If you believe the statistics, only four percent of the population is comfortable getting up in front of an audience. Yet just about everyone has to give a presentation at some point in their career, some of us more than others.
Obviously much more can be said than what we have room for here, but these five tips will add impact when you have to speak in front others:
The more time you spend preparing for your presentation, the better it’s going to come off. Know how you’re going to open, how you will transition between topics, and how you will close. If you don’t think these things through before you present, the chances of them going smoothly during the real thing isn’t very high.
By the way, the first thing to prepare is your objectives. You should create a very clear statement of what your presentation will be about. This should include a General Objective and several Specific Objectives. This helps you stay on track and avoid adding things that are irrelevant to your presentation.
2. Picture Yourself Presenting Successfully
If you can see yourself doing what it is you’re supposed to be doing, your chances of success are much higher. The opposite is also true – if you can’t see yourself doing something, the chances of succeeding at it are much lower! Therefore, spend time mentally picturing yourself giving your presentation:
- If you use an overhead or a PowerPoint, where will you be standing?
- If you’re using tear sheets (flip chart paper), where will you post them?
- If you’re going to distribute handouts, how will you do it?
Picture yourself successfully doing these things. Some Olympic athletes spend time imagining themselves doing the event in addition to actually practicing it. Research has found that the mental practice can be just as effective as real practice.
3. Make Solid Eye Contact
The subliminals communicated though body language are enormous. Studies show that body language comprises anywhere from 50% to 90% of communication (depending on the study), so if your body language is not making the connection, your presentation is lacking punch. Eye contact is perhaps the most powerful component of body language.
In all my years of teaching Train-the-Trainer courses, I’ve found the best way to help people connect with an audience is “one thought per pair of eyes.” Connect with one person’s eyes and finish your thought. Then move on to someone else and finish the next thought. By using this method, you avoid scanning and you “connect” with the entire audience! How? Your audience sees you connecting and then they feel connected, too.
This method is especially powerful if you’re connecting with people who are “getting it” and providing positive body language back to you. By connecting with these people, your own body language reflects the positive impressions and whole audience senses it.
4. Use at least Three Visual Aids
If you’re giving a short five minute presentation, this is not as important. But for longer presentations, the more can you stimulate your audience visually, the more they will be impacted by what you have to say. Visual aids can include handouts, white boards, flip charts, overheads, PowerPoints, and 3-D models. Use whatever you can, but try to use at least three different medias.
5. Wrap Up with a Good Review
Even if you go through your entire presentation without a flaw and cover everything you wanted to, you’re leaving a large chunk of “wow” sitting alone on the table if you neglect a quick review of what you’ve covered.
Your audience senses the whole package well if you tell them up front what you’re going to cover, and then wrap up with an overview of what you covered! The phrases “In conclusion” or “as I wrap this up” are great segues, which give you the green light to summarize what you covered. Don’t introduce new material here – just go over the main points of your presentation then finish up.
Remember, no presentation was ever ruined by being too short, but thousands have been ruined by being too long. When you’re done, you’re done.