Most people hate doing presentations. When it comes to doing presentations, so many people are complete turkeys. They get stage fright. But there are ways to handle it.
Here are some rules.
Be clear: This important. You have to know what you want to say. Everything hinges off that.
Organise: Think of your talk in three sections. First comes the summary of all your points. It’s short, but gives your audience an idea of where you’re going. This allows them to connect the details that follow to the broad overview.
Then comes the main body of the talk, which makes all your points. This is followed by the conclusion, which is the summary again.
Every good presentation comes in three sections: it’s the plotline for your story.
Seize attention: When you start, make sure it begins with an attention-grabber. There are two ways you can do this, and it might depend on the talk itself. The first is to pose a question for your audience. It’s totally rhetorical (for example, how many of you had this experience? How did you handle it?), so don’t expect an answer. It just sets the framework for your presentation. Another, and more popular way, is to start off with a joke. The timing here has to be spot on and it can’t be long. Keep it short and to the point. Also, it has to be safe for this particular audience. Practise it many times and try it out on others. If you are going to be funny, get it right. Don’t improvise. If jokes don’t come easily, don’t even try.
Know your speech off by heart: Don’t read from notes. You will look like you don’t know the material and you won’t sound convincing. Your posture and tone of voice are completely different from standing there and speaking without notes. Reading is not the same as speaking, and the audience is likely to pay it a different sort of attention. If you want to persuade them, you need to speak from the heart and not from notes. Memorise it.
Eye contact: A little-known trick of the trade used by the best speakers but it works a treat. When you are making a point, look at one person. Give them eye contact, but only for a few seconds. Then move on to the next point, and the next audience member. One point, one moment of eye contact.
Slides: Confine your slides. One slide, one idea. Don’t put too much text on the slide — the less the better. If you have a lot of text on the slide, people will be reading it, which means one thing: they won’t be focusing on what you have to say. Slides need to have short titles. Don’t use small fonts; whatever text you use should have the same structure and font, and use spell check: one spelling mistake can ruin everything. They are more likely to remember that than the content. Finish it off with a conclusions slide that has all your main ideas, all the points you want the audience to remember. Photos, graphic illustrations and animation look good. Pastel backgrounds work better than white backgrounds. Strong colours work well for the important stuff. For less important points, go for the pastels.
Questions: Always answer questions respectfully. Don’t treat your audience as if it is ignorant, they’ll pick it up. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out and get back to them.
Written by Ross Fastuca @Locomote