Your boss has just informed you of a presentation you need to make. The dreaded P-word... All of a sudden, you’re overcome by a fear of the unknown. Your heart starts pounding, and you fear it's going to jump right out of your chest. Your nerves are breaking, and you can literally feel your pupils dilating. Relax. There’s nothing wrong with any of these feelings. They’re a necessary precondition for delivering a great presentation. These feelings are probably the reason you’re reading this.
You’re about to give a mind-blowing presentation.
Presentation is an art. One you need to learn and continually get better at. All the great presenters of our time once felt nervous and unprepared. Here are some practical tips to help you get started:
- Focus on your Opening and Closing Statements - Nothing will ever be as important as the opening and closing of your presentation. The first 3 minutes are crucial. Tell a story, ask a question, quote a statistic, say something shocking - whatever it takes to engage your audience. At the end of your presentation, reinforce your message. If there is one thing you want your audience to take away, what would it be?
- Know Your Stuff - If you’re going to present to an audience, you had better know your stuff. If there’s anything you’re not comfortable talking about, remove it from your slides. The worst thing that can happen to you is standing in front of an audience clueless. Most times, the fear of presentation seeps in because we feel insecure about the subject. Your standing in front of the audience already instills in them some belief in your competence on the subject. Prepare ahead. Take a notepad and jot down all the possible questions that could come up. The lesser the surprises, the more you’re able to control events and answer any questions that come up. And if you do not know the answer to a question, thank them for asking and tell them you’ll get back to them.
- Put Yourself in their Shoes - Most times, presenters are often too self-consumed and nervous about their own performance to consider the needs of their audience; this is understandable. However, you'll need to step away from yourself and be sensitive to how your audience feels. They’re human too. Ask them if you’re going too fast or too slow. Pull them in with your words, respect their time and make sure they’re able to take something away.
- Pace Yourself - Don’t hesitate to pause or ask questions. A pause can be very powerful and hold significant meaning, depending on how you use it. Pausing after saying something “controversial” for instance, can help to re-engage your audience.
- Get to Your Venue Early Enough - Your presentation day is definitely not the best day to get stuck in traffic. You'll need plenty of time to settle down. If it’s an unfamiliar venue, do a trial run the day before and get there at least 30 minutes before on the day. Remember Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, so guard against this.
- Keep it Simple - No heavy distractions like unnecessary transition effects, sharp colours or loud animations. Simple is best.
There are more tips you can follow in addition to the ones here. Read 6 Practical Tips for Giving a Great Presentation - Part 2.