The soft-side of presentations

About two months ago I posted an article titled, "Some tips on presentations." On that blog entry I focused on prep activities, slide design considerations and other tips to use before you present. With this post, I would like to write about some tips on the actual delivery of a presentation.

  • Grab your audience's attention. Particularly at the start of your presentation. Tell them why it is important to them (the subject) and what you want to achieve (the objective.)
  • Determine to make your presentation come across as more of a dialog than a lecture. Try to generate interaction with your audience.
  • Give your introduction and summary slides with a blank screen. Focus the audience on you.
  • Exude confidence in what you say. Know your material inside-out.
  • If you are not comfortable or do not have genuine feelings for what you are saying, you shouldn't be giving the presentation.
  • Make eye contact with members of your audience. Focus in on their body language for clues to how they are receiving your presentation. This also personalizes it.
  • Make sure you display positive body language. No folded arms, hands out of pockets, do not nervously hold your hands and don't sway from side to side.
  • Relax and be natural with any gestures you use. People can tell when they're forced.
  • When using gestures, keep them shoulder height and above. If you are listing out points, show it on your hands (e.g., one, two, & three.)
  • Speak more loudly and project your voice. Don't yell! But if you are like me, you'll need to ensure you are clearly heard by everyone in the room.
  • Talk more slowly than when you are having a conversation. Pause... People need time to digest what you are saying. As a speaker this may feel uncomfortable, but it comes across better. What says more than words? "No words!" (Follow that link if you are in the mood for a short comedy skit.)
  • When answering questions unrelated to your current slide, use the B key (in PowerPoint.) If you don't know what that does, try it out (hint - it will blank the display.)
  • Be prepared to change the pace of your presentation every 15 minutes or so. This keeps people awake.
  • Do not compete with your slides, if there is a lot of text, give the audience time to look at it before you start talking.

These are some simple tips you can use the next time you have to give a presentation. Some of them will come naturally to you while others you will need to work on. In the meantime, I suggest you view presentations given by Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton and Lawrence Lessig.

In closing this post, I'll leave you with a quote that dove-tails with my request that you deliver a dynamic, interactive presentation.

Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.

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