Be prepared for your next big presentation or speech with these top 10 practical presentation tips from City Academy tutor and communication skills specialist, Christine Mottram.
When you want to give a good presentation, preparation is key. But what is it exactly that you need to prepare? The answers may surprise you. Delivering a presentation is different than writing a report or an article, and it’s also different than talking to friends at the pub. When preparing, the entire communication event needs to be considered, from content to delivery. Here are ten presentation tips for preparing for your next presentation or public speaking event.
1. Plan your Prep
When planning your preparation, make sure you schedule in time to create your content and rehearse your presentation in its various drafts, as well as in its completed form. This means the content should be set a few days before the presentation, so that you have plenty of time to rehearse the final product.
2. Create Compelling Content
A good starting point for creating your content is to ask yourself: what is the story that you want to tell? How can you structure the ‘plot’ so that there is a beginning, middle, and end? What are the obstacles in the story? Human beings respond to narrative more than they do to bullet points or straight presentations of dry facts and figures. Even if your content is ‘dry facts and figures’, how can you tell it as a story? For more on that, check out this brilliant article.
Only 7% of your communication has to do with the actual words that you’re saying. This doesn’t mean your message is not important— it means it’s vulnerable to the way you’re delivering it!
3. Rehearse your Delivery
A lot of my clients worry that if they rehearse their presentation too much, it won’t sound authentic. This is simply not true. The reason that good actors sound authentic and like they are having original thoughts for the first time on stage is because they have rehearsed the play for four to six weeks. Getting your presentation into your muscle memory will help you present as your best self— whereas no rehearsal tends to make you more nervous and look less prepared.
4. Let Your Body Do the Talking
Albert Mehrabian’s research revealed that 55% of effective communication has to do with body language. 38% has to do with tone of voice. Only 7% has to do with the actual words that you’re saying. This doesn’t mean your message is not important— it means it’s vulnerable to the way you’re delivering it! So when you are rehearsing, make sure you rehearse using the body language and the tone of voice you feel is appropriate to the situation. Generally, that means standing your ground, keeping your body language open (so no minimizing yourself by crossing your limbs over yourself), and speaking loudly enough so that everyone in the room can hear you and feels included.
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Your Notes
There is no reason that you need to have your presentation completely memorized. However, be sure to structure your notes in a way that helps you continue to engage with the audience. For example, it is hard to ‘read well’, as in sounding like you are talking when you are actually reading a speech word for word. I find working with notes that are structured as bullet points or mind maps to be the most effective, as they help to keep you on track. Rehearse with your notes so you can figure out what works best for you. You do not have to apologize when you look at your notes— structure that into your presentation. The more you rehearse, the more seamless it will become.
6. Be Critical about Visual Aids
If you are preparing visual aids, be critical with yourself about how necessary they are. As the voice coach Patsy Rodenburg says, you should always be more interesting than your visual aids. If visual aids have too much information, like long bullet points, they will pull focus away from you. It would be better to have nothing at all than to have an audience that is no longer listening to you because they are too busy reading your PowerPoint slides. If you are using visual aids, make sure you rehearse with them and make sure that you don’t spend the presentation talking in the direction of your visual aids, rather than in the direction of your audience.
You should always be more interesting than your visual aids.
7. Microphones are not Miracles
Microphones can only amplify what is already happening. They shouldn’t be used as a crutch. In other words, if you are mumbling, all the audience will hear in the microphone is a louder mumble. So if you are using a microphone, make sure you are speaking as if you aren’t. This way your sound will still carry. If possible, test the microphone in the space ahead of time. Find out what kind it will be— whether you will be holding it or whether it will be on your person somehow. If you will be holding it, you will want to practice how you will navigate your notes as you hold a microphone— particularly if you don’t have a lectern.
8. Know the Space
If you are delivering your presentation in a space you are not familiar with, find out as much as you can about it ahead of time. Good questions to
consider are: will you be on a stage or on the same level as the audience? Where will you be before the presentation; in the audience, behind a curtain? Will you be able to see the audience or will the lighting prevent you from seeing faces? Asking these questions in advance will ensure you aren’t thrown by the details on the day of the presentation.
9. Dress Rehearsal
On the day before, once you have your content that you’ve been rehearsing throughout your preparation time, do a full on ‘dress rehearsal.’ Wear what you will wear, use the notes and the visual aids you will be using, and do the entire presentation as if it’s in front of an audience. If you mess up during the rehearsal, try to address it as you would have to do in the presentation.
10. On the Day
If possible, practice your presentation in the actual space. Take stock of how you will enter, where you will put your notes, and make sure there is room-temperature water within easy reach.
Remember, giving a good presentation is very similar to an actor giving a good performance. It takes rehearsal to deliver information as your best self. Research shows that how you’re delivering your message has more impact on an audience than the message itself. If you prepare the communication act as much as you do the content, you will set yourself up to have gravitas, authenticity and impact. Good luck!
Christine Mottram is a voice and business communications skills specialist. View Christine’s profile here > >
City Academy deliver Presentation Skills, Public Speaking, Business Writing and Communication Skills training in central London. Find out more here > >
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