Public speaking can be daunting, but with the right preparation, it can also be a rewarding experience. Whether you’re giving a presentation to a small group of coworkers or an entire audience, following these five tips will have you on your way to delivering a fun and engaging presentation.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The secret to delivering a speech worthy of a standing ovation is to rehearse it aloud. Doing this, you’ll quickly discover that speaking aloud versus speaking in your head are two very different things. Pick a focal point—reciting to your furry friend is a good option—and articulate your presentation as if your upcoming audience is there. Or, pull out your smartphone and record yourself if you’re feeling fearless. Watching yourself in video will help you identify awkward body language or overuse of filler words. Finally, don’t worry about making mistakes; it’s all part of the learning process. Becoming a skilled presenter takes time and practice.
Know Your Audience
Think about your audience and prepare your presentation accordingly. Do they have an understanding of the topic? Will the use of visuals be important? Will they appreciate some humor, or should the tone be more serious? Even if you’re already familiar with the group, asking yourself a few simple questions about who will be in the room is a good habit to follow. If you’re less familiar with your upcoming audience, consider requesting names, positions, experience, and even shared interests of the group.
Prepare a Strong Opening and Closing
No matter what your topic is, prepare a strong opening and closing statement. A strong introduction sets the tone for the rest of the presentation and helps you engage your audience right away. If you’re feeling nervous, consider starting with a joke to ease the tension before jumping into your topic. But again, know your audience and only use a joke if you feel confident it will connect. Another way to break the ice is to reference something you enjoyed from a previous presenter or a previous activity from the day. Now that you’ve calmed your nerves and delivered your strong opening ideas, find a way to connect your closing back to where you began. This is an excellent way to ensure your presentation feels cohesive from start to finish.
Get Audience Members Involved
Getting your audience involved in your presentation is a great way to draw them into the action and keep them focused on the topic. Asking questions or having people participate in a short activity not only keeps the energy high but also takes some of the pressure off you. Remember to make eye contact, pay attention to nonverbal cues, and adjust accordingly. If the energy feels low, take a minute to have the audience stand up, stretch, and take some deep breaths. You’ll be amazed how a one-minute reset can liven up the room. Finally, it’s essential to allow time for questions. During your preparation, anticipate your audience’s questions and carve out an appropriate amount of time for discussion.
Less Is More
Resist the desire to cover every point related to your topic. Instead, keep it to just a few ideas and focus on making those ideas shine. Most people will walk away remembering only one or two things. So ask yourself, “What’s the one thing I want people to walk away with?” Use that one thing as the hub that you base the rest of your message around. If using visuals, keep them simple and limit text to a few words, or at the very most, a few sentences. Busy or complicated visuals will draw focus away from your message.
The final piece of advice is this: be yourself and have fun. With a bit of practice and keeping these tips in mind, you will be dazzling audiences in no time.
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