Peter Elliott - Organisational Development Manager at TP3
Does the thought of speaking in public make you break out in a cold sweat?
It’s not unusual to feel afraid. Public speaking exposes deep feelings of inadequacy that many of us have when making presentations.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve compiled a list of simple techniques and strategies that will support you in your journey to becoming a great presenter.
1. Make a strong start
First impressions last! The first 2-3 minutes of your presentation are a big opportunity for you to set the scene and let your audience know that you’re an engaging and credible presenter.
The introduction to a presentation is called a hook, and if you deliver this well you’ll start building positive rapport with your group and you’ll also encourage a heightened level of anticipation. Examples of easy and effective hooks are telling a personal story, introducing an interesting statistic or showing a relevant picture or video.
Whatever you choose, try and make it engaging and a little different.
2. Maintain eye contact
There is no better way to engage an audience than to look them in the eye. Expert presenters use eye contact to draw in an audience and hold their attention, always scanning the crowd and sometimes briefly focusing on an individual.
Every time your eyes stray from your group there’s a risk they’ll disengage and focus on something (or someone) else. To maintain strong eye contact, avoid reading from notes and minimise the time you look away from your audience when you’re using visuals.
3. Slow down
Presenting is often accompanied by nerves, and when we’re in this state we tend to be in hyper drive.
Resist the temptation to get on and off quick by taking a few breaths before the session to calm yourself and encourage a slower pace. If you’re a fast talker, play around with pauses to steady your speed. This will not only give you time to consider what to say next, but it also gives your audience time to digest what you’ve just told them.
4. What’s your big idea?
When preparing for a presentation you should always ask yourself ‘what’s my ultimate message here’?
Amongst all the information and data that you present there should be one single message or theme that compels your audience to change in some way. For example, if you’re presenting a project update you may say that everything is on track but also emphasise that to maintain this momentum we need continued support across the organisation.
5. Keep it simple
In the presentation world, less is often more.
Don’t try to showcase your expertise and brilliance by barraging your audience with graphs and statistics that don’t make sense – there’s only so many numbers that most people can digest. It’s much better to show less data and explain it more clearly.
Of course there will be some who require more information and you should always offer an opportunity for your group to ask questions for further clarification. You can also provide a follow up report for those hankering for more details.
6. Be your authentic self
While it’s great to base your presentation style on another inspiring presenter, don’t lose sight of your true presentation self.
There’s no point trying to be super-dynamic or extra-comical if it’s just not you. Your audience will quickly detect a lack of authenticity and it could end up being weird for everyone. It’s much better to focus on creating a realistic presentation style that extends on your strengths and brings out a more genuine representation of you.
7. Tell Compelling Stories
People remember good stories.
Great presenters cleverly use personal stories to enhance content and to emphasise key messages. Stories connect with your audience on an emotional level and they are more likely to inspire and initiate desired behaviour change.
When telling a story make sure you provide a short context, then tell the details of the story (embellishing where necessary!) and conclude with a strong moral or learning.
8. Show your passion
When presenting, your audience becomes a mirror. If you show energy and passion they will be much more likely to feel enthused and positive about your information.
You can show pretty visuals and be very professional, but if you don’t engage with your content and fully believe in what you’re saying you won’t hit the mark. A world class presenter has the ability to connect with an audience in an open and exciting way.
Be confident. Don’t hold back. And let your passion for your topic become contagious.
9. Sharpen your tools
Becoming a memorable presenter doesn’t happen overnight.
Presenting calls on a range of advanced skills, and reaching excellence is a journey of learning and refining. It’s important for you to look for opportunities to get in front of an audience so you can practice your skills. Also, be more aware of other presenters and the techniques they use to engage a group – don’t be afraid to ‘borrow’ a strategy and use it in your own way. Once you achieve a base level of confidence when presenting, the opportunities to experiment and improve really are endless.
Go forth and present!
Help build your presentation skills with these extra resources from TP3:
Workshop: Presentation Skills
Workshop: Presentation Skills: Advanced