Presentations are an inevitable part of uni assessments and the corporate world but a large majority of people dread public speaking. As with any skill, it’s a matter of practising and improving your own style of presenting to build your confidence. Whether you love presenting in front of people or get super anxious just thinking about public speaking, here are a few tips you can keep in mind for next time!
Write to connect with your audience
The entire presentation should be tailored to appeal to your specific audience. That means, using language and references that would engage the people listening. I always recommend being more casual in the way you speak and in the words you choose. It’s much more likely that your audience will remain attentive throughout your presentation and come away feeling as though they’ve absorbed something if the language was easy to understand. Remember, the purpose of a presentation is to share what you know and educate your audience – so make sure each of your points are clear and punchy so it’s hard for them to switch off!
Simple PowerPoints are the most powerful
When it comes to your slide deck, this is your chance to make it super easy for the audience to follow your line of thought through the use of visual aids. Make the title of each slide a concise, summarising phrase – try and identify, what is the key take-away that the audience should get out of this slide? That should be what’s at the top. The points beneath serve as talking points for you to expand on/prove/lead to that statement. Images and graphics can be effective in summarising a point into a memorable visual that the audience is likely to remember. But be careful to avoid distracting and irrelevant pictures that ruin your presentation – no GIFs!
Don’t memorise a speech
This may be daunting and incomprehensible to those people who swear by memorising their speeches word-for-word. However, take it as a warning now that there will come a day when you will be required to deliver a presentation that you just won’t have time to memorise. So think of it as good practice now to learn to trust yourself by following these tips.
If you’re uncomfortable with entering a presentation speech-less, I recommend writing out your full speech then break it down into the key points. These key points should correspond to what are shown on the PowerPoint slides. Then instead of learning a speech line by line, spend your time learning and truly understanding the main things that need to be addressed on each point.
This will enable you to visualise your speech as an extension to the PowerPoint slides instead of being a separate unit. It’s much more natural and enjoyable for an audience to listen to a well-rehearsed, natural speech rather than a mechanical one because as you speak you’ll be revealing more and more of the picture to your audience. Plus, if the nerves take hold and your mind goes blank, you’re able to just turn to the slides and trigger your memory back into gear with a visual cue.
Everyone gets nervous – it’s just a matter of learning how to not show it
First of all, nerves are good! It means you care about how well the presentation goes and you’re invested in your topic of presentation. Now, it’s just a matter of channelling those nerves into a PASSION for what you’re talking about – get excited about sharing all the work you’ve put into your project because this is immediately noticeable to an audience and much more engaging to listen to.
Second, practice practice practice! The more you immerse yourself in the topic and practice different ways of presenting the same point over and over, the less likely it is that your nerves will get the better of you. The key to a smooth presentation is having practiced a presentation so many times, the real thing just becomes another comfortable run-through.
Finally, what I find most useful is, imagine you are presenting to your family or friends. If you think about it, hand gestures, facial expressions and an engaging tone of voice are necessary when you’re telling any good story – a presentation shouldn’t be any different! The closer you draw similarities between these two situations, the more comfortable and less nervous you’ll appear (even if you don’t feel it!).
Ultimately, the aim of a presentation is to make it easy for your audience to understand and learn something from you.
In the same way you wouldn’t want your lecturer to be cryptic and confusing about the content you’re trying to learn, don’t complicate your speech. The best speeches are well-thought out and condense multi-faceted ideas into simple and powerful points. If the focus of your presentation is to make an impact on your audience, the rest will come naturally!