7 Top Tips for Perfecting Presentations
29 October 2021
No matter how often you do it, speaking in front of a group is a nerve-wracking experience. It’s also one that is almost inevitable if you’re working in the corporate world. From pitching ideas to addressing stakeholders at a gala dinner, it can feel crucial that you get it just right.
I’m not new to speaking to an audience. As a debater, public speaker, and leader of clubs, I’ve had my fair share of talking to a crowd. Oddly, however, as I get older and more ‘experienced’ I have become more and more nervous about presenting.
I recently presented for the first time to my new working team at our agency reset day and the nerves were not subtle – I had the racing heart, wobbly knees and urge to talk a million miles a minute so I could finish and sit down. Despite the internal negative dialogue, the presentation was a hit and ended up being not only a valuable learning experience but also validated that being prepared is key.
Here are my top seven tips for a smooth presentation (even if you’re palms are sweating!).
- Know your topic
How are you supposed to speak with confidence and conviction about a topic you don’t know much about? You can’t. However, if you’re comfortable in what you have to say, presenting and defending it to comes far more naturally. Knowing what you’re talking about also lets you focus on your delivery rather than content. Another useful tip is to prepare answers to possible questions so you’re ready to roll with your responses and not caught off guard.
- Know your audience
Understanding who you are presenting to impacts not only the information you include, but the way you communicate it. For example, if you’re presenting to a room of graphic designers, they’re going to be just as interested in the way you present your content as the content itself! To deliver an effective presentation and keep your audience engaged, tailor your content based on your audience’s interests, experience, position and needs.
- Determine your key messages
Everyone likes a succinct presentation. You can almost feel an audience’s attention disappear as you go off on a tangent. If you can, keep your presentation to one topic and leave the rest for another day. Once you’ve nailed your topic, identify the key messages you want to deliver to your audience, and use them to develop your presentation.
- The Rule of Three
The Rule of Three states that any ideas are more effective and memorable when communicated in threes. In terms of your presentation you can integrate this technique by:
- Dividing your content into three distinct sections (introduction, content and summary).
- Focusing on three core points.
- Using three words in succession e.g. faster, higher, stronger.
- Using repetition in threes e.g. that’s why x, that’s why y, that’s why z.
Keeping this in mind when creating your presentation will help you to structure it for maximum impact and memorability!
- Create your presentation
Depending on the context of your presentation you may or not have accompanying slides or visual materials. If you do, here are a couple of things to remember:
- Data, processes, and complicated information should be presented as simply as possible. This is usually best done visually, in graphics.
- Your slides should be used to support your presentation, not replace it.
- Keep the text on your accompanying material to a minimum.
- Tell a story
Humans have been using stories to convey messages since the beginning of our existence. Incorporating stories into your presentation is a great way to:
- Humanise yourself and the experiences of your audience.
- Encourage the audience to empathise with you and your key messages.
- Improve memorability and sentiment.
This blog outlines the different story telling structures and how you can apply it to your presentation with examples from outstanding TED Talk presenters.
- Practice your delivery
In the case of presentations, practice may not make perfect, but it certainly boosts your confidence. Some things to consider in the delivery of your speech:
- 20 Minute Time Limit – no one likes a long presentation. If you’re going longer than 20 minutes, it’s likely that you’re introducing too many ideas and concepts.
- Eye Contact and Body Language – consider how you would speak with friends and emulate that behaviour when you’re presenting. You’re likely to be making eye contact and using your hands, facial expressions, and tone of voice to communicate your message.
- Remember everyone wants you to do well!
Regardless of what your inner monologue is saying, your audience isn’t there to watch you fail. Undoubtably, they’ve been in a similar position before. You’re not expected to be perfect. In fact, you’re probably expected to stumble over a word or two! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and know it’s unlikely your audience will notice, care or even remember if you make a mistake as long as you don’t draw attention to it. You got this!
“Nerves are not a disaster. The audience expects you to be nervous”