Presenting is one of those skills that can make you look either really good or really bad. There’s definitely an art to giving presentations, but luckily it’s a skill that can be learned by following a few simple steps. I don’t know many people that like giving presentations, but knowing how to effectively deliver a presentation is a very valuable skill in your career. The best way to learn is by practicing.
How do you prepare for a presentation?
Know your audience
Who are you speaking to? Executives or peers? CIO’s or technicians? Pretend you are them and think about what’s important to them. If you’re a CIO, you’ll be more concerned with the total impact of technology and the associated costs. If you’re a technician, you’ll be more concerned with how it impacts your day to day functions. Put yourself in their shoes and tailor your presentation to what would be important to your audience.
Know your material
When putting together your presentation, you’ll do a lot of research on the topic. You’ll have lots of statistics, facts, results, and considerations. Keep all this in mind because you want to be an expert in case you get questions from your audience. Practice giving your presentation to friends or co-workers so that you become very comfortable with the content. If you can anticipate what questions will be asked, you can go ahead and prepare your answers ahead of time so you are not surprised on the spot.
Break the Ice at the beginning
Depending on what your personality is like, think of a quick joke or story you can tell before you get into your material. If it’s a serious topic, perhaps you can tell a quick story about the lengths you went to research the topic or something interesting or funny you encountered while you were preparing. This can open up the crowd a little bit and will help them identify with you and your personality.
Watch your verbal language
One of the best tricks I learned is to record yourself giving the presentation and then count all your filler words. How many times did you say ‘um’, ‘uh’, and ‘like’? Count it up, try again, and remind yourself to not use filler words. It’s very difficult at first, but when you consciously remove the filler words it will become easier. Try to remove the filler and replace it with a more descriptive word.
Watch your body language
It’s very easy to tell if a presenter is nervous by looking at their body language. Small nervous habits like fidgeting hands, rocking, chewing, pacing, all distract from the presentation. When you review your video from the last step, look at your body language and notice if any nervous habits stand out. You’ll want to use your hands for natural expression, but just watch out for the nervous habits. Practice giving the presentation more to reduce your nervousness.
Practice one more time than you want to
When you think you’ve practiced enough, do it one more time. In the end, more practice will always help calm your nerves and allow you to be more comfortable. Practice as many times as you can in front of different audiences. Get as much feedback as you can and incorporate it into your presentation. Practice makes perfect!