Guest contributed by Sarah Brown
Whether you are a student, a lecturer, a motivational speaker, a budding entrepreneur or a C-suit, when presenting on stage in front of an audience, engaging them and communicating your message can be a daunting task for more reasons than you can imagine. I would be trying to incorporate some of the most important ways to help you in writing a great presentation, become a better presenter and also how to best utilize props.
Although the first few words that come out of your mouth would be about introducing yourself, but you can make it more interesting by sharing your passion about your topic. It is not always about what you say, as a confident presenter with a good sense of humor can be more engaging than someone with equally good content but for instance has fear of public speaking.The first few sentences of your presentation should be able to grab undivided attention from your audience, arouse their curiosity about your topic so that they are completely sold on listening to what is coming next.
An hour’s presentation cannot be written in an hour or even in a day. The time you spend on research and finding the figures, and statistics to support your message is directly proportional to the success of the presentation. Have a rough draft of your presentation speech and the slides ready as early as possible so that you have time to revise it a couple of times. This allows you more time to add, delete, or restructure the content and will also help you convey your message more efficiently. If you write the presentation in the last minute, you might miss on adding important details and also might stray away from the real subject at hand. If you are ready with the final version a few days ahead of time, you can test it out on family and friends for practice. You can also record your presentation and watch it to weed out the obvious errors and flaws. You must carry a small cue card of 3 to 5 things that you feel must be mentioned and should not be left out at any cost and read it just seconds before going on the stage.
Using slides, video or any other media is quite imperative to a presentation. Slides or other media are supposed to carry minimal information and should be used to create relevance or generate specific emotions in the audience. One of the worst things you can do while presenting is reading out text from your slides, word to word. Not only do you look unprofessional and unprepared, you also waste the most resourceful element of presentation, and it drastically makes the presentation boring.
There are a few things that a presenter must keep in mind to avoid distracting the audience from the presentation. First off, one must dress up in a modest manner. Wearing bold colors might take the audience’s attention off the slides. Everyone should be proud of their fashion sense and body but do not forget that the center of attention needs to be the presentation and not the presenter. This might not be an unpopular opinion and might attract some controversy but let me assure you that this comes from some of the most respected male and female public speakers and is not just my personal opinion. Also, you must wear something that you can be comfortable in while looking dressed up. Wearing something you picked up a day before the presentation might not be the best choice as you never know how you can distract the audience while adjusting it. Ladies, if you are not comfortable in wearing high heels, ditch them now.
Watch the tone, speed and volume of your speech. You should not be going too slowly or too fast and also you should not be speaking too loud or too low. Find the right balance. Frequent usage of ‘um’ or ‘like’ should be avoided and replaced with quick pauses instead. Check out this amazing infographic from WalkerStone on Dos and Don’ts of presenting.
It is highly recommended that you test your presentation slides on the hardware available and also have a backup flash drive. At times things do not go as planned, be confident and do not get anxious on stage. If possible, have a contingency plan if your slides don’t work.
Best of luck.