Today’s post is different from my usual ones as you won’t see a beauty or fashion item in sight. Instead, this one will be on presentation tips… A bit random I know.
Today I had to do a presentation at work on a topic I didn’t previously know anything about to 12 senior managers. Once upon of time this would have turned me into a nervous wreck but not any more. This has inspired me to write a post about presentation tips which may help some if you less confident speakers out there feel more comfortable presenting in front of a group of people. I hope you don’t mind me including these types of posts on my blog. If you would prefer I didn’t, please let me know.
I’ve never been a particularly confident person but this has got much better as I have got older, especially since starting work.
If I think back to when I used to do presentations at university it was a very, scary experience for me. I used to actually shake when I first starting doing them, even if I only had to speak for a few minutes! I did a four year course at uni and by the time I had reached my final year I had to do a presentation on my own in front of a number of lecturers about my dissertation. I think it was for around 30 minutes and the thought terrified me! This was really the first point where I started to feel slightly more confident, purely because I did stand up there in front of those people, completely on my own, present to them and asking questions. Being thrown into the deep end and doing really well showed me that actually I could do it.. this didn’t make it any easier when completely changing my environment and starting work, though.
At work I have had to do a number of presentations over the last couple of years to a variety of audiences and on a mixture of topics. Some I have known well from projects I’ve worked on and others I’ve had no idea about and had to research the topic. Over this time I have discovered some useful tips which I now always apply when doing any type of presentation. Everyone has noticed a difference in me, I am much more confident and I’m no way near as anxious any more.. although I do still get some butterflies! This tips have really helped me as well as the experience I have gained from doing different presentations over and over again.
1) Know your subject – You will feel so much more confident speaking about a topic and answering questions if you really put in the work to understand it. Try to learn as much about it as you can.
2) Know your audience – In order to pitch your presentation at the right level you need to know your audience. If they have no knowledge of the subject then you need to give a high level overview but on other occasions you may need to go into more detail.
3) Slides – Personally I like to put together a PowerPoint presentation as it something visual for the audience. It also means that sometimes they are concentrating on the screen rather than you which takes some of the pressure off! Make sure your slides are clear, consistent (font, colours etc.) and are not too full. There’s nothing worse than a slide jammed pack with info as 1) It’s boring for the audience to spend too long on each slide 2) It’s hard to read and is information overload. I also like to keep my slides simple, I’m not a fan of animations and transitions.
4) Hand outs – Some people love this and some hate it. You need to make a judgement on what your audience will like. Not everyone likes this because people can tend to flick through the hand outs at the beginning of the presentation before you start or skip ahead. Personally, I think hand outs are great to use. It gives your audience something to take away with them, it allows them to make notes as they watch your presentation and it can make it easier for them to understand your topic as if they missed something they can take a glance back. I always issue my hand outs straight before I begin talking. I never leave them in a pile for people to take one as they arrive.
5) Be confident -Try to be as confident as you can. This is difficult and it will come with experience but try to speak confidently and fluently.
6) Look at your audience – I know it’s hard but you should really try to make eye contact with your audience, even if it’s only a glance. It will make them feel much more engaged.
7) Plan your points – I always take notes in with me for every slide I present on. I practically write my notes word for word as this is a safety blanket for me but I try to look at them as little as possible. I highlight key words so if I need to glance down those key words will trigger what I need to say next. Worst case scenario, if I completely freeze and panic I can just read from my notes, it not ideal but it’s better than standing there with your mind blank freaking out and not knowing what to say. Today I didn’t need to look at my notes once which I was really pleased about.
8) Practice – You will feel more confident about your presentation and come across more polished and professional if you practice it. Personally I like to do this on my own and in front of other people. It’s really useful to get their opinions so you can make any changes before the final version. Also, the more presentations you do, the more comfortable you will feel doing them. You may always have some butterflies, but honestly, it does get so much easier. You know how to prepare, you know how to react to questions you can and can’t answer and the nerves aren’t as bad. Be careful not to over practice the same presentation too much as you don’t want to sound fake and over-rehearsed.
9) Learn from your mistakes – If you are given feedback take on board what you have done well and what you haven’t so you can bare this in mind next time.
10) Don’t just read your slides – I hate watching presentations where people just literally read the slides word for word. It’s really boring for the audience because they aren’t learning anything new and they don’t really need you there. They could just read the slides themselves as you’re not adding any value to them.
11) Questions – Be as prepared as you can for your presentation. Sit down with your completed version and think about what questions you may be asked and what areas you don’t think you know enough on to answer questions. These are key areas you should go away and research more and even make notes of the answers on the notes you take in with you if you need to.
12) Speaking – Speak slowly and try not to rush. The tendency is to speak quickly when you get nervous so pace yourself. Also speak fluently and pause between slides so your audience have a little time to absorb what you’ve just said/the slide.
13) Understand your brief – You need to make sure you fully understand your presentation brief so you can get the content and context correct. Be careful not to get side tracked and go off topic.
14) Keep it interesting – I like to make my presentation as interesting as possible so I like to vary my slides. I do this by including slides with bullet points, pictures, graphs and tables (where appropriate.
How do you feel about doing presentations? Did you find this post useful?