to show the professor and the class that you know what you’re talking about. The only way you can get your point across is by actually understanding it yourself.
Stories create the bond between you and the rest of the people in the room, which is necessary to hold their attention! Give a real-life example, or make up a fictional tale that will help your audience grasp your content in an interesting way.
Make sure you know the difference between projecting your voice and yelling. Do not attack your audience; rather, stand up straight and let your voice resonate with confidence and surety.
Any gestures you use need to be an extension of your message. Planned gestures look false because they often don’t match your other involuntary body cues. You are better off keeping your hands to your side, or holding a pen in your hand.
Have you been asked a question you can’t think of an answer to right away? You can use statements like, “That’s a really good question,” or “I’m glad you asked me that,” to buy yourself a few moments to organize your response. Will the other people in the audience know you are using these filler sentences to reorder your thoughts? Probably not. And even if they do, it still makes the presentation smoother than “um”s and “ah”s littering your answer. Speaking of which…
Feeling the urge to use killers like “um,” “ah,” or “you know”? Replace those with a pause and take a short breath in. The pause may seem a bit awkward, but the audience will barely notice it and it’ll give you a second to regroup.
Don’t act like a technologically challenged person, fumbling with PowerPoint while people are waiting for you to speak. Arrive early, scope out the room, run through your slideshow, and make sure there won’t be any glitches.
Practice makes perfect! Have your buddies listen to your presentation, again and again if possible (sorry in advance to anyone who will need to listen to a presentation repeatedly). This will increase your familiarity with speaking in front of real people and allow you to gauge their reactions to certain sentences. It will make you more competent and confident when you approach the podium.
When writing a speech, see it from the audience’s perspective. What might they not understand? What might seem boring? Use WIIFM (What’s In It for Me) to guide you.
Sounds impossible? With a little practice, you can inject your passion for a subject into your presentations. Enthusiasm is contagious.