The best presenters project confidence, which comes from being comfortable. If you’re nervous, find a friend in the audience and smile at them. Then relax.
Confidence is composed of three elements:
- Body language: Sit or stand up straight and face the audience. Release any tension in your body and try to spend your presentation looking at the audience rather than at your notes. It’s okay to pace or move around if you need to, but any movement needs to be measured.
- Voice: Use a loud and clear voice if there’s no microphone – clarity is the most important with or without an amplifier. Many people will rush their words when nervous, so be mindful of the flow and pace of your presentation. Factor in some pauses so what you’re saying can sink in.
- Rapport: Build a rapport with your audience. Many presenters break the ice with a joke or an anecdote, or use techniques such as rhetorical questions to engage them.
The content of a presentation is also important. Good content is similarly composed of three elements:
- Novelty: The content must be new or sufficiently different to engage the audience. If your topic is unavoidably dull, spruce it up with props, images or humour that present it in a new way.
- Structure: You only have a limited time to do your presentation, so a good structure can be an effective way of conveying complex ideas. Form a skeleton by looking for patterns of logic and a sensible order in which the audience might come to an understanding of the material.
- Expertise: You need to know the material inside out and be familiar with the way you will present it. Once you’ve worked out the structure and words, practise your presentation. It will also help with your confidence when you get on stage.
Get to know how you behave in front of an audience and then accentuate the good parts and reduce undesirable habits. If you find you get nervous when people look at you, use visual aids they can stare at instead. If you find you talk too fast, invest in a metronome and practise speaking at a slower pace. And if your hands tremble, hold a prop like a pen to still them.
The way you present yourself, your work and your ideas will colour how your abilities are viewed in the workplace. Give your career the best chance by honing your presentation skills at the beginning of your career.
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