Some people are completely at home standing up in front of an audience to make a presentation.
Chances are, that’s not you. But getting from terrified to tremendous isn’t a hard ask.
Whether you’re in a corporate, a consultancy or starting out in your own business, you’re likely to find yourself up in front of an audience. Here’s how to hit the right notes, no matter what your experience.
1. You’re the focus, but you’re not the focus.
Yes, you’re in front of an audience and all eyes are on you. But that doesn’t mean that all brains are on you, too. Don’t let a hundred pairs of expectant eyes make you nervous or throw you off your game; remember that people’s attention spans are typically pretty short. Most of your audience – no matter how engaging your presentation – will at some point be thinking about what they’re going to cook for dinner tonight. You might be the main attraction, but don’t let the pressure get to you.
2. Short is better than long.
See above, about short attention spans. Try to cull your material and keep it brief. Stick to the basics. Your audience should be able to recall 95 percent of what you said, so ideally pick one main argument and two smaller, related ones that circle back to the main point. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – and this will make it easier at the end when it comes to question time. Got 30 minutes for your presentation? Keep it to 25. Bonus: the organisers will love you when they’re (inevitably) running late.
3. Slow down.
Rushing through material and tripping over words is the biggest faux pas people make when giving presentations. You’ve got plenty of time to get through everything (if you followed tip #2, that is). Your audience is trying to follow along, so help them do just that. Slowing down also lets you put emphasis on words – watch how newsreaders (or telly evangelists!) use cadence, varying tone and rhythm to get their points across and engage the audience.
4. This one time…
Anecdotes are great not just for capturing your audience but also for increasing recall. How many of us have sat through presentations where we couldn’t remember stats, figures and concepts – but the speaker’s anecdote is still with us? Humour is a bonus, but not a must – particularly if the content is serious.
5. Stay classy.
As above, anecdotes are great and humour is fine, but remember to keep it clean. And if Q&A time is included and thorny questions come your way, remember reputation is everything – thank the person for their input and keep to the high ground.