The terror of speaking in public, or the enhanced self-consciousness of delivering a presentation at work, is ultimately the fear we have of being judged negatively by others.
In reality, the vast majority of audiences are supportive and they are usually not that interested in how you are feeling. Here are 15 ways to be a better presenter that will enable you to enhance your presentation skills, but only if you are brave enough to push your comfort zone and try them out.
What do you want to achieve by the end of the presentation? What will your evidence of success be?
A presentation is only ever a means to an end, what is that end? For example, obtain ‘buy-in,’ secure a sale or get an agreement to meet again.
People have short attention spans – think Twitter, can you summarise the purpose of your presentation in two sentences. Think of it as determining the headline of a newspaper article.
Presentations are bland when the presenter doesn’t inject themselves into it. You personalise your presentation by sharing your opinions, your experiences and allowing your personality to shine through.
Audiences are only concerned with ‘what’s in this for me?’ As a presenter, you have to link what you are saying with how it is of benefit to the audience.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication; keep your slides simple, minimal words, beautiful images.
One slide for every three minutes you are speaking is a good timing guide and no more than 5or 6 bullet points per slide.
If possible bring each bullet point up separately, so the audience is not reading ahead. Use colour and graphics to keep things interesting.
Reading from your slides is the death knell of presentations.
Odds are everyone in the room can read, so as the presenter your job is to add value above and beyond what the audience can read for themselves. You also want to stay connected with the audience and that means looking at them, not at the screen.
An audience is unlikely to remember more than 3 or 4 key points so you want to be clear as to what you want these salient points to be.
All audiences want presenters to be interesting, informative and enthusiastic. They want you to be comfortable at the top of the room.
An audience will forgive you for being nervous (it shows you care) but they won’t forgive you for being boring.
Know you can only receive signals from audiences if your ‘antennae’ is set to receive them. Ask yourself frequently – are they still with me?
Is the audience engaged? What’s their body language communicating?
Try to talk with, not at your audience.
Buzzwords, clichés, jargon and emotionless business speak will make the audience switch off. Use simple language, share your own experiences, speak from the heart as well as the head.
Make sure you are familiar with the content of your presentation. This is a threshold competency, but if an audience feels you have not done basic preparation they will not view you as credible.
Lack of this basic preparation can also be viewed as disrespectful to the audience.
Often we will get into the flow of the presentation after a minute or two. The purpose of knowing your opening is to bridge into this flow sooner.
Know your close too. Whether it is a summary of what was covered or a request for input.
Examples, references and stories bring a presentation to life. Anecdotes and examples pull the audience in. People relate to stories about people and their experiences.
Stories create meaning. Data is necessary, but audiences crave the meaning attached to them, to make sense of them. Stories show audiences how to organise the facts.
Don’t stress out about forgetting what you are going to say, because studies show that people forget about 90% of what was said in a presentation.
What audiences take away is how you made them feel and the actions they will take.
The more you speak in public and deliver presentations the more confident you will become in your own abilities. Embed your learning by asking yourself ‘what did I do well during the presentation?’ ‘what did I learn from it?’ ‘next time what would I do differently?’
If you want to learn more about self-confidence, I developed a Masterclass focusing on Self-Confidence titled Confidence for your Best Life
It’s over two hours in duration and is broken down into several modules. As one kind reviewer put it, you can digest it in bite-sized chunks or in a Netflix-type binge session.
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Wishing you continued success.