Teacher's “present” often, but presenting outside of the classroom is a different situation. Educators AND students can use these tips to help make the most of these opportunities!
It’s normal to feel nervous and jittery right before you give a presentation. But don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re not alone. Even those who frequently speak in front of big audiences still feel nervous from time to time, so give yourself a break. If you don’t want to have a nervous breakdown, then you better read this article to learn these simple tricks to improve your presentation skills. Let’s begin!
1. Master Your Presentation
Knowing the ins and outs of your presentation will help build your confidence. You should know what each slide on your presentation says, and you should also know what you’re going to say about each slide. You don’t want to read off of your slides. Instead, do your best to learn your presentation’s subject matter by heart.
Your accompanying PowerPoint presentation is just a visual aid. Don’t spend too much time fine-tuning your slide animations and transitions. Rather, focus on perfecting your message and making sure it’s easy enough for your audience to understand.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
As the popular saying goes, practice makes perfect. While you don’t have to aim for ‘perfect,’ delivering a presentation that actually meets your goals should be at the top of your list.
There’s no definite number on how many times you should practice your presentation. But practicing once or twice probably won’t suffice. You can try recording yourself with a video camera and then time how long your presentation is going to take. You can also try practicing in front of a select group of people.
Whichever method you choose, it’s important to learn from the experience. Take notes on what you can improve on, and then use these tips on your next practice session.
3. Know Your Audience
Knowing who you’re speaking to will help you deliver a presentation that will resonate with your audience. Find something that’s common with your audience and mention that in your presentation. You may not know your audience on an individual level (this will be impossible if you’re presenting to hundreds or thousands of people), but finding common ground is certainly possible.
Know what makes your audience tick. Find out what’s going to be considered inappropriate or offensive. These details can make or break your presentation, so do take some time to get to know your audience.
4. Arrive Early At The Venue
Coming to your presentation prepared is one of the best ways to ensure your presentation’s success. You’ll be able to survey the venue, double and triple check all equipment you’re going to use and make sure everything’s working perfectly. You can even try squeezing in one last practice, if possible.
By the time your audience walks into the venue, you’ll be waiting for them with a smile. You’ll feel more relaxed and less tense than if you walked in with everyone already sitting down and just waiting for you to begin your presentation.
5. Think Positively
Thinking positively can go a long way in helping you overcome presentation fear. If you think your presentation’s going to be a disaster, then it is going to be a disaster. However, if you think it’s going to be a smashing success, then you’re going to do your absolute best to make sure that happens.
When you’re optimistic, you tend to project your optimism while you’re presenting. It will manifest in the way you speak and the way you engage with your audience. You’ll be a genuinely good presenter on stage!
6. Make Eye Contact
No one wants to sit through a presentation where the presenter is fixated on his or her shoes, his computer screen, or anywhere else but the audience. The truth is most of us would think the presenter is being disrespectful. If you don’t want your audience to think of you that way, then you should start working on making eye contact with the crowd.
When you make eye contact with your audience, you’re building a connection with individual members of your audience. It helps build trust, and it will go a long way towards making your audience understand what your presentation is all about.
7. Have A Sense Of Humor
Having a sense of humor is great. Learning how to put that to good use in your presentations is even better. No one wants to sit through a dry and boring presentation. Even if you’re presenting a serious subject matter, saying a well-timed joke can help break the ice.
What’s even better is that when you know who your audience is, you’ll be able to think of jokes that they’ll find funny. The last thing you want to do is blurt out a joke that will alienate your audience, or worse, have them walk out of the room in droves. Make sure everyone will be able to relate to your joke. Otherwise, it’s going to backfire on you and your presentation.
8. Be Flexible
Knowing your presentation’s subject matter by heart is more important than writing a speech word-for-word. When you’ve got an entire speech laid out in front of you, you can easily fall into the trap of reading it out loud. However, if you’re just working off of an outline, you can be flexible and adjust your speech accordingly.
For instance, if you see your audience’s eyes are starting to glaze (this is why making eye contact is important), then you may want to pause and do something to grab your audience’s attention. You can’t do that if you’re set on following your script from start to finish.
9. Be Confident
When you’re a nervous wreck on stage, your audience is not going to believe a word you say. In fact, they probably will tune you out shortly after you open your mouth. If you want your audience to give you the time of day, then you’re going to have to work hard for it.
Simply put, you’re going to have to earn their attention and their respect. This means you need to be confident that you have your audience’s best interests at heart, and you’re not going to be wasting their time.
10. Don’t Be Afraid To Pause Every Now And Then
Don’t you just love dramatic pauses? That moment of silence right before the presenter delivers a punchline? You can practically feel the anticipation building up inside you, and your thoughts turn towards guessing what the presenter is going to say.
When you practice your presentation, make sure you pause at the right places. If you time your pauses just right, you can grab your audience’s attention.
11. Engage With Your Audience
Your audience is going to be spending their time listening to you. Make it worth their while. Respect them and address them as fellow human beings. Don’t disrespect them by ignoring them and not engaging with them.
When you engage with your audience, you not only gain their attention, but you also help ensure they understand your message perfectly. After all, if they get nothing from your presentation, then they might as well have been absent from your presentation.
12. Imagine You’re Talking To Friends
It’s much easier for you to present or talk in front of a group of people if they’re your friends. But in real-life presentations, you probably won’t know most of your audience. The trick then is to imagine your audience as your friends.
When you’re in the company of friends, you feel relaxed and comfortable. You can tell jokes. You can look them straight in the eyes without feeling intimidated. When you do this simple mind trick, your presentation will flow naturally, and your audience won’t mistake you for a lifeless robot.
13. Stop Making Excuses
When you’re already making excuses long before you’ve even given your presentation, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’re not giving yourself a chance to succeed. If you truly want to impress your audience, then you’re going to give it all you’ve got.
You’re going to throw those excuses out the window. You’re going to prepare for your presentation, you’ll study the materials, you’ll make an effort to know more about your audience, and you’ll keep on practicing.
14. Put Yourself In Your Audience’s Shoes
Imagine yourself as part of your audience listening to yourself deliver your presentation. Will you be happy with yourself? Or do you think you can improve further? Obviously, only you can answer this question. But the point is putting yourself in your audience’s shoes will let you pick up on the finer details of your presentation.
Just remember not to nitpick the smallest details otherwise you’re going to be wasting your time trying to fix the non-essential elements. Focus on the big picture and make sure you deliver your presentation in a manner that your audience will appreciate.
15. Study Other Presenters
Try your best to attend as many live presentations as possible. However, if you can’t, there are plenty of recorded presentations on YouTube. Write down what you like and what you don’t like. Study the presenters’ body language, their speech, their presentation slides.
What’s the crowd’s reaction? Are they enjoying it? How do you feel? Do you think you can do it better? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you improve your presentation skills greatly.
Improving your presentation skills is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and effort from you. Follow the tricks we’ve outlined in this article and you’ll be well on your way to being a presenter your audiences will love!