Three Steps to a Perfect Presentation

written by Izzy Woods

Standing in front of an audience, no matter how large, causes trepidation and fear for many people. Presentations are not easy, and no matter how much you believe in what you have to say, getting it across in an interesting, appealing and engaging manner is difficult. With worries about fluffing your lines, the audience losing interest or visual props appearing in the wrong order, giving a presentation causes many people anxiety. But presentations needn’t be such a dreaded task. By following a few simple steps, presentations can be an effective and even an enjoyable method of communicating with an audience.

Step 1: Know your Stuff

Preparation is key to any successful preparation. An audience will soon get bored if you are fumbling around with your head in your notes as you work out what it is you want to say next. The first step to a good presentation is to know the subject you are presenting. Notes should be prompts, a handy guide for you to reference to make sure you have covered everything; they shouldn’t be a script in which you bury your head and don’t emerge until you’ve finished reading. By knowing your subject, inside and out, you can speak with confidence and authority, which will not only make presenting less intimidating, it will instill confidence in your audience, who will acknowledge that you know what you’re talking about.

It’s a good idea to do a little research into your audience too. Tailoring your presentation to meet the audience’s needs is important. A technical savvy audience may understand the jargon and complexities you are explaining, others may not.

Your visual aids should also be prepared in advance. Make sure you know how to use whatever equipment you’ve chosen to display them on and that they are in the right order. Visual aids are important as they keep an audience stimulated and help explain complicated issues with the use of graphs and other references. It is important, however, not to rely too heavily on visual material. People are there to hear what you have to say, not to just look at fancy graphics surrounded by bullet points.

Picture: Preparation is key to a presentation

Step 2: Start Strong

No matter what information you are presenting, starting strong is important to keep an audience engaged. Whether you’re speaking about the latest sales figures, the latest advances in technology or where to get the best current accounts, it is essential to get to the point immediately. Think about what the key message is you want to get across and then expand on it. A good presentation should be like a newspaper article. It should have a strong headline, or in the case of a presentation, a title, and the opening sentence should outline exactly what it is you want to talk about. People in business are busy. Wasting people’s time is not something they will thank you for, so get to the point and get there soon.

Also, try not to be funny. Humor is very subjective and you may find yourself alienating your audience, or perhaps even worse, have your well-timed wisecracks fall on a silent auditorium. It’s also important to keep things simple. Bombarding people with reams of data will just lead to confusion. Use visual aids to explain sets of figures and complex data, and remove any extraneous information. Just explain the basics. People who wish to learn more can always ask questions at the end if they want more detailed information.

Step 3 Use Time Effectively

Rehearsing your presentation is crucial, not just so you know what it is you are going to say, but you need to know exactly how long your presentation will take. If you have an hour, use that time effectively. Make sure you allow time for questions at the end, and most importantly of all, don’t find yourself in a position where you have to rush. Speak calmly, slowly and loudly enough so that the entire audience can hear with clarity every word you are saying. Also, prepare for interruptions, and be flexible. If somebody wants you to go back and explain something in more detail, be willing, this is a good sign, not a bad one. It means your audience is taking an interest.

if you find yourself running out of time, it’s important not to panic or to rush through the rest of the presentation. Consider the information that is left, is all of it necessary? If you’ve started strong and made your most important points first, it may be possible to omit some of the later information.

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