PREPARATION, preparation, preparation. This is what you need to concentrate on before making a presentation.
Anybody who has stood in front of a gathering having to make a speech will appreciate how daunting it can be. The key is to be yourself. To be yourself you have to be relaxed. To be relaxed you have to be confident. To be confident you have to be prepared.
Making a presentation can be a great opportunity to get known while making an impact on people. So it is important to make the most of your opportunity in the limelight.
Approaching the task in a positive frame of mind will make it more likely for you to succeed. The audience will want you to do well as you have something to say and they want to hear it. You don’t need all the facts and figures at your finger tips. Just the essentials, putting them across as clearly and concisely as you can.
Giving careful thought to what you are going to say, and how you are going to say it, is important. Try to structure your script. Focus on the audience. If need be, do some research. Who are they? Where are they from? How many are there? Why are they attending? How much to they already know about the subject matter? What will they want to know? What are their expectations? All these are questions you need answers to, before you even think about the content you are going to use.
If the opportunity arises try and talk to them beforehand. Most people feel more relaxed speaking to people they know rather than a group of strangers. A brief chat beforehand will be an added bonus. A last-minute clue, perhaps, of what individuals are expecting. And an informal word or two can bring the human element into focus, transforming a mass of humanity into individual human beings with feelings. Gaining this kind of comfort before you take centre stage is invaluable.
It is vitally important you are clear as to the purpose of your talk. Are you conveying information? Or reporting something that’s happened? Or seeking to persuade your audience to a particular point of view? Maybe you are urging them to take action of some kind? There are many possible reasons for making a presentation. The important thing is to be clear about it.
Write yourself an explanation, in no more than a sentence, explaining why you’re making the presentation. What is it you are seeking to achieve? Make sure the aims and objectives are clear and specific.
Think about the setting, whether it be in your office for a small group, or for 100 people in a conference hall. Make sure you are familiar with the venue and check out any equipment you intend to use and make sure you know how to work it. Fumbling around for a control switch in front of your audience will lose you credibility and looks unprofessional.
Consider whether it is an informal or formal speech and try to avoid reading a prepared script. Having notes as prompts is a better idea and will help make your delivery sound more natural, or go the one step further that David Taylor advises and memorise your presentation
Cue cards can include headlines and key points although you will need to have a good understanding of the subject matter. Structured notes would ensure you don’t miss all the relevant detail although it might be a case of having to highlight the essential material in case you run out of time.
The crucial aspect to remember is that a presentation is a form of communication – and communication is a two-way process. Look around the room, not just at one part of the audience. Draw your audience in in by looking at different people for a few seconds so that they feel involved, at the front, middle and back of the room. And make sure the eyes have it. If people are looking at the ceiling or yawning, it is a fair bet you’re not exactly grabbing their attention!