Presentation and public speaking skills play a crucial role in many aspects of work and life. In fact, according to Columbia University, poor presentation skills can actually have a 10% impairment on wages and the ability to graduate college; it can also have a 15% impairment on the ability to obtain a managerial/leadership position in an organisation. With that said, presentation and public speaking abilities are not limited to a certain type of person. With the correct preparation and practice, anyone can give an effective presentation to a professional and impressive standard. To give presentations to the highest standard, Select Training and Management Consultancy L.L.C. provides tips for developing adequate presentation skills.
The fear of presenting, otherwise known as Glossophobia is one of the initial and most common hurdles to overcome, when developing adequate presentation skills. If the thought of public speaking frightens you, remember that you are not alone. To one degree or another, everyone feels fear of presenting or public speaking. The key to overcoming this fear then, is to understand it and to use the correct management tools to diffuse it. Below are some of Select’s considerations for handling nerves associated with presenting and public speaking:
- Nerves are natural! Think of them as excitement, rather than any destructive stress.
- The better prepared you are, the less chance nerves have of putting you off your stride.
- Good preparation and rehearsal can reduce nerves by 75% and increase the likelihood of avoiding errors to 95%.
- Do not try and pretend to be an expert on something if you are not.
- The Audience:
- The audience is more interested in what you have to say and who you are, than whether you are nervous or not.
- If nerves make you blunder, simply stop and smile, and start afresh. The audience may notice but will usually accept it without concern, unless you show anxiety.
- Remember, most of the signs of your nervousness cannot be seen by the audience – you almost certainly look better than you feel.
- “Umms…” and “aaahs…”:
- Practice not filling pauses and spaces with ‘umms’ and ‘aaahs’, or other distraction non-word fillers.
- Deep Breathing:
- Stress shows up through the voice. Steady and deep breathing can help calm the tremors and lower the pitch.
- Walking and Talking:
- Standing up and walking around, rather than being tied to a spot, can help divert some of the energy from the adrenaline rush and so reduce some of the physical signs of nervousness.
- This is a powerful way to reduce anxiety. Imagine giving an outstanding presentation, or the audience cheering and so on.
- Build up to the Big Ones:
- If you are a highly nervous speaker, systematically build your confidence by starting with small presentations and building up to more challenging ones.
According to Prezi, presentations with visual aids are 43% more persuasive than the same presentations without visuals. However, it is important to remember that visual aids are an aid to communication, not a substitute for it. Since maintaining speaker-audience interaction is essential to giving an effective presentation, visual aids should not be upstaging or overpowering. To effectively utilise visuals in presentations, Select provides the tips below:
- Briefly plan the presentation before creating visual aids:
- Start by asking what you want the audience to do as a result of hearing the presentation.
- Figure out what they need to know, to do what you want them to do. One of the things you need to also figure out is why they would want to do what you want them to do.
- Create a simple outline that logically and clearly develops the main points.
- Finally, create the visual aids to support the message.
- Use visual aids sparingly:
- They are aids to your presentation — not its sum and substance. Use them to highlight and support the key points.
- Make visual aids visible to the whole audience:
- Projecting an image people cannot see is as senseless as speaking so softly people cannot hear.
- Talk to the audience, not the visual aid:
- The 80/20 rule applies here. Look at the audience at least 80% of the time.
- Avoid laser pointers:
- The aid should be so clear that the audience can easily follow along. Use your hand, if necessary.
- Explain the content of the visual aid when shown:
- As soon as you show people an object, they will look at it — even if you are talking about something else. Do not make them divide their attention.
- Remove the visual aid when finished:
- When finished with the visual aid, remove it, cover it, or turn it off to avoid distracting the audience.
- Limit the amount of material on any one visual aid:
- Use each slide to convey a single point.
- Bullet points — no more than four to five per slide — should explain, illustrate, or substantiate that one point.
- Avoid clip art from well-known sources:
- Clip art is almost always boring and amateurish.
- Be prepared to give the presentation without visual aids:
- Murphy’s Law applies in spades to anything involving technology and an audience. Have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. Take a hard copy of all slides.
Testing the Design of a Presentation
Testing the design of a presentation will ensure that when given, it will be given with ease. Therefore, once the visual aids are prepared, using them must be practiced. A practice run will ensure that each presentation builds on the previous one and that all points are covered. Do a practice run in full, alone or with somebody else. If making a group presentation, do a complete practice run. These colleagues can also provide valuable feedback.
The following Select tips will help to make the most out of practice runs:
- Seek feedback at the point when all material is well organised but not committed to memory. This will enable any needed changes to be incorporated easily.
- This feedback should include an evaluation of the presentation’s length, logic, clarity, and interest level; the speaker’s rate of delivery, voice level, and conversational pattern; and the usefulness of the visual aids.
Once satisfied with the content of the presentation, make sure that the technical supports are in place or lined up:
- Check with the meeting organiser to make sure the equipment needed will be there.
- If at all possible, arrive at the location of the presentation an hour early to check equipment and room arrangements.
- Practice using visuals with the equipment provided. Make sure that you know where the on/off switch is and make arrangements to have the lights dimmed, if necessary.
- Rehearsal is a fundamental step in developing and refining effective presentations. Practicing the presentation and working closely with the meeting organiser to secure the necessary technical supports will assist in making a smooth performance.
Presenting and Evaluating Oral Presentations
Once the content and process are planned, and the presentation structure and materials are prepared, it is time to practice, present and evaluate the presentation. Below is Select’s guide to practicing, presenting and evaluating a presentation:
Practicing the presentation is extremely important. Try practicing in front of friends, colleagues, or even the mirror!
- This will help with remembering the content and structure of the presentation, also to prepare for audience participation and activities.
- Practicing the presentation also allows you to time yourself, ensuring that you will not run under or over the time limit allowed.
- Try writing the key points on small palm cards. These are useful reminders and do not distract the audience as much as sheets of paper.
- Ultimately, all of this practice should help to reduce stress levels!
Several strategies can be used to overcome presentation anxieties:
- Remember to practice several times – You will then feel more comfortable with the content and structure of your presentation.
- Focus on the purpose of the task – keep your focus through the use of effective visual aids and use palm cards with key points.
- Try to engage the audience through eye contact, hand gestures, and by explaining and referring to visual aids.
- Be prepared for audience participation, interaction and engagement – Have questions (and potential answers to audience queries) ready and organise and rehearse any activities well.
- If necessary, seek help with presentation skills before the due date – it will make understanding concepts, structuring content, and using technology much more successful.
Evaluation is important as a basis for future improvement. In the form of ‘question time’, it also allows you to clarify aspects of your presentation for the audience.
Different Types of Evaluation
You may need to take into account several kinds of evaluation during and after your presentation. These can include:
- Formal evaluation – Marking criteria; written feedback from tutors, lecturers, and sometimes peers.
- Informal evaluation – People’s body language; comments made during or after the presentation; Interaction between yourself and audience members, and the kinds of questions that are asked.
- Self-evaluation – Think about your presentation. What worked? What did not work? If you are required to give feedback to other students, think carefully about these methods.
Using the feedback received
- Reflect on the feedback – Does it relate to presentation content, or structure? Did you address the question or topic adequately? Did you have a clear introduction and conclusion?
- Request additional feedback or clarification if necessary (from trainers, managers, other colleagues and audience members).
- Incorporate appropriate suggestions next time you present.
By consistently using the feedback received, you can start to improve the presentation’s content, format and style.