My Top Ten Presentation Tips (Professional Presentation Skills - Part Nine)
By Peter Mosley
(Links to previous parts at bottom of the article)
I have collected hundreds and hundreds of Presentation Tips over the years. These are still my most used and most important!
1. The number one protection against nervousness is knowing your subject cold. Be over-prepared and you'll automatically feel better about your presentation.
2. Talk to one person at a time. Literally, look directly into the eyes of one listener at a time, just as you normally do in one-on-one conversation. This will be difficult at first if you're used to scanning or avoiding eye contact, but it's worth the effort to acquire this basic habit of effective speech.
3. Speak up. Talk a little louder than you think you have to. Most people speak far too softly and the result is often mumbling. (Speaking up also helps you feel less nervous).
4. Use "first person" stories when possible. The audience perks up for phrases like "the other day I...," "I have found from my own experience...," and "a friend of mine once told me...."
5. The oldest advice to speakers is probably this. "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em. Tell 'em. Tell 'em what you told 'em." Always summarize your central theme and repeat your key points. (By the way, the audience will never remember more than three key points.)
6. Bring back your best visual to accompany your closing remarks. This will give your audience both verbal and visual reinforcement of your central theme. (Knowing in advance that you're going to return to a key visual will also keep you focused on your conclusion during the entire presentation.)
7. With audiences of 30 or more people, it's a good idea to repeat each question so the entire audience knows exactly what question you're answering. This also gives you valuable thinking time. You don't have to repeat each question verbatim; just make sure you restate the essential elements.
8. When repeating questions during Q&A, don't say, "That's a good question." What you usually mean is "I've got a good answer." Also, what about the other people who asked questions? Were theirs not so good?
9. When possible use your hand to point to visuals. Some speakers misuse laser pointers. These are way too distracting.
10. Use of humour. Don't! That's the safest approach for the average business presenter. Amateur attempts at comedy make audiences nervous because everybody knows the attempt is likely to fail. Don't worry about not deliberately incorporating humour. Most speakers find something that is naturally funny to laugh at during the talk. A computer glitch, or a Freudian slip of the tongue. Or something humorous that a member of the audience throws in--intentionally or not--during Q&A. Hint: don't take yourself too seriously and your natural sense of humour will come through. The point is this: being a standup comedian is an art mastered by only a few life-time professionals. If you're not one of them, why risk making a fool of yourself in the attempt.