For some people the idea of giving a presentation in front of people is daunting, scary and stomach churning. However, presentations are a chance to explore your knowledge and gain a deeper insight into a specific topic. Here are some of my tips on how to exude the perfect balance of composure, confidence and style when presenting.
Very few people can simply turn up and give an entertaining presentation straight off the bat. Preparation is key. Running through your presentation (I recommend in front of the mirror) may prevent you slipping up. If possible, you should also practice in front of a friend or family member to help you iron out any errors – they may have some tips to improve that you might not have thought of!
“If you’re going to speak about something, you need to know a lot about it. You need to know three or four times as much as you are going to speak about” -Peterson, 2018.
Having an extensive knowledge of your topic will give you the comfort of being able to answer any questions that may arise after the presentation, as well as giving you the ability to expand on and add any extra information during the talk itself.
Think about your audience and talk to them specifically
Although you may give many different types of presentations throughout your life and career; at university you will probably be talking to an audience of students and a lecturer or two. Lecturers use presentations to assess your knowledge and your ability to convey information.
Sometimes it is a good strategy to ‘divide and conquer’ in presentations. If you have a specific opinion on a topic, use it to your advantage! Ruffling a few feathers might trigger a debate after the presentation, but at least you know that your audience has listened to you. You should think about your own personal opinion and how this may spark a debate with those of a differing viewpoint.
PowerPoint: The Good, the Bad and the Unnecessary
PowerPoint can be a useful tool for highlighting your information in a visual manner. However, sometimes students may find themselves simply reading from slides filled with text. This often proves to be tedious and monotonous and stops you from engaging your audience. To avoid this, try to keep the amount of slides in your presentation to a minimum and avoid long paragraphs of text.
Instead, use quotation cards that you can elaborate on during your speech. Step away from the computer when you speak, returning only to change the slide. This will prevent you reading solely from the screen and missing the chance to engage with your audience.
Finally, try not to put anything unnecessary into your PowerPoint as this will take the audience’s attention away from your main points.
Body language communication
Body language specialists have noted that certain positions will give both you and your audience a sense of self-assurance. A stance that I have found works for me is putting my hands behind my back, keeping my head up, and pushing my chest out.
“The emotions attached to this gesture are superiority, confidence and power. If you take this position when you are in a high-stress situation… you’ll begin to feel confident and even authoritative, as a result of cause and effect.” -Pease and Pease, 2004.
We all know that body language is deeply rooted in human communication; it can tell your audience a great deal about your topic. Keep an open and confident pose and don’t forget to smile and make eye contact with individuals in the audience.
- Take a bottle of water with you. When you need time to think, or simply a break in talking, a drink could be the perfect opportunity.
- Don’t be scared of silence.
- Loosen up and take a relaxed stance when talking.
- Get a good night’s sleep and wear a smart outfit in which you feel confident.
- Listen to other people’s presentations with interest; this will make them more likely to be respectful when listening to you.
Above all, remember that if you’re interested in the topic, then your audience should be too!