For some people, the idea of giving a presentation in front of people is daunting, scary and stomach-churning.
However, try to think about presentations as a chance to explore your knowledge on a subject and gain a deeper insight into a topic, rather than thinking of them as a chore or punishment. Here are some tips on confidence and style when presenting.
Very few people can simply turn up and give an entertaining presentation without preparation. Running through your presentation in front of the mirror will prevent you from slipping up and will give you added confidence. If possible, you should practice in front of a friend or family member. This will help you iron out any errors, and they may have some tips on how you could improve!
“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 extensive knowledge of your topic will give you the ability to answer any questions that may arise after the presentation, as well as giving you the ability to expand and ad-lib any extra information during the talk itself.
Think about your audience and talk to them specifically
Although you may give multiple presentations throughout your career, at university you will probably be talking directly to an audience of students and a lecturer or two. Lecturers use presentations to assess your knowledge on a subject, while simultaneously measuring how you convey that 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. This does not mean you should go in with the view of; “I’m going to try to offend people so they listen to me,” though. Instead, you should think about your own personal opinion and of ways to provoke debate during the talk.
PowerPoint: The Good, the Bad and the Unnecessary
PowerPoint can be a useful tool for highlighting your information in a visual manner. However, all too often students resort to simply reading from slide after slide of text. This style often proves to be a tedious and monotonous presentation that does not engage your audience. To avoid this, try to keep PowerPoint slides to a minimum and avoid long paragraphs of text.
Use quotation cards and small pieces of text or photos that you can elaborate on during your speech. Step away from the computer/laptop when you speak, and return only to change the slide. This will prevent you reading only from the screen and not engaging with your audience.
Do not put anything unnecessary into your PowerPoint, as this will take the audience’s attention away from your main point. Keep the minimalist approach when writing a PowerPoint presentation.
Body Language communication
Body language specialists have noted that certain body positions will give both you and your audience a sense of self-assurance. A stance that I have found works for me is the hands behind the back, head up, chest out position.
“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, smile and make eye contact with individuals in the audience.
- Take a bottle of water up to the podium. This was advice from one of my lecturers who explained that when you need time to think or simply need a break in the talking, a drink could be the perfect opportunity.
- Do not be scared of silence: if you need time to think, that’s ok!
- Avoid the “drama walk.” This guidance comes from my high school drama teacher who noticed that the class was divided into two groups: one group walked around the stage when talking and could not stand still; the other group froze in terror and tensed up when they gave their lines. 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 your talk.
Above all, remember that if you’re interested, then hopefully your audience will be too!