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Delivering a presentation is tough. No matter what industry you’re in, or what stage of your career you’re currenting at, chances are your time will come to deliver a presentation. Every business, from corporate giants to startup companies, relies on presentations to glean insight into new ideas, products, and methodologies.
There are plenty of reasons why you’d have trouble delivering a presentation. Perhaps you don’t feel confident enough in your material, have a fear of public speaking, or don’t know how to deal with body language. These are all very normal concerns, but it helps to understand that in most scenarios, you are your own worst critic.
If you’re planning on or have been instructed to deliver a presentation soon, here are some tips on how to fine-tune your presentation skills:
Record Your Presentation Ahead of Time
Recording your presentation ahead of time will help you understand and notice things from an outsider’s perspective, then use recording to help make improvements to the presentation. Pay attention to verbal movements during the video review. The majority of communication is nonverbal, which makes hand movements, gestures, and other nonverbal motions critical. Your hand motions can help you emphasize a point, and keep your listeners at ease. Each of your movements has to be supportive of your message. Your facial expressions help you convey your real feelings, and allows you to better connect with an audience.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
As the old adage goes, “Practice makes perfect.” You should rehearse your presentation multiple times to get the hang of it. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel during the official presentation. Consider writing out your presentation just as you would articulate it naturally. Studies have shown that physically writing something down helps boost memory.
Some strategists suggests rehearsing in different positions to increase comfortability. For example, during one rehearsal, you might be standing, while in another you’re sitting. This increases the chances that, regardless of your setting and situation, you’ll still feel normal as you deliver your speech.
Pay attention to your pauses during the rehearsal process. Don’t rush to get everything out–it will make your speech seem hurried and unsure. When you talk too fast, you’ll also quickly lose breath, which can make you panic and get even more nervous. With this in mind, remember not to try and cover too much material in one sitting. An essential key to a great presentation is knowing what to include and what to remove. For every sentence you write, ask yourself, is this contributing to my overall point? Be sure to time yourself and stick to your allotted time.
Nail Your Openings & Closings
Your opening and closing statements are important. Try opening with a quote, question, or statistic. Create a call to action in your closing statements, and summarize your presentation to make it easier for your audience to relate. American Express published an article listing some of the best ways to close a presentation. Among them are:
- A surprising fact
- A provocative question
- An unusual quote
- A powerful visual
- A return to your opening
Take Advantage of Visuals
To properly complement and reinforce your message, use photos, charts, graphs, and other visual material. They help tell your story, and can be a great overall aid. Pay careful attention to lean too heavily on text during your presentation. While text helps imprinting information easier, you also want to provide context. Be careful not to rely too much on your visuals, as the key here is balance. Visuals are a supplement to your presentation, and should be treated as such.
Check Out Other Presentations
Regardless of the type of presentation you’re delivering, it helps to check out other presentations to learn more about how other people are delivering effective speech. This will also help you pick up habits that you believe can be healthy during your own presentations. Research local conferences in your industry, head over to Meetup.com, and check out the local events section for nearby happenings.
If you’re in a major city, you might also consider checking startup events and incubator demo days: these are events where startups attempt to pitch to a room full of investors in hopes of acquiring funding for their projects. Watching presentations from the outside also makes it easier to check out the audience and gauge their reactions. You’ll easily pick up on what bores them, what makes them comfortable, what intrigues them, etc. Takes notes as you observe.
Practice Stress Relief
Before your presentation, try taking a few deep breaths and stretching to relieve anxiety. If it helps, listen to motivational music to give yourself a sense of empowerment. Another form of stress relief is practicing positive visualization. Several studies have demonstrated the power positive visualization and the ability to help practicers bring something into fruition.
Through positive visualization, you create an empowering scenario in your mind, and imagine an ideal outcome. It’s natural for people to think negative thoughts when they’re nervous–such as “no one is going to like my presentation.” But for every negative thought you have, replace it with a positive one. Lastly, remember to smile at the start of your presentation. Smiling helps release endorphins, which can calm you down during a speech.
Make An Effort To Be Enthusiastic
Some studies have shown that enthusiastic speeches trump eloquent ones, and there’s a reason for that. Enthusiasm helps curbs nervousness, and shows your genuine commitment and confidence in your presentation. Methods of gaining enthusiasm are different for everyone. You might listen to pumping music, drink an espresso, or go on a run while listening to your recorded speech. Either way, know yourself and what gets you to that enthused space.
To help you stay enthusiastic, it helps to throw in some light-hearted humor. This can make your audience feel comfortable with your speech, especially when you’re giving them a lot of information.