74% of people suffer from a fear of public speaking. In surveys, respondents reportedly fear public speaking more than death.
But when you have to stand in front of a room and deliver a presentation of your business case—whether it’s convincing a committee of a need to implement a new technology initiative, delivering reasons to your boss’s boss about why you need to upgrade your enterprise content management system or convincing your city council of the need to implement business process automation—there is no need to be afraid, as long as you’re prepared.
If you’re not experienced at crafting and delivering your message to a crowd, here are five tips to help you give the best presentation possible.
Tip #1: Practice, practice, practice
The most important thing to remember is that a good presentation involves practice. You should spend plenty of time writing (and rewriting) your script, rehearsing and fine-tuning.
In the SlideShare “Lessons from the World’s Most Captivating Presenters,” HubSpot notes a one-hour presentation requires:
- 30 hours crafting your story.
- 30 hours building your slides.
- And 30 hours rehearsing.
You can’t walk in and expect to wing it. You have to practice! You should have your script memorized, so you don’t have to refer to your notes and are completely comfortable with the subject matter.
Tip #2: Keep it simple
In your script, you shouldn’t try to cover too much ground. Jon Thomas of Presentation Advisors notes, “A huge component of effective presentations is simplicity.” He recommends Jon Pogue’s TED Talk, “Simplicity Sells,” as an example of the benefits of “keeping it simple.”
Remember, if you try to cram in everything you know, you won’t have time to focus on what’s really important, and you’re likely to rely on high-level concepts that will only make sense to people who truly understand what you’re talking about. Since most of your listeners won’t be familiar with your subject matter, that’s a one-way ticket to a room full of people checking their email.
Tip #3: Body talk
Did you know that while your mouth is saying one thing, your body may be saying another? Swaying from side to side or shifting your weight from one leg to the other shows your audience that you’re nervous. This infographic from SOAP Presentations lists 10 body language tips ranging from how to get your audience to like you to how to make sure your audience remembers what you’ve said.
As you become more comfortable with your script and your slides, and as you practice with both of them, your nervous movements will subside. If possible, practice in front of a friend or colleague so you can get used to having someone in the room—and he can give you feedback when you start fidgeting.
Tip #4: Eye contact
Eye contact is incredibly powerful, and it will do more than anything else to help your listeners connect with the information you’re presenting.
Look your stakeholders in the eye and speak to them. Seem challenging? The more you’ve internalized your script, the better you can keep eye contact with your audience. And of course there’s always the old trick of planting a friend in the audience (maybe even the same friend you practiced with). Just don’t be a “lighthouse” or a “tennis umpire”—vary who you’re looking at.
Tip #5: End PowerPoint abuse
By now you should already know this, but it bears repeating. When it comes to PowerPoint, keep it simple; don’t use your slide deck as a substitute for your script or your notes; and don’t repeat out loud exactly what you’ve written on your slides.
If you really feel that you need to provide more information, you can use the “notes” field in your PowerPoint to spell out all of your information for people to review later, without putting it on the wall for everyone to read.
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