Leading a presentation can be very nerve-racking, especially if you have to stand up in front of an audience that you don’t know. But getting your message across to a room full of strangers is a great skill to develop. You will have to make presentations at university and during your career, so it’s worth getting to grips with them early on.
Remember that most people get nervous when doing presentations, whether it’s their first time or their hundredth. Here are eleven ideas that will help you to make a great presentation and ensure that your nerves are kept to a minimum.
1. Imagine you’re the audience
Everybody has listened to a presentation that’s been a little long. When you start planning your presentation, be sure to think about who you are talking to. Are they experts or completely new to the subject? Tailor your presentation to suit their knowledge and interest.
2. Plan on paper
Or you could plan on post-it notes. It’s important to get your ideas organised before you start creating a presentation on your computer, as you can scribble notes, move things around and get the flow in order. Then, you can put your ideas into a slide show that really stands out.
3. The rule of three
Studies have shown that people will only remember three things from your presentation. So you need to be clear about what your three most important messages are. You need to build your presentation around these, so make sure that you bear this in mind from the beginning.
Bullet points pop up in most presentations and whilst they can be useful for the occasional list, it’s better to step away from the template if you want to stand out. Images are very powerful and can help people to focus on those really important points.
To make the right impact don’t use cheesy or poor quality pictures and stick to one sentence per page. Remember that they should be listening to what you are saying rather than reading. Some presenters will start talking before bringing up their presentation on screen so that people don’t get distracted.
The more comfortable you are with your ideas and what you are trying to say, the better you will come across. Confidence is very important for your presentation, and going through what you want to say and getting comfortable with standing up and talking as well as the computer programme you’ll use for your talk can make all the difference.
6. Get there early
You don’t want anything to add to the stress of your presentation. If there’s traffic on the way or you can’t connect to the projector it could send you into a panic, so leave plenty of time.
7. Learn the first two minutes of your presentation
It’s ok to glance at your notes every so often, but to start your presentation on a high and make sure that the audience are paying attention it’s worth learning the first few minutes of your presentation. It will help you to get through any nerves and allows you time to connect with the audience.
Eye contact is just as important when you are presenting as it is in an interview. The problem is that you might have quite a large crowd to try and engage with. Before you start your presentation, look out into the audience and engage with them. Getting a connection before you start speaking is very important.
9. Speak slowly
When people get nervous they can speak quickly or trip over their words. Although you might like it to be over quickly, it is worth taking your time when you speak. Take a few deep breaths before you start and articulate. If you want to emphasise a point, then add a pause. You can also ask rhetorical questions. Hopefully the audience will be keen to find out the answer!
10. Have a think before answering questions
Although you can prepare your presentations, you can’t prepare the answer to every question. When you’re asked something that you’re unsure of, you can delay replying by commenting “That’s a very good question”. It’s much better than um’s and ah’s.
11. Don’t make unnecessary apologies
If you’re late or wrong, then you should apologise. But if you lose your place or stumble over a word, then just take a deep breath and continue. The audience can’t tell how you’re feeling, so it’s best to not draw any attention to it.
It’s important to practice your presentation skills whenever you can, so that you feel comfortable. The ability to confidently speak to a whole range of audiences will come in handy throughout your life, especially at work.
Here at Enterprise, we like our team to have the confidence to face any kind of audience, be it in a presentation or helping our customers in a branch. If you’d like to join us, check out our graduate management jobs.