Presentation Techniques to Help You Power Through Your Next Conference
Studies have shown that public speaking is the number one fear among adults. It beat out death, clowns and spiders! It’s hard to believe that we fear speaking in front of a crowd more than we fear dying. But, it’s true. Even people who appear to be confident on a stage experience a fair share of nervousness.
Don’t wing it.
That being said, the best way to face your fear is to be prepared. Know your audience and plan and rehearse your presentation ahead of time. Even Steve Jobs prepares extensively prior to his presentations. Here are a few techniques to help you on your way to a successful presentation.
Remember Slideshows Are Only Visual Aids
Think back to your 5th grade History Project presentation. For most of us, this was before PowerPoint existed. We had to paste images to a poster board to accompany the verbal presentation. The poster didn’t replace our presentation, though; it just supplemented it. So, the first rule of thumb is:
Create slides that add value to your message.
The use of relevant images and visual data displays (instead of a bunch of text) are ways to maximize the use of slides. You want your audience looking at you, not trying to read what is on the screen behind you. Data is more memorable when it is visually appealing; and you want your audience to remember your message.
Outline your presentation before creating slides. This will help you to organize your thoughts and map the way to a cohesive message. Then, before creating slides, select images or visual data displays to support the points you want to highlight the most. Finally, only create slides that hit the high points.
Respect Your Time Allotment
If your allotted presentation time is one hour, plan accordingly and leave time for a brief Q&A session. The worst way to open a speaking engagement is by saying, “I have a lot of information to cover so I’m going to have to speed through this in order to stay on schedule.” The last thing you want your audience to think is that they’re about to be overwhelmed. If you plan accordingly, you won’t have to speed through anything.
Practice your presentation and track the time. Have someone note the time it takes to get through each slide. This will assist in deciding where to cut back and/or add more information.
Keep in mind that wrapping up too quickly can be just as bad as going too long.
Don’t Read Your Script; Know It
You should be both comfortable with and knowledgeable in your presentation material. An effective way to enhance your presentation is to tell a story or two to complement your message. In general, we learn from stories and examples; so make yours memorable.
Although it is very helpful to create a script for your presentation, when the time comes to be on stage, note cards placed inconspicuously in front of you is the most effective way to engage with your audience. Reading a script from behind a podium creates a barrier for effectively delivering a memorable message. Instead, ask for a small prop table on stage. On that table, place your note cards and a glass of water. When you need the assistance of your notes, step over the table to take a sip of water and check our notes.
Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse!
Don’t let a script be your crutch. Practice your presentation at least 10 times. Videotaping yourself can be an effective way to tweak your message and/or visual aids.