Are some people just natural-born presenters, or is it a skill that you have to carefully mold with experience? If my son is any indication, some people just naturally have what it takes. During my last blog post about personal development, I mentioned that not only am I an introvert but was also extremely socially shy growing up.
When I used to have to present at school, even during high school, I would stare at the lights on the ceiling during the entire presentation. I had to work extra hard on the content itself because my marks for the presentation was nothing to be proud of.
Nowadays they start you early. My oldest even had to do a 1 minute presentation in kindergarten. Luckily, my son does not take after his mother for being a natural presenter at an early age.
I have been told today that my workshops and meetings are inspiring. During my last seminar, the Regional Human Resource Director commented that I was a natural presenter. If only he knew just how hard I had to work to get there. My son on the other hand always gets praises for every presentation he has done. “Natural presenter. Amazing presentation “. These were the comments from his last presentation. His teacher actually send us a note at home just to praise him on his presentation.
After his last presentation, I asked him why he thought he always did well in presentations. The tips he gave me were almost identical to what I learned through experience. In fact the first 6 steps are extremely similar to what I have taught to others.
Here are the 11 steps to an effective presentation:
1. Know your material
This is not necessarily the same thing as being prepared. I know presenters that prepare weeks in advance for a full day seminar, even role-playing the entire seminar beforehand. Other presenters pretty much review the material and ad lib through several parts. Some presenters write out and memorize every word they will say, while others simply write an outline and go from there.
I tend to be the second person. If I have to memorize my presentation, I would probably get tripped up. I write a general outline of my topics but because I make sure I know my topics well, I can expand from there.
The point is to know your material beforehand. Know your main points and practice. Whether that means reviewing your notes and highlights several times beforehand, or role-playing the entire workshop. Do what works best for you and your style.
2. Speak with Passion
If you believe in what you are saying, your audience will believe in you. Passion will show through your tone and body language. Have you ever been to a meeting, where it was clear that the presenter was not passionate about the topic? Have you ever listened to a sermon where the preacher showed passion in every word? I can guarantee the impact was different both times.
Steve Jobs was famous for his presentation skills. One of the many reasons was how clearly his love for his products showed through.
3. Use hand gestures and walk around
Don’t take the chair if it is available. I recommend standing and walking around if you can. When you give a presentation in a seated position, it is harder to express emotion through body language.
Try not to stand in one spot. If you have the ability to walk around, do so. It makes for a more animated discussion. Keep your focus on the entire audience and not in just one area of the room.
4. Answer questions and interact with audience
You should find ways to engage your audience by getting them involved. There are several ways to do this including; asking the audience questions, ice breakers or exercises involving audience participation. You can read an example of a leadership visualization exercise that I recently did in one of my workshops.
5. Give examples
Use real life examples to stress a point. For example, if you are speaking about leadership, give an example of a leadership story related to your topic.
You may understand your subject extremely well, but your audience might not. Giving them concrete examples to illustrate your point will keep their attention.
6. Put your personality into the presentation
It is important that you let the audience understand who you are. Learn to be yourself even in front of a crowd. There are several different styles of presenters and there is not one magic formula. Your best choice is the one that lets the audience connect to you. You do this by being yourself. It is also the easiest way to come off natural.
7. Use visuals only as a compliment to the presentation but don’t make it the center of it
Visuals can be an added benefit to help get your point across. It should not however replace the person who is speaking. If you are using PowerPoint, slides should be minimal and only to highlight key points. No long written texts. Their focus should be on you.
8. Summarize main points
By summarizing main points at the end of each subject, you make it easier for the audience to ensure they didn’t miss a key message. This is crucial during seminars where you might be speaking on several sub points of a main topic.
9. Allow for questions throughout each main point
If you have a question and answer period, I recommend naturally allowing for questions after each main subject. This is a great way for the audience to gain understanding of the subject. Sometimes an audience member may be so focused on the question he wants to ask that his attention gets sidetracked.
10. If possible, leave them with something to remember you
Is there a handout that you can leave each attendee with highlights of your presentation? Is there an audio or video recording that they can review? Are there business cards or pamphlets that directs them to your website? Whichever tool you choose, leaving your audience with something they can reference later ensures that they remember you once the event is over.
11. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
This is probably the most important step. Sometimes there is a thing as over preparing.
Am I making eye contact?
Am I walking around?
Am I talking too fast?
This can put undue pressure on you. Know your material. Know what works for you and let that be your guide. With experience and practice you can slowly tweak and adapt your skills according.
What works best for you when you are presenting?