Five Tips for Giving the Presentation of Your Life

Here are some simple tips to help you deliver the information your audience wants, without putting them to sleep or having your notes slip from your sweat-drenched hands. All it takes is a little confidence, a few insider tips, and some real-world practice.

What Great Presenters Know:

1. Engage with Your Audience

Your audience is there to learn from you. Try to display confidence in yourself, your knowledge, and the subject; even if you don't have that confidence just yet. Always make sure to try and make eye contact, smile, be conversational, and don’t be too serious. A sense of humor also goes a long way. If you help your audience like you and relate to you, the audience members will seem much less intimidating. Your audience is all people just like you.

Patti Schutte, a presentation and training consultant who frequently works with individuals on their presentation skills, suggests several ways to engage your listeners. She suggests starting by either polling the audience, having them state what they hope to gain from the presentation, or having a conversation starter on the screen. Remember, people show up because they want to hear what you have to say- so talk with them, not at them.

2. Avoid Death by PowerPoint

PowerPoint dominates the presentation universe. Although it is a great tool to get your point across, it can be very dreary and boring to your audience... especially if you're simply reading off the information already written on the slides. For best results, use PowerPoint to show visual examples of what you are presenting. This can be data, a powerful quote, images, bullets of topics, etc. Also, try to keep text tight on each page and don’t cram words. Instead, use reactionary visuals with larger font type.

Make sure you are also using your slides as an outline, not as a script. It is useful to have your main points bulleted on your slides. However, it's detrimental to have paragraphs and sentences that you're reading to your audience on your slides. How do you know you have too much text? When you’re reading your slides to the audience. If you have sentences or ideas, put them in the "Notes" section at the bottom of your Powerpoint for reference. This way, the audience can't see them, but you can reference them in a panic.

3. Tell a Story: The Power of Threes.

Listening can be hard work. Make it easier by giving your story a beginning, middle, and an end. By making it almost like a story-line, it will be easier for your audience to follow and stay engaged.

Try to set up your presentation with a question and an overview of what you’re going to say. Then, have the middle be where the real action is; where you present your thesis and back it up with data and real-world examples. Finally, the ending lets you regroup, repeat your thesis, summarize your thoughts, drop the mic, and exit stage left. (Actually, please don’t drop the mic. It’s very expensive A/V equipment.)

4. Get Organized

Applying the power of threes will get you on the right track, but getting organized is still imperative to delivering an effective speech. You have a limited time, so craft your talk to fit that time. Draft an outline of your presentation as your roadmap. This helps you nail down your points, keep your thoughts in line, ensure your audience stays on track, and guarantee you get your message across. Also remember, you might not discover what you really think until you try to write it down. Revision is your best friend.

5. Practice, Practice, and more Practice

Never go into your presentation without a dry run (or runs). Get the kinks out beforehand so you’ll be polished and ready for your audience. Make sure that you talk yourself through your presentation multiple times. In fact, practicing in front of a mirror is understood as one of the most effective ways to practice presenting. If you want, go even further by practicing in front of friends, family, co-workers, etc. Maybe even record yourself on your mobile device. Discover what works for you. Practice effectively. Get opinions. Gain a little confidence.

 

Ultimately, put yourself into the audience's shoes. What have you seen in presentations that you didn't like? What did you like? What tips or critiques would you give others? What works for you? Write the answers to some of these questions down and incorporate them into your own presentation. Presentations feel like a scary thing from a far, but with a little reflection and practice, you can transform into the presentation pro that you've always admired.