There is that word. The dreaded presentation, cue a dramatic sigh from the audience. I’m sure that everyone has had to do some form of presentation at least once in their life. It could have been a speech or a presentation with a slideshow, or even just prepared reading, but I am sure that none of us have been able to escape doing a presentation. If you have though, congratulations on managing to avoid them! For some of us, presentations are a breeze, and you can cook one up in five minutes and speak as if you are the most put-together confident person in the room. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, presentations can be a lot of hard work to prepare, but even more so to deliver because speaking in front of an audience, whether that audience is big or small or filled with strangers or people you know, can be terrifying.
I’m not going to say that that is easy to fix, because even the most established speakers still get nervous before they do presentations. The difference is that they know how to give an excellent presentation, despite their nerves. I’ve done many speeches and presentations in the last five years, whether it was a blessing or a curse, and still get stage fright, but I never let that detract from my wanting to give an excellent presentation. There are always a few things you can focus on our enhance that can take your presentation to the next level, and concentrating on these things might just help with your nerves. So, here are ten tips that will help you give a great presentation, whether you are a natural speaker or not.
Preparing is probably the biggest blessing that you can give to your presentation and your nerves. By preparing in advance (learning and making notes about what you are going to say, or making your slides well ahead of time) you ensure that you are the most put-together you can be on the day. Preparing in advance is great for several reasons: you won’t get thrown as easily by nerves because you know what you need to say; you won’t need to stress about forgetting something, and you won’t need to worry that something doesn’t work because you’ve thought of that in advance. Preparation can go into overkill mode when people memorise speeches and scrutinise details to the nth degree, but preparing in advance just so that you know what you are going to be doing can only help make your presentation sharper and help you feel more confident when you step out in front of the audience.
Arriving early is always a good idea because Murphy’s law will make sure that the most annoying thing you can think of goes wrong. Arriving early takes the stress of these potential disasters down a few notches because you will have the extra time to come up with a solution. Say you realise your presentation isn’t working, or the projector is broken, or you’ve lost one of your note cards that has part of your speech on it – you will be able to deal with these things a lot more efficiently and quickly when you have the luxury of time on your side. You won’t be able to fix, or even realise these issues if you are dashing out of your car because you are due to start in two minutes and haven’t tested anything yet. Do yourself the favour of getting there early so that if the worst does happen, you can at least try and fix it before you need to start.
This is a big one and comes under preparation. Eye contact is crucial to giving a good presentation because it connects you to the audience. The audience has come to listen to you speak, not watch you read something off a piece of paper, so there is nothing more disheartening for an audience to sit down and watch someone read their presentation off their notes. Make sure that, however you prepare, you remember that you need to look at your audience. Show them, the entire audience not just the one person you know in the fourth row, that you are engaging with them and are speaking to them, to get a reaction, not just arbitrarily reading them something.
Keep it focused
Stories are great in speeches, and giving extra details and information can be great to either tell your audience more or get them engaged with the material. The problem comes in when you get distracted with these stories, and the point of your presentation gets lost. Make sure that you always have something central in your presentation to link everything back to. Not only is it easier for you to present, because you have a theme or concept to keep you anchored, but it also makes it easier for the audience to follow so that they can understand and remember your points even on their drive home.
Remember your pace
Nerves can play a big part in our presentation and speaking skills, and the big thing that they affect is the pace at which we speak. Sometimes if you are nervous, you might want to speak as fast as possible to get it over with. Don’t let this happen! All that is going to happen is that your audience is not going to be able to follow or understand you, and your entire presentation will have been a waste of time. If you know that you tend to speak quickly when you are nervous, practice speaking slowly and focus on slowing yourself down when you are presenting. I know it is easier said than done, but it will be a crucial point in making your presentation powerful if you have the right pace.
Engage and use humour
It’s always important to remember that you are speaking to an audience, not giving a speech to yourself in the mirror. If that was the case, then engaging is not necessary. When you have an audience though, you need to remember that you have to keep them engaged and interested in what you are saying, and this can be quite challenging depending on the subject matter. Try think of your audience, and find a way to make your speech interesting enough that they are forced, or compelled to stay focused and interested in it. The easiest way to do this, at least in my opinion, is to add some humour to your presentation. Not so much that it all becomes a huge joke, but enough to get your audience engaged and keep things light when the content might be on the verge of being too heavy.
Have you ever listened to someone talk, and they aren’t enunciating their words properly? They either mumble or mispronounce things and it aggravates you because you want to know what they are saying? Speaking clearly is another crucial element in making sure your presentation is good because what is the point if your audience either can’t hear you, because you aren’t projecting enough, or can’t understand you, because your pronunciation isn’t clear. Make sure that you know how to pronounce all words in your speech so that you don’t stumble, and practice with someone listening so that they can tell you if you aren’t speaking clearly or aren’t loud enough. It is a small detail that will make a huge difference, believe me.
Keep slides short and clear
Sometimes we need to have a slideshow in the background to support our speech or give visual aids to the audience but beware. Slideshows come with their own lists of problems and complications (that could be a post on its own) so getting them right is essential. The best advice I can give for slideshows is keeping the slides short and precise. Fancy fonts may look pretty, but they are pointless if they are hard to read. Also, you want your audience to be listening to you, not reading the slides, so try and keep what you put on your slides as short as you can. Another small detail with slideshows is – DO NOT PUT YOUR WHOLE SPEECH ON YOUR SLIDES! What is the point in you preparing a lovely speech if the audience can just read the whole thing in your slides? You might as well give them a handout at the door and say “Thanks, this is my presentation. You can go home now, have a nice evening”. Keep slides short and clear, and remember that they should be aiding your presentation, not giving the presentation.
Fake it til you make it
This is the best advice I have ever learnt when it comes to doing anything in public that you might be nervous for, and this can count for performances and social events, not just presentations. Remember, the audience doesn’t know how nervous you are and the audience doesn’t know your entire presentation as you do, so use that to your advantage. If you forget to say one part or say things in the wrong order – so what? Just pretend that that was part of your original plan and the audience won’t doubt you for a second. If you are nervous, pretend that you are confident and could do this with your eyes shut. That will not only make your audience feel confident about what you are saying, but you may also start to believe it yourself. If you are ever worried about how the audience might react, just fake it til you make it because the only person who knows if you are nervous or didn’t mention that one fact is you.
My last tip is another one of those “easier said than done” tips, but sometimes they are still valid and need to be included even if you do roll your eyes at how simple it sounds. If you are ready for your presentation, then all you need to do left is breathe. You are prepared, and you know what you are talking about, so try not to let the nerves get to you. Trust that you are going to do fine, and even if things don’t stick to the plan, then remember it is not the end of the world (I’m not trying to sound like a parent or a teacher I promise). All you have to do is breathe, and start.
I know that some of these tips might not be helpful to everyone because we all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to giving speeches and presentations, but I do hope that it has been useful for those of you who need or want these tips. They may not seem like a lot, but every little thing counts and if you are looking to improve, then these tips are a good place to start. I hope that you enjoyed this blog post and have found at least one tip that is helpful and useful for you, and if you have your own suggestions, then please share! I want to hear them! Please like this post if you did enjoy it, and share with your friends so that the blog can keep growing. I’m hoping to reach 100 subscribers by the end of June, so please share!
Also, please tell me what you’d like to see on the blog – I’m always trying to make things as awesome for you as possible, so if there are posts you’d like to see or anything else, please let me know. As always, you are amazing! Thanks so much for reading and good luck for any future presentations!
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx