Tips for a Great Presentation
Are you stressing over your presentation skills? Do you want to make sure you give a good presentation? Jerry Seinfeld has a skit where he points out that studies show public speaking is a bigger fear than death. That means, he claims, that if you are going to a funeral you are better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. While there isn’t a lot you can do to melt away your anxiety, a the best start is simply to make a better presentation. When delivering your great prezi here are some great prezi tips that can be used for all presentations.
Becoming a competent, rather than just confident, speaker requires a lot of practice. Do you remember a presentation that was particularly engaging? There are many resources online where you can see quality presentations such as TED Talks, YouTube or online university course content. Usually all it takes is compelling, simple information delivered in a concise, clear way. Whether you decide to be funny, serious or inspirational is up to your speaking style and personal uniqueness.
While we cannot coach you on style, here are a few things you can consider to start sharpening your presentation skills and become better at public speaking on the onset:
Tip number one is the 10-20-30 rule. This is a slideshow rule offered by Guy Kawasaki. This rule states that a powerpoint or Prezi slide should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes and have no text less than 30 point font. He says it doesn’t matter whether your idea will revolutionize the world, you need to spell out the important nuggets in a few minutes minutes, a couple slides and a several words a slide. Help your audience be able to read, digest and process the information in a steady flow of information. Show the audience the way through your presentation of telling them something they may not remember.
A good presentation has the audience in mind. People want and need to be able to connect and absorb information while being able to read the points clearly. Some presentations and presenters give great content but those presentations cannot be seen from those in the back, so those members of the audience hardly get anything. You also want to hold the attention of your audience with your slides and talk, so try to get everything in twenty minutes and really use time wisely. Having no more than ten slides may seem like bare bones, but it can actually get the audience to talk about their thoughts, questions and opinions and focus on your talk instead. They can help you understand what parts go through to them in the discussion that follows each slide.
Something else to use is the connection and energy in the room versus just the presentation itself. This way you can be sure you connect with the people in the room. Try to ask the audience questions from time to time!
Presentations should be entertaining and informative. I’m not saying you should act like a dancing monkey when giving a serious presentation. But unlike an e-mail or article, people expect some appeal to the presentation itself. Simply reciting dry facts without any passion or humour will make people less likely to pay attention to your presentation. A presentation after all is not just a bunch of slides. It is a mixture of your personality and the energy of the audience as well. If you’re shy, remember to breathe! Replace your ums and ahs with small breaths. Use those moments of pause to help you relax. Give yourself time when you need it.
One of our personal tips is to talk to your audience before your presentation. If you talk to a few people beforehand, even ask some people why they’ve come to attend your presentation, they can let you go off-script and talk to people during your presentation. When you do this, others will perceive you as friendly and easy going versus rigid and glued to your slides.
Another one of our tips is get help beforehand. If you practice your presentation with others beforehand, you can make sure that you don’t read instead of talk. You can only get better by practicing, so you can knock the ball out of the park infront of your audience. You are not your slides and your slides should not dictate your presentation! You are what makes this presentation unique. Give the audience a personalized talk and they are likelier to engage.
Nervous and inexperienced speakers tend to talk way too fast. Consciously slow your speech down and add pauses for emphasis. Your audience has dedicated to make time to sit there and listen to you. Help them understand the information, show them the way through your information and give them dense facts slowly.
Imagine yourself as a member of your audience. Would you be able to understand someone if they spoke too fast? Make sure you breathe and try to after an “uhm” or “ah”. This way, you can give yourself some relaxation and you can use your natural pauses to get to a place of calm. You don’t need to be nervous!
Have you heard of putting a pen in your mouth to practice public speaking? This is one way to help you slow down (it’s very challenging!). Use a clean pen and put it between your teeth and this will help you enunciate.
Remember to use the audience’s fresh eyes to subject help you feel less nervous. Even if you do not know something, you can always give information to the person via email or in-person after.
Match eye contact with everyone in the room. Get connected. People like those who engage with them. I’ve also heard from salespeople that you shouldn’t focus all your attention on the decision maker since secretaries and assistants in the room may hold persuasive sway over their boss. Make use of unspoken connection like eye contact. You don’t need to stare long. Think of it as a conversation with someone over dinner. Sometimes you make eye contact, sometimes you look to the side or at your plate. Think of your presentation like that and it will never seem creepy!
Have you ever been in a store where you’re trying to get help but no one will glance over at you? The moment someone locks eyes with you, even if they do not ask you if you need help, you can immediately sense that you can trust and talk to that person. It is no different in a presentation.
15 Word Summary
Can you summarize your idea in fifteen words? If not, rewrite it and try again. Speaking is an inefficient medium for communicating information, so know what the important fifteen words are so they can be repeated. Make sure you can tell your idea simply. You can repeat those words throughout the presentation. A long winded answer or a short concise summary can make or break a presentation.
Think of the “elevator pitch” in film. Producers have to pitch films quickly and compellingly. You can build this elevator pitch by 1) identifying your goal, 2) explain what you do, 3) communicate your unique selling point, and 4) engage with a question. If you can put all these things together in fifteen words or an elevator pitch, you are immediately more prepared than the majority of presenters!
Another suggestion for slideshows. This one says that you should have twenty slides each lasting exactly twenty seconds. The 20-20 Rule forces you to be concise like the 10-20-30 rule. That being said, take pauses between each slide and remember to engage your audience! Talking to your crowd between these quick paced slides is always helpful. Remember, it is not to be quick or rush, but it is meant to make everything bite sized and easy to retain as an audience member!
This one is a no brainer, but somehow digital presentations make people think they can get away with it. If you don’t know your speech without cues, that doesn’t just make you more distracting. It shows you don’t really understand your message, a huge blow to any confidence the audience has in you. You don’t want to be like a high school presenter who just read off their page with facts plagiarized from Wikipedia!
Speeches are About Stories
If your presentation is going to be a longer one, explain your points through short stories, quips and anecdotes. Great speakers know how to use a story to create an emotional connection between ideas for the audience.
You do not need to tell a short story either! As long as you guide your audience through your story, put them in your shoes, they’ll follow you. Chances are with this level of storytelling, they will retain the facts given to them in the session. A story is easier for people to tell their friends, family and coworkers than a few random facts!
Project Your Voice
Nothing is worse than a speaker you can’t hear. Even in the high-tech world of microphones and amplifiers, you need to be heard. Projecting your voice doesn’t mean yelling, rather standing up straight and letting your voice resonate on the air in your lungs rather than in the throat to produce a clearer sound.
You can always invest in a mic and speakers for your setup if you are a quiet speaker. There are rooms that do not lend well to acoustics, so come early to see how far your voice travels. If you are better with your voice, you could practice your level of voice prior. By doing this, you’ll know what level and how it feels in your throat to project your voice.
Don’t Plan Gestures
Any gestures you use need to be an extension of your message and any emotions that message conveys. Planned gestures look false because they don’t match your other involuntary body cues. You are better off keeping your hands to your side. It is much better to practice your words and voice, but gestures should be natural movements that are unconscious and you don’t think of.
“That’s a Good Question”
You can use statements like, “that’s a really good question,” or “I’m glad you asked me that,” to buy yourself a few moments to organize your response. It also encourage the audience member to ask more questions. You could ask them for more information to give yourself time to respond too.
Will the other people in the audience know you are using these filler sentences to reorder your thoughts? Probably not. And even if they do, it still makes the presentation more smooth than um’s and ah’s littering your answer.
Breathe In Not Out
Feeling the urge to use presentation killers like ‘um,’ ‘ah,’ or ‘you know’? Replace those with a pause taking a short breath in. The pause may seem a bit awkward, but the audience will barely notice it. This breathing exercise will make you relax as you talk, as it gives you natural pauses.
Come Early, Really Early
Don’t fumble with your Prezi or hooking up a projector when people are waiting for you to speak. Most likely that will make you not able to troubleshoot the most basic of things while people watch you!
Come early, scope out the room, run through your slideshow and make sure there won’t be any glitches. Preparation can do a lot to remove your speaking anxiety. If you start off looking incompetent, that does nothing for your confidence. You could always ask for help but that already sets your presentation on informal note. You could make fun of yourself, but is that the image you want to project?
Join Toastmasters and practice your speaking skills regularly in front of an audience. Not only is it a fun time, but it will make you more competent and confident when you need to approach the podium. Plus the people you practice with may ask you questions or tell you how they understand your presentation in a way you didn’t see before. You should practice until you are bored of your presentation. That way you can auto-pilot if you’re more of a nervous type and get through what you need to.
When you practice, you can also employ different tones and types of voices. If you are more extroverted, you can add elements of acting to your speaking. One thing we recommend is not practicing body gestures, those should come naturally. But pacing of voice, tone and types of voice are all very important.
Apologies are only useful if you’ve done something wrong. Don’t use them to excuse incompetence or humble yourself in front of an audience. Don’t apologize for your nervousness or a lack of preparation time. Most audience members can’t detect your anxiety, so don’t draw attention to it. They also do not know how much you prepped or did not prep until you mention it. A long winded preamble does more damage than it does any good!
Do Apologize if You’re Wrong
One caveat to the above rule is that you should apologize if you are late or shown to be incorrect. You want to seem confident, but don’t be a jerk about it. If someone calls you out during the presentation, listen to them. Remember that you are always learning and people respond positively to someone who is willing to correct themselves. While some might admire your steadfastness, it is ten times likelier an apology is much more effective, genuine and authentic.
Put Yourself in the Audience
When writing a speech, see it from the audiences perspective. What might they not understand? What might seem boring? Use WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) to guide you. This is another reason why practicing beforehand might be helpful. You could practice infront of friends or colleagues who do not understand the information as intimately as you do. What are their reactions, questions? How can you describe your ideas and your pitch in a way that anyone can understand? Even if you have a knowledgeable crowd, you might be asked a simplistic question alongside the complex ones. Are you prepared to answer both?
Sounds impossible? With a little practice you can inject your passion for a subject into your presentations. Enthusiasm is contagious. Learn a couple jokes, tell personal stories, ask your audience questions, wear something extravagant. A presentation can be formal but humorous as long as you stay true to your tone!
One our of favourite presentations, a film producer at a film festival talked about the various personalities she worked with. She painted a picture of a demanding actress wearing crocodile shoes to shoulder pads, imitated a brassy East Coast accent while talking about the day to day life of pitching and making movies. She didn’t employ this all throughout the presentation, as that would be repetitive. But it was memorable for the minute she did it! You can let go at parts if your presentation isn’t too formal.