So, you’ve been asked to give your first presentation? This might seem daunting, but with good preparation, planning and practice you can work towards becoming a powerful presenter. Here’s a guide to kicking ass on that next presentation…
Preparing your presentation: before you start
Know your audience
The more you know about your audience, the more you can tailor your message to suit them.
Establish your goal
Why are you speaking? What result are you, or those who’ve booked you, hoping to achieve?
Prep at the venue
Prepare to suit the speaking environment. Find out not just where are you presenting, but what facilities, including technology, are available. Will there be a table or lectern? See if organisers will test the technology for you ahead or book a time that allows you to fix any gremlins should you need to yourself.
Whether you’ve been given a topic or chosen one yourself, approach it with enthusiasm. Tailor it, within reason, to suit your interests and personal style.
Keep your talk simple – don’t squeeze in too much information. People aren’t computers, don’t do a data dump on them. If you need a second opinion on how much is too much, rehearse in front of a friend or colleague, they’ll be able to help you identify areas to remove, reduce or change.
Rather focus on a few key points, prioritising what’s important.
Frame your points within a story structure. Storytelling is now the crux of the marketing revolution. Why? People are attracted to reading plots and storylines, not encyclopaedias for fun.
If you have a single important point to make, make it a repeatable ‘sound bite’.
Frame your talk with an opening question, a summary, an anecdote or a video.
To make your talk operate as a story, highlight the problem or question you’ve raised at the start – name it, outline its key points, then answer it.
Meanwhile, weave concrete data, research, and examples throughout your talk structure. Factor in a PowerPoint presentation or other props but use notes as your key source.
Make your wrap up specific and brief. Leave room at the end for questions.
Presentation slides & props
PowerPoint and other slide presentations are great but overused. So, use wisely. Don’t read from them and don’t expect your audience to either. They’re best as an aid to your talk, with you as the main feature. Again, keep it simple, offer only one point per slide!
Use the screen to drive these key points, either visually or with a few key phrases.
Think beyond slides too. Consider physical demos, music, videos, props, co-presenters as ways of encouraging audience interaction.
People love a simple conversation and a chance to engage.
Struggling to come up with a great visual presentation? Use a tool like Canva to find inspiration for your presentation design.
Beat your nerves
Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. This will help you rid yourself of nerves and give you confidence. Look at other presenters. What do they do that works well, what doesn’t? Learn from them.
Make cue cards to help you remember your content. If you are using PowerPoint, you can use the speaker notes area instead if you will have a visual of the computer during your presentation.
Find a human guinea pig like a friend or relative, and practice on them beforehand with a timer.
Yoga breathing is useful. There are plenty of apps available for other relaxation breathing techniques to help.
Deliver with confidence
Be yourself. Don’t expect to use the exact words you planned, be natural with your topic.
Have your notes written so you can really see them (14-point font or bigger is fine).
It’ll take a few presentations before you start to feel truly confident and natural. Be patient with yourself.
Good luck! Here’s hoping you nail your next presentation!