It happens every so often – you’re called upon to give a presentation and suddenly stage fright begins. Relax. There are lots of things you can do to make your next public speaking job a winner and once you’ve learned them presentations will never be a problem again.
Start preparing for the presentation by making an outline of every point you want to make. Think about any questions that may arise in the minds of the audience and be sure to answer them all. If you’re going to make an assertion, back it up with facts.
Next, turn the outline into a speech. It has to flow smoothly from start to finish and be appropriate for your audience. Imagine yourself having a conversation with a member of the audience to whom you want to communicate everything in your outline.
The best presentations are made naturally, as if it were a one-on-one discussion speaking as you usually do. This helps your self-confidence and avoids the danger of sounding pompous or artificial. End a sentence with a preposition if you usually do. The people out there want to hear you, not a textbook.
The word “you” is magic one. It’s always a good idea to involve the members of your audience on a personal level, and wherever possible work them into the presentation you’re making. “You wouldn’t want that to happen” is a lot better than “One wouldn’t wish that to happen”.
Part of any successful presentation is gaining and keeping your audience’s attention. This is done by creating interest and being entertaining, all of which means that your speech has to contain some elements that will be news to your listeners.
Plan a beginning that’s interesting. Start with a question or a statement that will immediately gain your listeners’ attention. You may have 45 minutes of presentation time but your audience will make up their minds about you in the first minute or less, so get off to a good start.
The central part of your presentation will be where you communicate the bulk of your information and take your audience step-by-step towards your conclusion. Keep the pace moving right along and refer back to your central theme as often as you can.
As you work through your speech identify those areas where visual or other aids will be needed. A well-constructed graph can be worth a thousand words of explanation, and for dramatic effect a vivid photograph can really help make a point.
Begin a buildup as you approach the end of your speech. The end has to be as strong as you can make it, drawing the audience to the point you want them to reach. Go through a quick recap of your main points and give a verbal signal that you’re about ready to end the presentation – “In conclusion…” is often used.
There are several forms you can use to record your notes for the presentation. If you print it out on a letter-sized sheet use large type and at least 1½ spaces between the lines. Better still, have it printed out on index cards that you can flip through as your presentation progresses.
Do not try to read your speech while you’re giving it. These are notes only and you’re going to prepare so well that they’re only useful as reminders, not as a complete script.
If possible visit the venue where you’ll be making the presentation and find out a few important facts. How well can the speaker be seen? How will the audiovisual aids be presented? How effective is the public address system? This information will help you get all the elements right and will also enable you to better rehearse your presentation before you actually make it.
Now it’s time to rehearse. This step is the most important part of ensuring your presentation will be a success. You don’t actually memorize your speech; you learn it through practicing it over and over until it becomes something you know as well as your address or telephone number.
Practice it aloud. Read through your full speech just once, then start using the notes you’ve prepared. If you come to a place where you don’t know what comes next refer back to the full speech, but do this as little as possible. You’ll soon be working off the notes alone.
It will help to have a volunteer sitting in front of you while you’re practicing. This helps you work out such subtle details as your hand movements and your speech timing. Encourage criticism now because you don’t want it when you’re giving the presentation to your intended audience.
When it comes to the real thing you can be confident you’ve learned your material and the presentation will go well. But you’ll probably still be a bit nervous because most people are when it comes to public speaking. Focus on how well you know the material and take some deep breaths. Let your whole body relax from your head down just before going onstage.
Now for a final tip – always maintain eye contact with the audience. Don’t jump around too quickly, but be looking at someone every time you speak. When you’ve reached the end of your presentation thank your audience for their attention and they’ll let you know how well you’ve done.
Article courtesy of RAN ONE: http://www.ranone.com/Press_Room/news.asp?ID=3921