In March, RPIC Shirley Downie shared best practices for tailoring your responses to the audience’s tough questions. To be a good presenter, you also need to tailor your presentation to each audience to make sure it is effective and engaging.
Many readers may feel that presenting to a group is challenging and intimidating! Here are a dozen tips to help you get rid of your stage fright and take your presentations to the next level:
- Talk naturally to your audience. Even though you are speaking to a large group, make the audience feel you are having a conversation with each of them individually. Avoid reading a script.
- Try to stand, rather than sit. Move around the stage if possible and keep your movements natural, rather than forced. In some instances, sitting can be used to create an intimate conversation atmosphere, a technique often used by Past RI President Bill Boyd; while standing behind a podium might add a level of formality to your presentation.
- Vary the tone, pitch and volume of your voice. Use your voice to add emphasis and maintain the audience’s interest. Try to speak loudly and clearly while facing your audience. Avoid talking in a monotone voice or turning your back to the audience. Remember you are telling a story, not simply relating facts and figures.
- Make eye contact with your audience. Gain eye contact with as many individual members of the audience as possible. If stage lighting prevents you from actually seeing the audience, vary where you look toward them and pretend you are making eye contact.
- Use visual aids where appropriate. Graphs and charts, diagrams, pictures, and video can enhance any presentation, but don’t overdo it. Visual aids should help illustrate and strengthen your points, not simply repeat or be a distraction from your spoken message. If you use lists or text on your slides, don’t read them verbatim! Or, even better, create an effective presentation without using PowerPoint. Your voice and your movements are your best visual aid.
- Rehearse your presentation. A good presenter makes their speech look spontaneous and natural, but this comes from sufficient rehearsal. Make certain to time your rehearsals to stick to the allotted time, and allow for question and answer time when appropriate.
- Prepare and structure your presentation carefully. Introduce the subject – tell the audience what your talk is about. Explain the points you wish to convey. End with a summary of your points.
- Stay focused throughout your presentation. Avoid irrelevant and unnecessary detail. Stay on topic and don’t go down any tangents that don’t directly relate to your topic. Focus your message through a relevant personal story or anecdote.
- Avoid nervous gestures and speech. Putting your hands in your pockets, crossing your arms, jingling change, and overusing “filler words” (aahh, err, and uh) detract from your talk. Appropriate hand gestures can add emphasis to your presentation. When you rehearse, practice moving with purpose, and not simply pacing.
- Answer any questions as honestly and concisely as you can. If you don’t know the answer, then say so and offer to provide further information at a later date. If appropriate, offer to follow up with the questioner one-on-one … and then fulfill that promise.
- Challenge the audience with a “Call to Action.” Finish your presentation by motivating your audience to take a specific action, such as implementing one best practice you talked about or sharing a particular statistic with their club.
- Thank the audience for their time and attention. This simple act shows the audience you appreciate their time and attention.
By thinking critically about your presentation, you can improve your skills and confidence. Reviewing and implementing these twelve tips will set you up for presentation success!
One other tip: Arrive early and get to know your space and your tools. Walk around the stage to become familiar with it. Test your microphone if you have one. Set up anything you think you might need during your presentation, such as notes or a bottle of water. Leave yourself time just before your presentation to prepare mentally, and not worry about minor details like these.
And remember: in almost every instance, the audience is on your side and wants you to succeed. If you are feeling nervous, think of them not as an audience, but as the silent members of your team!