by Chris Bamidele
Giving presentations to audiences, large or small, can be a daunting and anxiety-ridden task. And while some presentations are extremely formal with highly detailed information that requires not getting lost in the detail and lose the overall message, others are informal, but still there is the difficulty of controlling the cross-talk. Whichever form of presentation you are giving, one thing is constant; you’re going to be in front of a group of people, some you may know, some may be total strangers. You’re probably going to be on stage; all eyes are on you, and the audience will have expectations. And every word you say, every nuance, your appearance, the tone of your voice and largely the content of your presentation will be scrutinized in every way.
Presentations are mainly for the purpose of informing, persuading, or building goodwill. So, when your audience leaves at the end of your presentation, they must have been duly informed, persuaded, and must be impressed with the overall presentation. So whether your presentation is about sales, training, entertainment, political, image building or motivational; handling it properly would ensure your audience is left satisfied and would want to listen to you another time. Because anytime you stand in front of an audience, all you should want to do is to grab their attention, stimulate their imagination, inspire confidence in them, and help them develop a better understanding about something.
So, how do you accomplish all that? I have few steps that will offer you some guidelines. Enjoy.
A good preparation precedes a good performance. So when preparing your presentation and you happen to be using a presentation tool such as PowerPoint, you might want to minimize the number of slides, so you can maintain a clear message and keep your audience attentive and interested. Also choose a font style that your audience can see from a distance, it is better to avoid fonts that include fancy edges. Another thing is to keep your text simple by using bullet points or short sentences of ten words or less and try to keep each to one line; it’s a PowerPoint, not a PowerEssay. And the aim is to make your audience listen to you presenting your information rather than them reading everything from the screen. More than that, the most essential part of your preparation on the day of your presentation is showing up early to verify that your equipment works properly. Never assume that your presentation will work fine on another computer, ensure that all equipment is connected and running.
You don’t have to be the world’s leading authority, but you have to know the critical facts about your subject of presentation. Talking about things everybody already knows without new facts is a recipe for boredom. Also remember to practice your presentation so that you can speak from bullet points rather that reading them to your audience. The texts on the screen should be your cues and not the full message. Don’t forget to document your sources as well, as you would not want to sound like just a person with an opinion. Though your personal opinion may very well be important but it must not be the only thing you present.
START STRONG, BE PASSIONATE
You better believe that first impressions are powerful. The audience wants to like you and they will give you the first 2-3 minutes at the beginning of your presentation to engage them, those minutes are the most important— don’t miss the opportunity. Don’t go on rambling about some superfluous background information or your professional history, or you will lose them. About passion, know that the biggest line between mediocre presenters and world class presenters is the ability to connect with an audience in an honest and exciting way. Don’t hold back. Be confident and let your passion for your topic come out for all to see. You need great content, great dressing, and well-designed visuals; but a deep, heartfelt belief in your topic will ensure all other things count for something.
For your presentation to be effective, you need to be assertive, but not aggressive. Work on your posture and presence as these two things help you in asserting yourself in public. It is good to dress well and appropriately for your presentation, but don’t forget to appear confident at all times especially during presentation. Your posture while presenting to your audience will create the mood they will see. If something goes wrong, avoid physical apologies by hiding behind a desk or lectern, and don’t be afraid to wait for an audience to settle down before you start speaking or to ask for quiet if this does not happen. Create a strong presence and remember to match your physical behavior to your presence or else your very expensive suits won’t matter at the end of the day. Making a presentation puts you on public display, as an audience not only listens to your ideas, it also responds to the way you use your voice and your body. You need more than a well written presentation to make an impact. You need to deliver it in a lively, flexible and interesting way.
Your voice is a very flexible and powerful tool. You can use it in many different ways by varying the volume, pace, and pitch. Make sure that your voice is loud enough for your audience to hear clearly, but know that speaking too loudly or too quietly can make it difficult for your audience to follow your presentation. Learn when to raise or lower your volume for emphasis. For example, a conspiratorial whisper can draw an audience in; a loudly spoken exclamation can make them sit up and listen. Voice technique and control is a bit technical and there are professional schools around Nigeria where you can register and have a better grasp.
BE PROFESSIONAL, COURTEOUS AND GRACIOUS
Your audience deserves the best version of you, no matter what’s going on in your world. Once you are standing in front, you set the tone and mood of the room, and though it may not be visible, any distractions will be apparent to the audience. Also, when audience members ask questions or give comments, you should be gracious and thank them for their input. And even if someone is being difficult, you must keep to the high ground and at all times by being a gentleman or lady and courteously deal with such individuals. The true professional can always remain cool and in control. Remember, it is your reputation, so always remain gracious even with the most challenging of audiences.
REMEMBER THE ‘B’
This is a bonus tip for people who are new to PowerPoint. Whenever you need to digress a bit from the topic you are discussing, or you want the attention of your audience to be placed solely on you. Just hit the “B” button while your PowerPoint slide is showing on the screen, it will give you a blank screen. And when you are ready to move on with your presentation, just hit the “B” key again, and your slide reappears. Stay Safe
Chris Bamidele blogs at ChrisBamidele.wordpress.com and tweets @degreatest2
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.