Many people have to give presentations for all sorts of reasons and it is often not the content that poses problems but everything else! So let’s focus on other important elements of a presentation:-
1 Eye Contact
Maintain eye contact with the audience. That does not mean continuously scanning the audience like a lighthouse beacon or staring at anybody in your audience (as that can be very unsettling) but it does mean allowing the audience to believe you are communicating with them all and that they are all participants in this event. Maintaining steady (but not threatening) eye contact will also stop you looking at the floor, the ceiling or your notes. Nobody appreciates speakers hanging onto their scripts.
2 Body language
Stand tall and confident and show a positive attitude. Don’t slouch, fold your arms, keep your hands constantly in your pockets or fidget as these are all distracting for an audience. It is acceptable to walk a little but not too much as, again, that can divert attention from the main focus of the presentation and you should always face your audience so never turn your back on your listeners. Don’t be afraid to use your hands or arms to reinforce something you are saying but again not too much as that can be annoying.
Speak as clearly as you can (no mumbling) and find the right speed – not too fast or too slow. There may not always be a microphone available when you present (check this out beforehand) so learn to project your voice but don’t shout. Practice as much as necessary with friends or family or record yourself again and again on your phones or tablets until you are satisfied you can deliver your presentation naturally. Make sure you allow yourself time to breathe so incorporate pauses in the right places with judicious uses of signposting language. Plenty of practising and knowing your content should stop you making unnatural pauses and going ‘ahh’, ‘um’.
Show enthusiasm for your presentation by displaying positive energy, look like you care about what you are talking about (act if necessary; though if you do not care, why are you doing all this in the first place?) Do not be afraid to smile!
5 Answering questions
Question time might feel like the Spanish Inquisition paying a visit but it is a routine part of all presentation scenarios. Inevitably, during or after presentations, there will be questions from the audience. The best way to prepare for these questions is to know your topic in as much detail or depth as you can.
People who ask questions at presentations are not generally out to get you or catch you out. They are genuinely interested in what you have said and want to know more, so respond accordingly, after all it is great that they made the effort to listen to what you have said and still want to know more.
Be as gracious and polite as you can when taking questions from your audience. Be open, if you do not know the answer, don’t make it up, just be prepared to politely say you do not know the answer and that is an area you will need to research further or was outside the scope of the current topic. Never roll your eyes or make any other negative gesture following a question. If you need time to consider a reply, use a phrase such as ‘there are a few ways that the question/matter could be resolved but I think….’ just to give you a few vital moments to think but without a deathly silence surrounding you.
Above all, enjoy the experience of presenting. Yes, you are centre-stage so take the opportunity to shine!