Want to give even better presentations?

Improve not only the content; improve the performance.

In my last blog, I talked about how to improve the content of your presentations.  If you haven’t read it, I suggest you check it out first.  

In my view, even more important than the content is how you present.  While people will always listen to an interesting topic, they can only engage with an interesting person.  Like anything, there are skills involved and you need to work on improving them.

As I have said before, a presentation is a performance.  Just like an actor, you need to come across as believable.  And, like a stage actor, you are doing it live and only have one chance to get it right.  So unless you are an actor, lets start with the first point.

1) Be yourself … but with passion

If you pose as somebody you’re not the audience will see you as insincere and disbelieve what you are saying.  

What does be “yourself” mean?  If you’re naturally relaxed and lay back then you should present the same way.  If you’re usually formal and strait-laced then trying to be casual and relaxed will come across as unnatural.  The same can be said about expertise. It’s fun to pretend to be a doctor; until someone screams “Is there a doctor in the house?”  Don’t pretend to be an expert unless you are.

No matter your style, the most important this is that you must be passionate about what you are saying.  If a speaker has passion, an audience will put up with them as they stutter and fumble through.  But without passion - even if the words are clear and fluent - a speaker will not keep the attention of an audience.  Passion is contagious but it can't be forced. When a speaker is genuinely held in its grip, the listeners know. They can feel it and they can’t help being part of it.

If you are passionate about what you are saying, it makes the next point so much easier.

2) Its more than just words

It is important to remember that performers don’t just speak.  When you present you need to use your voice, your hands, and your body to emphasise what you are saying.  You need to give the audience something to look at, something to focus on.  The more you can engage them one to one, the more powerful will be your impact.

Just remember, when it comes to voice and gestures, like any good actor knows, in order for the audience to see it you need to exaggerate it.  This raises the next tip.

3) Practise

Like early preparation of content, you need to take time to practise before the event.  Stand in front of a mirror and practise giving your presentation.  Focus on:
- getting the messages across smoothly;
- the flow of what you are saying;
- what your hand and body movements are going to be; and
- making sure that it fits the time allotted.

The aim of practising is not to memorise you presentation.  You should not rote learn it.  The aim of practising is to get you comfortable with the messages that you want to cover and to make sure that it flows. It also helps with understanding the overall presentation time.

4) Don’t rush but don’t overrun

If you practised then this one is easier, as you already know the timing.  If you didn’t then take a deep breath and take it slow.  I am not sure what’s worse: the presenter whose 10 minute presentation goes on for an hour or the guy who scrambles to get through it all by talking fast and rushing through his slides.

A professional presentation should fit to the time allotted and get the message across.

And finally …

5) Enjoy yourself

I think that it goes without saying, if you don’t enjoy it, neither will your audience!!

So there you have it.  If, after this, presenting still bothers you, contact me for some one on one coaching.


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