Tips for Presenting

How confident you are as a presenter is the sum total of how much you consider your audience, how much preparation you do and how skilled you are at creating and delivering presentations. Make sure you spend time addressing each of these three aspects.

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If you have a new presentation to create, don’t start with your slides! If you are going to use slides as part of your presentation, create them last. 

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Think audience first!

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How much does your audience know about what you are talking about? Find/work that out and then create/pitch your presentation accordingly.

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Aim to distil the key message of your presentation into a single sentence and then focus on making sure your audience knows what it is.

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When working out the purpose of your presentation, make sure you think SMARTly! Work out what you want to specifically include so that you can realistically achieve that given the time that you have. If that won’t fit in the time that you have, ask for more time. If you can’t get more time, reconsider what you can include. Don’t just cram things in and then talk more quickly!

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As the first step in working out what to put in a presentation, work out everything you could talk about if you had no time restrictions and a willing audience. You can then pick out and include first the content that is most relevant and important to your audience and your message. 

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Start your presentation with an “Attention Grabber”. Don’t just start talking! This is especially important for recorded content.

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People only really notice presenters are using notes if they use them badly. So don’t be afraid to use notes to help you to deliver your presentation, just make sure that you use them well.

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If you are presenting virtually, you can use the space around your screen to have information visible that will help you to deliver your presentation (and your audience won’t be able to see it!). Make sure, though, that this information does not distract you from looking into the camera.

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Slides are for your audience, not for you! Your slides therefore only need to have content that helps your audience to be interested in your presentation and to understand and remember it. (Good slides will also act as a reminder for you but that’s a side-effect of them not a goal for them!)

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Your “title” slide will potentially be displayed for a while before you start your presentation. This is effectively “free advertising time” for you and so make sure it has something on it that will pique the curiosity and interest of your audience.

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End your presentation with an “Attention Focuser” so that your key message (which might include a “call to action”) is at the forefront of your audience’s minds when you finish speaking.

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If you are going to have a “Q&A” section in your presentation, do this before your “Attention Focuser” so you are in control of what the final thing your audience hears is. 

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Practise the whole of your presentation but practise your “Attention Grabber” and “Attention Focuser” more than any other part of your presentation.

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Knowing how to look like you are confident is the first step to actually being confident. If you look confident, that’s what people will think that you are…

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Smile naturally when you present. People who are nervous don’t smile naturally and so the fact that you are smiling implies that you’re not nervous.

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Anyone whose profession requires them to project confidence (police, armed forces, royalty, politician, bouncer etc) adopts a confident stance so do the same whilst you are presenting.

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Looking someone in the eye takes confidence and they also feel engaged. So make appropriate eye contact with your audience!

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If you are presenting virtually, make sure you look at your camera so your virtual audience feels like you are making eye contact with them. It might feel a bit odd to do this (and to not look at their images on your screen) but it’s important to do to maintain that all-important eye contact.

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Wherever possible, engineer it such that whatever device you are using to present your slides is in front of you when you are looking at your audience. You will then be able to see what your audience can see without the need to turn around and look at the screen and this will help you to maintain appropriate eye contact with your audience.

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When presenting, be yourself!

You can find more tips, best practices and examples in my book How to be BETTER at PRESENTING – In Person and Online.