I was fortunate to recently act as moderator for a panel discussion with the HPCA and although that is a challenging task, it made me think about the greater challenge of being a presenter. I tried to imagine myself in the audience and what I’d want and expect from the person at the front of the room. Here are some tips that might help the next time you’re called upon to do a presentation:
I did a little reading and discovered that it takes about six to nine months to truly prepare a presentation (this is on the TED Talk level, so adapt accordingly if you’re doing a small presentation to your local church group). But what you must do regardless of venue is be prepared. Research your topic, write a script, rehearse like crazy, edit and fine-tune your message.
Frame Your Story
One of the best proven ways to engage people is through storytelling. Take your audience on a journey with you as you describe the experience. If based on a personal story, decide where to start and where to end taking into account what your audience may already know. Don’t make assumptions but be sure to demonstrate how much you care about the subject.
Engage the Audience
You should not be looking down at your notes or up at a screen presentation. You should be looking at your audience and making eye contact. I wouldn’t recommend looking at just one person but try and make eye contact with several people throughout the room.
Use Visuals – sparingly!
Having slides or charts to support your presentation is a great idea. People will get bored looking at you alone on a stage fairly quickly. But be mindful of the fact that any visuals you are using are there to support what you have to say. People don’t want to sit and read slides. You could have sent them an email with all the information and saved them the trouble of leaving their desk.
Show Your Personality
Regardless of who is in the audience, they have come to see YOU. Don’t be a reader or someone reciting facts. Inject a bit of yourself into the presentation and share with the audience what makes you passionate about the topic. Give a little life to the experience. If you have a sense of humour, show it!
Show Some Movement
This is often difficult for those who are not comfortable presenting. It really does help to relax you with the added benefit of giving the audience something interesting to focus on. The more animated you are, the more engaged the audience will be.
If you are one of several speakers on a panel or at a workshop, find a way to be a bit different. What can you say or do that will help you stand out and be more unique than the other presenters? Remember, you are representing the brand of ‘you’ – make it memorable.
Avoid Slang and Jargon
The audience may have background knowledge to understand industry jargon, but there will be those present who do not. Be respectful and explain any terms that are not immediately obvious to an industry outsider.
Mix Up Your Voice
Nothing more sedating than someone speaking in a monotone. If it’s an evening presentation or just after a big meal, you’re certain to see a few folks nodding off. Avoid that by using varied tones and pitches in your speech when you talk. Ask questions. Get excited. Use emphasis on certain words.
Watch Your Body Language
Have you ever been distracted by someone who constantly waves their hands around when they talk? Do you remember what they say, or just the fact that they were emphatic with their hands? Don’t detract from your message by nervously flailing your body parts. Simple hand movements for occasional emphasis is more than enough to get the point across without losing them.
You want people to concentrate on what you have to say, not what you’re wearing. Avoid loud or busy patterns, torn or damaged clothing, painfully bright colours etc. Keep it simple and neutral so that the message is all they’ll care about.
Relax and have Fun!
Standing in front of an audience of 5 or 500 can be one of the most difficult things to do. Some of us break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. Others seem perfectly at home on stage and could be there for hours. Remember that the audience is filled with human beings just like you and they have come because they felt what you have to say will benefit them. Relax and enjoy yourself and share your story!
Marnie Hughes is an SEO copywriter, author and online marketer. She works with small and medium-sized businesses to develop their marketing and communications and expand their customer base.
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