By Paola Pascual on Aug 16, 2021 6:45:00 AM
Follow these tips and give the most memorable presentations. Find out how to prepare for your talk, what the message should (and should not) include, how to deal with your audience, how to design the best slides and, all in all, how to nail your next presentation. And don't forget to check out our podcast episode on delivering engaging presentations!
How can I prepare my presentation and boost my confidence?
The following tips will help you prepare your presentation and boost your confidence.
1) Prepare and practice for a perfect presentation
There’s no better recipe for a confidence boost than to be prepared. Practice your presentation until it becomes a part of you until you don’t even have to make a big effort to do it. This is called muscle memory, and it’s acquired as a result of frequent repetition. During this phase, make sure you’re in control of the following aspects: you’re not speaking too fast (or too slow), you’re able to explain things clearly, there’s eye contact with your audience, and your message makes sense when you deliver it.
2) Arrive early
Get there a few minutes before your presentation starts and allow yourself to settle in before you start. Have a look at your notes one more time and make sure you have all the important information at your fingertips. If you are delivering a presentation online, log in a few minutes early to make sure it all works properly.
3) Adjust to your environment
If you arrive early, explore the room, check the lighting, noise, and all the tools you might need, like a projector or a microphone. You also need to feel comfortable in your clothes; wear something that feels good and allows you to be yourself. Every element plays a role, and the more aware you are of this, the more effective your talk will be as a whole.
4) Remember to smile
Smiling shows confidence, but not only that –it also releases endorphins, which make you feel good and will calms your anxiety. Smiling will help you feel more relaxed and prepared to speak in front of an audience. Just don’t overdo it. Make it look natural!
5) Silence is gold! Work on your pauses
We tend to speed up when we’re nervous. This makes us look unprepared and it is more difficult for our listeners to understand and remember our message. Give them some time to process your words. Take a deep breath, slow down, and use pauses to take control again, emphasize a point, and create some tension for a dramatic effect. Pro tip! Have a glass of water around and take a sip every now and then. This is a less awkward way of making a pause during a presentation.
6) Don’t be boring
You might be giving lots of useful information, but if your delivery bombs, so will your presentation. You don’t have to become a stand-up comedian to give a talk, but keep your audience on the edge of their seats by including a few jokes, adding funny GIFs, or using attractive images to your slides. Also, remember to include transition phrases to help your audience stay engaged and understand the flow of your presentation.
7) Leverage your voice
It might be the most amazing information ever, but if you deliver it with a monotonous voice, it's not going to sound interesting. Julian Treasure explains it very well in his TED Talk How to speak so that people want to listen but here are the main takeaways:
- Lower, deeper voices are associated with power and authority.
- We prefer rich, smooth, and warm voices
- Avoid monotony and vary your intonation
- Do not finish your statements with the intonation of a question
- Control your pace: speaking quickly can show excitement, while you can use slow speech to emphasize
- Notice how people will really pay attention by getting very quiet, and very loud voices will most likely startle your audience
8) Divide your presentation into sets of 10 minutes
We get bored easily, and for a large number of reasons, but some of the main causes of boredom are monotony, lack of flow, and need for novelty, so after 10 minutes it is likely that you start losing your audience. But don’t you worry! There are ways to re-engage them: reset your talk every ten minutes, tell a story, ask questions, ask your listeners to explain something, show them a new tool… In short, make them be part of the show and break monotony every ten minutes.
How can I keep the audience engaged?
'Adapt the message to your audience' is one of the most popular tips when it comes to presentation skills. But what does that even mean? Check out these easy tips that will help you engage your audience.
9) Make your audience your best ally
Get your listeners on your side and they will become your best ally. Speak from the heart, be honest, and make them believe in you. Even if you know your presentation script by heart, it’s important not to sound like you learned it; make it sound like you’re telling an interesting story to a friend.
10) Make them feel like they know you
Sympathy goes a long way. Avoid lengthy and uninteresting introductions; weave personal stories into your slides and make them feel like they know you. Building this connection is an art, though, since it’s easy to get a few eye-rolls if you go too far. Tell them a short story or anecdote about yourself that arouses curiosity or interest, and you will feel the difference.
