Remember what it felt like to get called on to read your essay in front of the whole class? For many of us giving a presentation still feels very much like that. It can be providing a status update in a team meeting, or delivering a keynote address – either way nerves can get the better of us. Whether we love or hate giving presentations, it’s a crucial part of nearly any job we do today and essential for career growth.
The good news is that you can be a bundle of nerves on the inside and still come across as calm and collected using these proven techniques.
1. Identify the Objective of Your Presentation
Your presentation has a purpose – once you decide if you’re trying to 1. inform, 2. persuade or 3. inspire, the presentation will start to take shape. Here are some things to consider:
- The objective of an informational presentation is to give clear data on a subject. Are you informing your audience of a new product line? An informational talk will be fact-based and include interesting and relevant information.
- A persuasive presentation tries to influence the opinions or behaviors of the audience. Are you trying to convince them to invest in your project? Persuasive presentations include your opinion and convincing points, and incorporating solid facts will give it credibility.
- An inspirational presentation appeals to the emotions and values of your audience. Is your goal to inspire your team to beat the target goal? A presentation intended to inspire may discuss the achievements reached so far and the vision moving forward. Inspirational talks can draw from moving quotes, stories or anecdotes.
2. Keep the Focus on YouPowerPoint and similar programs are tried-and true means of enhancing your presentation and providing valuable information. That said, it’s crucial to remember you’re the one giving the presentation – not your slide deck. A powerful presentation doesn’t need a lot of slides, text or graphics. One tip used by highly experienced presenters is the 10-20-30 rule. This is 10 slides for 20 minutes of presentation using 30 point font. While this may vary with each presentation, the goal is to minimize the volume of slides and content to keep it relevant and on point.
3. Practice and Practice and Practice….then Practice Some More
We know practicing is vital, but what does that really look like? Practicing isn’t reviewing what you plan to say in your head, it means speaking it out loud many times. You can ask people who are similar to your audience to watch you practice; this lets you test your words and concepts to ensure they will make sense to your final audience. Do you plan on taking questions? Have your practice audience ask questions so you can get comfortable fielding them. Timing your presentation while saying it out loud is essential as well; a 20 minute presentation rehearsed silently may only run 10 minutes when spoken. While practicing, record yourself and watch how you do. By practicing these tips, you can step up to the podium with confidence.
4. Let Your Body Do the Talking
Still not feeling 100% confident? It happens to the best of us. With the right body language your audience will never know. Here are a few tips to help you project confidence:
- Using your space – you have space on stage and it’s yours to use. Leaders project power and confidence by the way they stand and move; as the presenter, you are the leader. While you want to avoid pacing, you’re not limited to staying in the same spot throughout your presentation.
- Making eye contact – rather than scanning your eyes over the audience, try imaging your audiences is made up of long-lost friends. This is a great way to make eye contact evenly and see your audience as friendly and supportive faces.
- Gestures and posture – holding your shoulders back and keeping arms at your side gives the look of being open and confident. Gestures can add emphasis to your presentation, but they should be clean and purposeful, not fidgety and distracting.
- Using props and objects – props can be a valuable to drive home your point or serve as a visual example. Like gestures, objects are another tool that can enhance your delivery when used thoughtfully, or distract from it when overused or thrown about with large gestures.
A successful professional can deliver her message in a way that engages the audience and gets the point across. Delivering solid presentations is a skill that grows with experience. As your skills grow, so do your opportunities to showcase the value you bring to your organization.