In almost every role in business there will come a time when you will need to make a presentation – but many of us fear that day. Yet being able to make a great presentation is one of the best ways of improving your career prospects.
You may have a range of academic and professional qualifications at the highest level and be brilliant at your job, but if you can’t make a good presentation then you are holding yourself back. But before you spend money on training take a look at these easy ways to improve your presenting style; some skills can be better honed by working on them at a personal level rather than with someone else to whom you may not be able to articulate your fears.
These key tips for presenting any type of information to audiences large and small will help you overcome your fear:
Preparation is Essential
Some lucky people are able to stand up in front of a group with little or no warning and educate, inform or entertain their audience, but most people are not that lucky so you absolutely must prepare in advance. Sometimes the fear of making the presentation leads us to delay the preparation until the last minute, but it is rarely “alright on the night” without putting in the hours of preparation beforehand.
So put your material together well in advance and read it through again and again and again, editing as necessary to ensure you are being accurate and concise.
Keep it Simple
There is no need to show lots of data, charts, images and graphs – they will just overwhelm your audience and, more importantly, fuel your fear by making you worry about the detail of each piece of information.
By limiting the amount you show your audience you can concentrate of what to say instead of worrying about your slides, and if you forget something who’s to know?
Check Your Tech
If you have prepared your content well don’t allow the technology to let you down – if you are presenting in an unfamiliar room then take with you everything you possibly can – your own laptop and all necessary leads (plus spares) at the very least. Arrive at least an hour in advance to check that all the gadgetry you need is working. If it is, great, you can relax with a coffee and look through your notes one more time.
If you want to use live internet data make this an optional part of the presentation and, again, check your connections in advance but don’t panic if the internet connection is unreliable – just exclude that optional part and don’t mention it to your audience.
Looking at the back of the room may seem like a good option for controlling nerves or looking at your screen or notes but you will relax more if you make eye contact with those you are talking to. This will also engage your audience more, make them listen more intently and contribute where relevant – all of which will help you to relax.
If you have ever given a presentation where the audience is disinterested and don’t contribute when asked to do so it is usually the behaviour of the presenter that is at fault.
Push your shoulders back, keep your head up, breathe deeply and move – maybe just your hands if that’s what you feel comfortable doing, or simply taking a few steps to a new position. It will make you seem in control (even if you don’t feel it) and attract the attention of your audience and put them at their ease.
Having some props is always helpful to calm your nerves but also to help people understand the points you are trying to get across – even if you don’t have much use for one try holding a pointer in one hand if you really can’t think of any appropriate props.
Finally, Involve Your Audience
Depending on the type of presentation get the audience involved by asking questions, seeking opinions or suggestions. Provided you have prepared your material thoroughly you should not fear the questioning and if you really don’t know an answer then there is nothing wrong with saying so and offering to get back to the person at a later time with more information.
Making a presentation can seem like a daunting prospect but the more you practise the better you will become. With each new opportunity to practise use what you have learnt from previous presentation to improve bit by bit. Don’t expect to be perfect and never dwell on past mistakes, just learn from them and try not to make the same mistake again. And remember, some people actually enjoy giving presentations and you could be one of them.
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Author: Michelle Symonds
Digital Marketing Consultant helping small businesses attract and engage more customers and grow their online reputation through content creation and social media.