Everyone has to give live presentations at some point in their career. For most, it’s a painful experience. But, if you can pull off a good live presentation, this is a skill that can bring you many benefits. Good public speakers are good because they prepare and practice. It’s not something you’re necessarily born with, but something you have to work at.
Keep It Focused
Dale Carnegie said, ‘Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said.’ The best presentations are focused and drive their main points into the minds of the audience members.
Start your presentation by writing a single sentence that sums up the point you want to convey. Then, add bullet points for sub-points, bullet points for their sub-points, and so on, until you have a complete outline. It’s better to use an outline than a script because if you become nervous, you’ll be tempted to read directly off a script, which sounds dull and false.
Visuals greatly enhance presentations. They make presentations more engaging by giving the audience something to look at and helping to emphasize your main points. They also take some of the attention off you, which is good if you’re nervous about presenting. The easiest visuals are slides that illustrate points or summarize main themes. PowerPoint presentations are a simple way to do this.
Rather than just standing at the podium, walk around the stage. You don’t have to continually pace back and forth, but if you move a bit, it’s more engaging for your audience. It also helps you to dispel some of the nervous energy you may have, but make sure you don’t pace steadily or wander far.
It’s important for presentations to stick closely to the allotted time. While giving your presentation, keep track of time with a small clock or timer. You can also set alarms on your phone (but make sure it’s vibrating, not ringing). You should monitor time in such a way that it won’t distract your audience. Don’t look at the clock or your watch during the presentation. The audience should never even know that you’re checking the time.
Practicing Your Presentation
Practice your presentation ahead of time and, if possible, record it on video. Although you may find it uncomfortable to watch yourself on video, it’s an important step. You’ll notice distracting habits and mannerisms like shifting from foot to foot, nervous gestures, arm waving, facial expressions, etc. If you identify these habits, you can try to control them.
It’s also good to practice by yourself and in front of someone else. Other people can give you tips to make your presentation better from an audience member’s point of view. Time your practice and keep in mind that presentations usually run about 20% longer than rehearsals.
If you’re nervous or embarrassed when giving your presentation, this is completely okay. It’s natural and everyone feels this way. At the beginning of your presentation, you can tell the audience you’re nervous to relieve the tension. People will empathize. As you give more presentations, you’ll get better at it, and someday you won’t feel nervous at all. One thing that helps to quell nerves is to really believe in the material you’re presenting. You’ll feel better if you’re confident about your presentation.