If you hate public speaking, then trust me, you’re not alone! Not all of us were blessed with TED Talk skills, and for most of us giving presentations can be an absolute nightmare. It’s one of those things we’re always looking to improve on, and it’s true what they say; practice really does make perfect. Because let’s be honest, as much as we want to we can’t avoid presentations forever. You’re going to be asked to do one at some point, whether it’s for work or uni. So, as with everything we want to make sure we smash it, and here’s how:
1. Tell a story
Everyone loves a story, and the way to capture an audience’s attention is by hooking them in a narrative. As humans, we cannot help but be curious, especially when the story is entertaining and relatable. But, it’s how you tell your story that affects how the audience will receive your message. So use it as a perfect opportunity to pitch your product or explain a new idea by setting the scene and taking your listeners into the right headspace. Structure your presentation with a problem, a climax, and a solution, making sure it all leads to your main point. Use analogies, personal experiences and relatable imagery to illustrate your message. Phrases like ‘imagine this’, ‘what if’ and ‘what would it feel like to…’ will get your audience to engage.
2. Use Visual Aids
Powerpoint slides are a great asset. They provide a visual stimulus for your listeners so they’ll be far less likely to zone out! But, don’t make the mistake that many people often do. Powerpoints are great, yes, but when you overload them with text and information they go from great to boring. You want to outline main, short points and include a lot of visuals. Let yourself do all the talking and never, ever read off of your powerpoint. You will lose that valuable connection with your audience when it’s essential you engage.
Slides are great for sharing data, images, highlighting key points and providing headings and subheadings, but are not there to substitute your notes! You can try alternatives to powerpoint like Custom Show or Haiku Deck to the get the most out of your slides. If in doubt, remember the 10/20/30 Rule: Ten slides, in under twenty minutes, containing no font smaller than thirty points. Simple!
3. Own the stage
Aside from having a wonderfully laid out presentation and an engaging slideshow, you must also nurture confidence. If you have any experience acting in high school, this will take you a long way. Channel it! But if you don’t, no need to worry. Use your voice and body language to own the stage. Stand tall, make yourself big, open up your chest and hold your ground. Never cross your arms or shift from foot to foot. Face the audience head-on, gesticulate and smile! Don’t be afraid to speak up. This will show confidence and demand attention.
4. Slow it down
Remember not to speak too quickly. The last thing you want to do is rush through your ten-minute presentation in three minutes. Take your time and don’t panic. Your attitude needs to reflect confidence. Speak slowly and don’t be afraid of emphatic silences. Allow space for applause and laughter before you resume speaking. This shows you are responsive to the audience. If you’re unsure, watch some videos of TED Talks to pick up the rhythm of other speakers and mimic them!
5. Interact with your audience
Interaction is key to building trust with your audience. You want the presentation to feel conversational, making it more likely the audience will be persuaded by your argument and will retain the information. Ask questions, take a show of hands, and make eye contact. You can also try rehearsing a joke. Humour is a great way to get your listeners on board but always keep it fairly safe. If you never tell jokes in real life, maybe just skip it. Nobody wants to hear a forced and awkward joke!
6. Practice practice practice
Banish any uncertainty so that you well and truly know your stuff. You should either have your presentation memorized, or use a list of bullet-pointed prompts. Either way, your message should be crisp and clear in your mind. Think of this as a performance and truly seize the space. It’s yours. No apologies! No one can get through any presentation without practicing at least few times!
What tricks have you used to give a great presentation recently, or tell us about your favorite speakers? Let us know in the comments below…
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