11) But make it about them
Public speaking is not about you. Find out what your audience knows and what they need to know, and use this information to craft the perfect perfect presentation. Use the data they already have to build rapport, and the information that they don’t have yet to give them something new and keep them interested.
12) Actively engage your audience
Boost your audience’s engagement by asking them what they think; consider starting with a poll or a survey. Don’t be put off by unexpected questions – instead, see them as an opportunity to give your audience what they want.
What should I include in my presentation?
13) KISS –Keep it short and simple!
Start by writing down what you think you need to present. Then, filter out unnecessary information. This includes information that your audience already knows, irrelevant details, and facts that you can easily share by email.
14) Make it easy
During a presentation, keep your information as simple and accessible as possible. Don’t dumb it down, but keep your sentences clear and not too complicated. Use comparisons, pictures, and explanations to avoid losing their attention.
15) Make an unexpected opening
As you utter “Good afternoon, today I am going to talk about the improvements in the system”, your audience will most likely be heading out the door, at least mentally.
When we are on a plane, we tend not to listen to flight attendants because we know they’re probably not going to tell us anything new or interesting. Avoid this effect with your audience by giving them a story, a shocking figure, or an example, something that engages their brains. Here are some ideas for an excellent, effective opening:
- Spin a remarkable story
- Ask questions
- Show them a shocking figure or statistic
- Tell them a fun fact
- Stimulate curiosity
- Contradict expectations
- Use a quote (please, don’t pick a cheesy one)
- Make a bold claim
16) Place your bottom line at the beginning
How will your ideas help your audience? Tell them early and often. Don’t keep your listeners trying to guess your conclusion until the end. Use the inverted pyramid, and instead of making them wait, tell them what they’re there for. As soon as they know how you’re about to make their lives easier, you’ll have them in your pocket.
17) Make people want to write something down
What are the main takeaways? Give them tools they didn’t know about, shortcuts, new concepts, mind-blowing facts or stats. Make sure they understand how they can use your ideas to their advantage. Highlight the problems and provide clear instructions on how to fix them.
How can I design better presentation slides?
The next tips will help you design presentation slides that grab attention and help you bring your message across.
18) Cut down on bullet points
Your audience will listen to you or read the content, but won't do both! Do you also agree that bullet points shouldn’t be a thing anymore but don’t know how to do it instead? Are you trying to quit bullet points but you’re still caught in the trap? Here are some stylish alternatives:
- Use images with keywords
- Add one point per slide
- Replace text with icons
- Take advantage of flowcharts and tables
- Make text look like a quote with speech bubbles
19) Use more Images than text
Vision rules! You can say as much, if not more, with images than with text in a presentation. It doesn’t mean you should get rid of all text entirely, but get them to pay more attention by relying more on your voice and those photos.
20) Ask somebody to proofread your slides
There’s nothing worse than standing on stage by a slide with grammatical or spelling errors. Not only does it make you look unprofessional but it is also very distracting for everyone who notices. Ask a colleague or a friend to proofread your deck and make sure it doesn’t contain any errors.
21) Add super-quotable catchphrases
Make it easy for them to tweet what you’re saying. Don’t be scared of your audience pulling out their phones, and add your Twitter details to your slides. Make sure you build these catchphrases into your presentations. Can they easily become a tweet or a meme? Don’t make your audience do it for you. Remember that your slides should include the kind of thing people would like to share. For this, the conference hashtag will boost your reach!
22) End with an “Oh, and one more thing” moment [Bonus tip]
Did I say 21 tips? Well, I meant 22. Steve Jobs’s presentations often ended with “one more thing”, and this was often what people remembered long after his presentations were over. The “one more thing moment” adds an unexpected aspect, a twist in the end –something all the people will talk about for the rest of the conference.
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[Note: This article was originally published on Sep 7, 2018, and updated on Aug 16, 2021]