In this blog I will be discussing step by step, tips to ensure that when you next have to present in front of an audience, you deliver like a pro.
1. Practice, practice, practice…but don’t memorise!
It is essential to practice your speech if you want to deliver a first-class presentation. If you practice once, you are going to sink. If you memorise it word for word, you’ll be a robot. It’s a balancing act. Yes, having notes to refer to can prevent you from losing your footing but the more natural it is, the more you’ll keep your audience engaged!
A useful way I prepare for a presentation is to practice out loud, whether it’s to a wall, a mirror or a friend. This is a great technique to use to see what needs improving, whether your timing is accurate and to become comfortable with your speech, making it flow and feel more natural.
So, write down your speech and practice, but don’t memorise.
2. Don’t make excuses
Due to many people feeling insecure about presenting, they tend to open with, “I didn’t get much time” or “I’m not very good at this”. Sure, some people find standing in-front of an audience easier than others, but there are no excuses for not being prepared and the audience won’t cut you any slack!
Nobody is going to be amazing at public speaking from the word go and it is quite clear when somebody isn’t prepared but, with a little more eye contact and a little less reading from your notes, you’ll be on your way to being a public speaking pro!
So, do what you need to do and be prepared! I
3. Make stress your friend
It’s time to lose the idea that stress is the enemy. Stress may not actually have as much of a negative impact on you as you may think and it’s time to make it your friend. When you change your mind about stress you can change your body’s response to it too, meaning that when you deliver your presentation, your physical reaction to the stress can determine how you present.
When you’re in a stressful situation does your heart start pounding? Do you begin to sweat, your breathing a little erratic? I thought so! Instead of allowing this reaction to control you, why don’t you control it? Make yourself better with stress and see this physical reaction as helpful and turn it into a new-found energy! Tell yourself, “This is my body helping me rise to this challenge.” When you view stress in that way, your body believes you and your stress response becomes healthier, allowing you to absolutely nail your presentation instead of crumbling under the pressure.
Use your new, established confidence and smash your presentation.
4. Positive visualisation
Many studies have proven the effectiveness of positive visualisation. When we imagine a positive outcome to a scenario in our mind, it’s more likely to play out the way we envisioned.
Using positive visualisation has been proven to provide many benefits for your overall performance. In some way or another we have all had the experience of speaking in-front of a crowd – I think we all know how stressful it can be! However, visualising a positive outcome can relieve some of that stress. If you suffer from having low self-esteem you can use the power of your mind to create a more confident version of yourself. You can achieve your goals through positive visualisation, regardless of what your goals are. Visualising your goals will help you tap into your subconscious mind.
So, instead of thinking “I’m going to be terrible out there” and visualising yourself throwing up mid-presentation, imagine yourself getting tons of laughs while presenting and absolutely nailing your presentation.
5. The Power of the Pause
“The right words may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause” – Mark Twain
When you’re nervous, it’s easy to speed up your presentation and end up talking too fast, which, in turn, causes you to run out of breath, get more nervous, stumble on your words, forget what you’re saying and panic! Ahh!
Don’t be afraid to slow down and use pauses in your speech. Pausing can be used to emphasize certain points and to help your talk feel more conversational. Pausing allows you and your audience to mentally interact, digest and reflect what you are saying. Be in control of your presentation and use the needed pauses to your advantage.
If you feel yourself losing control of your pacing, just take a quick pause and keep cool.
6. Actively engage your audience
What is one of the best ways to make your presentation more interesting? Make your audience part of it! There is nothing worse than somebody standing in-front of you, delivering their presentation and simply reading their notes, word for word. What’s the point in that? You might as well give everyone a copy of your notes and send them on their way. That is as much as they’ll get out of it.
People love to talk and make their opinions heard! Asking the audience what they think, inviting questions, and other means of audience participation can boost engagement and make your audience feel like a part of a conversation. It also makes you, the presenter, seem much more relatable. Participation can also be accomplished through things such as games, posing questions or something as simple as asking participants to raise their hands.
Answering unanticipated questions through your presentation can seem intimidating. Many people feel that they’ll lose their flow or may not know the answer but that’s fine. But, don’t be put off, if someone asks you a question and it stumps you – admit it. Encouraging your audience to ask questions throughout gives you the opportunity to give your audience what they want.
7. Be entertaining
Yes, you can reach your goal of the presentation by your speech, however, if your delivery is dry and lifeless you will lose your audience.
Use an ice-breaker to, you know, ‘break the ice’ between you and your audience. Including jokes and some light-hearted slides is a great way to help the audience feel more comfortable, especially when you are presenting them with a great deal of information.
However, it’s important to maintain a balance – after all, you’re not performing a stand-up routine, and people didn’t come to your presentation with the sole intention of being entertained. That being said, don’t be afraid to inject a little humour into your talk. If you’re not sure about whether a presentation is “too much,” run through it with a couple of friends and ask them to tell it to you straight. Make your presentation so interesting, so entertaining and so inspiring that people can’t help but pay attention.
And, remember, it’s not your audiences job to listen; it’s your job to make them want to listen.
8. Don’t fight the fear
When it comes to presenting, it’s time to accept the fear and work with it rather than trying to fight it. Everyone gets a little nervous before standing before a crowd of people but, if you let it control your delivery, it will control the outcome. Once you accept that nerves are inevitable, and that those jitters aren’t all bad, you’ll be golden. It’s time to use your fear to your advantage; Get some caffeine in you, stick on your favourite music and get keyed up for your presentation.
9. Meet and greet
Allowing yourself to meet and greet your audience before your presentation, grants you the perfect opportunity to get to know your audience. This makes them seem more likeable and approachable, making standing in-front of them less nerve-racking. When talking to your attendees, ask them questions and ensure that you take in their answers. This not only informs you of what they are expecting to take away from the presentation but, it could also give you some inspiration that you can later incorporate into your presentation.
10. Accept constructive criticism and apply it
I think it goes without saying that we all struggle to hear criticism, even if it is constructive! However, its time to change that mind set and accept whatever criticism is thrown your way and, apply it.
It is important to remember that there is no excuse for underperformance. Remember, don’t take constructive criticism personally; use it to your advantage. Encourage yourself to think about how you work and see things from a new perspective This will make your presentation skills stronger.