Tips on How to Present (Represent Yourself Well)
I used to loathe making presentations right up until high school, which is when I experienced something of a break through…
Everyone in the audience wants you to do well. Realise this and it will make the whole group-presentation experience much easier for you. Think about yourself as an audience member; when a presenter starts to speak and makes a good job of it, don’t you find that you relax and feel good that they are doing well. But if a speaker stands up and appears nervous or stumbles over their words, don’t you then find that you feel bad for them (I tend to sit in the audience and mentally will them to do well; “you can do it, you can do it!”).
Do a great job and everyone will benefit.
We as speaker/presenter just need to get past ourselves. By this I mean; why not project the best and most positive version of yourself rather than the shy/uncertain side (we all have moments where we are one or the other). Choose to be the most confident version of you – and keep remembering as you present that when you do this, you help your audience.
You are there to add value to their lives – they are on your side and will appreciate your efforts.
Some Practical Stuff
- Prepare prepare prepare! I wouldn’t advise following an exact script on the day; rather, prepare your words in advance to ensure that you have nailed the subject. Use the PowerPoint/Prezi (less is more) or notes to prompt you to keep the flow of speech/topic order logical. You are definitely better to over prepare than underprepare as this will increase your confidence going in.
- Start with good energy! Ensure you memorise at least the first couple of slides. Start well, and that will increase your own confidence and also make a great first impression on your audience. The success of starting well will spur you on to do well for the remainder of the presentation. Use the bullet points as a mental jog but try to avoid reading them out (use them as a starting point only).
- Find the friendly faces in the crowd. You will always find in any group at least two or three people who tend to act as “active audience participants”. I think of these people as the “encouragers”. Find the smiling faces and focus on them; it will encourage you and also make the audience feel that you are engaging with them.
- Never apologise. No self-deprecating remarks please! Humans have a tendency to over-apologise for themselves when they feel uncertain in a situation – try to avoid this. Keep your speech positive (and on-track by keeping your self-talk positive). This will increase the audience’s confidence in you.
- Handle the hecklers. Sometimes audience members may interject in a less than timely fashion. Consider in advance how you would deal with such an eventuality; “yes you raise an interesting point; let’s discuss that further during the Q&A time” etc.
- Don’t fidget! Murphy’s Law dictates that your nose will become unbearably itchy the moment you step up – ignore it! Fidgety presenting isn’t a good look.
- Vary your tone of voice. Try to avoid speaking in a monotone!
- Handle minor glitches with finesse. Think about ways to handle it if things go wrong (technical difficulties with PowerPoint etc.). Try not to worry if they do – chances are that your audience didn’t actually notice the minor fumble anyway! Keep a sense of perspective.
- Number your slides for ease of reference for audience members who may wish to refer back to particular slides during the Q&A time.
- Keep it light. Inject humour where possible (again, another thing I wouldn’t try to rehearse – naturally occurring jokes always turn out better!)
Stand tall! Remember you are there to help people and add value. You and the audience are all on the same team 🙂