Even the most introverted among us will be forced to make a presentation of one kind or another in the course of their professional lives. There’s more to a good presentation than its content. Whether you’re presenting a simple sales report at a small staff meeting or a motivational speech in front of hundreds, here are five tips for improving your next speaking engagement.
Know your audience
Tailor your presentation to your audience. Are they industry insiders familiar with your topic and its lingo, or will you have to define technical terms? What information would your audience find most interesting or useful about your subject? If you’re presenting to a group you don’t know well, arrive early and mingle with audience members a bit to learn more about them.
Forget your script
Know your presentation so well that you don’t need to read it or refer to your notes, but not quite to the point where you recite it verbatim. The best public speakers actually speak to their audiences. Learn to improvise when necessary, and become adept at transitioning between topics or fielding unexpected questions without awkward pauses or fumbling. This requires thorough knowledge of your topic. Deliver your presentation in an animated, conversational style.
Master body language
Look at the audience while you’re presenting, making eye contact with individuals. This shows that you have confidence in what you’re saying, and it makes you seem more trustworthy. Don’t stand behind the podium like a statue; move around. Never fidget or wring your hands, and don’t hide your hands behind your back or in your pockets. Use them naturally, like you do when you converse with friends, gesturing for emphasis or pointing out important information.
Prepare effective media
If you decide to use slides or handouts in your presentation, create them after you write the content, not before. Include only the most important pieces of information; nobody wants to reread your whole speech in bullet-point form. Use a few informative graphics, as too many slide changes or too much text can be distracting. If there’s any question as to whether or not to include a piece of information, leave it out. Distribute handouts after you speak, not before, so attendees are free to engage with your presentation.
Don’t rely solely on technology
Many presenters feel they must include some technological component, such as slides or videos, in their presentations. This is not the case, and no presentation should be completely dependent upon technology. Prepare your presentation in such a way that even if a thug steals your laptop en route to the venue or a freak storm takes out power lines, you’ll still be able to deliver an effective, information-packed presentation.
Few of us are born presenters, and these tips can take time to master. Preparation and practice are the keys to delivering outstanding presentations. Know your subject matter, take time to prepare your material and address any audience with confidence.
Do you have any other tips when it comes to presentations? Share them with us by commenting below!
Brittany Giles is the Social Media Specialist at The Printing House.