For the final post (for now) in this series, I wanted to take a moment to discuss presenting. At some point in your career you will need to present something to a group of colleagues, industry peers, or superiors. For those of you who are already suffering from nausea and dry mouth, the worst part is that you might be caught in a Catch 22—skipping or bombing that presentation could be career limiting.
I’ve been presenting in some form or another fairly regularly for a little over ten years. I still get nervous. In fact, I typically don’t really get into the groove until the audience does something to reinforce what I am talking about. It could be a laugh or an intuitive question that adds to the discussion, something that helps to put me at ease. Throughout my experiences, I have picked up a few tips that I want to share to help you with your presenting:
- Practice. Seriously. Do it in front of a mirror and even just a solid dry run or two through your presentation will make a huge difference. Practicing means getting your deck done, setting up your laptop with your slide advancer, and giving the presentation to an empty room. When I am presenting something new, this is a critical step to getting me comfortable with the material and iron out any flow issues in the process.
- Spell check your slides. There is a spell check function in PowerPoint. Use it.
- Use visual aids, not lots of text. I remember having students take a written paper (from Word) and copy/paste entire paragraphs into a PowerPoint deck. Do not do this. Use imagery that is related to your content with limited bullets. Don’t read your slides, use the slides to reinforce the presentation.
- Tell a story. People love to be told a story, and will sit through it as long as it has a clear beginning, end, and the middle doesn’t meander. While we all can’t be like Steve Jobs, think about how he introduced the iPod. He didn’t just introduce some cool piece of engineering with a good battery, a hard drive, and a stainless steel back. He talked about the power of music. Then he talked about having 1,000 songs in your pocket. He actually had the thing in his pocket during the whole presentation.
- Don’t eat or drink right before presenting. Do you want to be the one who burps into the microphone? Either consuming a quick meal or drinking a Coke before the presentation will get lots of bubbles moving northward.
- Endear yourself to your audience. Be vulnerable. Tell a story where you made a mistake or showed you were human.
- And to that end, be human. Look your audience in the eye. Smile when you talk. Be friendly and approachable. Walk around if the audio equipment allows you. Making the audience follow you with their eyes will help to keep the sleepies at bay!
Just like many of the other tips, spending time on your favorite productivity site or your favorite business site will give you plenty of additional tips to getting that presentation just right. The more you rehearse the more confident you will be, which will lend itself to a better delivery. If you have tips of your own, feel free to drop them in the comments below!