Present Yourself Well

PREPARATION, preparation, preparation. A title for a new TV programme perhaps? Well, possibly, although more pertinently, 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. Simple!

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!

(Based on an extract from (The Greatest Management Tips in the World)


  • Jackie Witney

    You need to be relaxed and confident, there is nothing worse than that uncomfortable feeling you get when you know the presenter is nervous!
    The audience must be there because the subject is relevant and interesting to them… the delivery is key.
    I attended a great presentations course, and as you say preparation is vital and then for getting in the ‘right state ‘ I loved the expression ‘ShowTime’ and saying it to yourself just before starting the presentation, to snap into it!

  • Confidence is absolutely the key. You cannot out-perform your level of self-belief and will always subconsciously bring your performance down to what you feel you deserve.

    When I teach prez skills I spend the first 90 minutes getting people’s mindsets right. For example they learn to ‘begin with the end in mind’ before a presentation using a visualisation such as: “People are nodding and taking notes, they are truly engaged, I am making them think and laugh, they ask great questions which I answer really well… When can I do this again?” etc..

    This kind of preparation helps with those lovely butterflies (which prove you care about your speech…)and as the late great Tommy Cooper said: “We all get butterflies, the difference is that the professionals get them to fly in the right formation!” What a great reframe!


  • Francis Greve

    ‘Prez skills’.
    Love that jargon!

  • Michael Sumner

    Jargon, isn’t that the aspect of business that the Naked Leader is trying to dismiss?

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