How To Ace Your Presentations
In the age of the Internet, delivering killer presentations seems to be more important than ever. Those who can do it well get ahead. However, for many, it can be totally daunting. It’s not that the ideas aren’t there. It is the ability to produce crystal-clear content that is interesting and the anxiety around communicating it that is the blocker. If you want to improve your level of skill in this area, check out my eight points below.
1. Engage About Expectations
Whether online or face-to-face, it is important to devote some time to discussing expectations before getting started. Be upfront with your audience so that they known what to expect from your presentation.
2. Keep It Compact And Be Clear
Neuroscientists say that the human mind can only absorb three to seven points in short-term memory. The inspirational visionary Steve Jobs knew this. His product descriptions were all short, to the point, and described the product in one sentence. He also sometimes used the rule of three: “Thinner, faster, lighter” and “The world’s thinnest notebook” are some of the most memorable definitions. Think concise and clear when writing your content. You will feel more positive in your approach, more comfortable about the delivery, and you will also have more impact.
3. Get Creative
Who doesn’t love a good story? The best advertisers are fully aware of this and use narratives all the time to connect us emotionally to the brands they represent. Top brand Nike doesn’t even mention its products in its ads. Instead, we, the consumer, are the star of the story, as they help us to achieve our dreams of doing better.
Stories have power! Get creative in your communication and spin a good tale. Concretely, this means finding real-life experiences that you can use to illustrate your points. If you feel you lack creativity, why not try meditation? Research shows that mindfulness promotes divergent thinking.
4. Be A Facilitator
Understand the level of knowledge of the group and don’t underestimate their insights. Ask some open questions and note the individual responses on a whiteboard. Reinforce good responses and link them to the main points you are making. Sometimes there will be “outlier” responses that are of little interest to the rest of the audience. Demonstrate sensitivity and respect here. Inform the individual that their issue is outside of the contents of the presentation, but there will be 15 minutes at the end of the presentation for one-on-one questions.
5. Wrap Up Well
Make sure to spend time wrapping up your presentation. Address whether people felt their expectations were met. This is the mark of a true client-focused professional.
6. Be Confident
Beforehand, find a quiet and peaceful place to relax and visualize being adequate. Don’t imagine suddenly being your favourite star on stage — this is more like wishful thinking. Focus on being calm, with a steady voice, relaxed body, and the confidence that you are prepared. Also, take some time to visualise something you already love to do with ease. This could be cooking your favourite dish, serving it up to family or friends, and explaining how you created such a delight. Now, transfer the feelings you are experiencing and see yourself presenting. Believe the tools are within you! You are already confident in other areas of your life and you can have confidence when presenting too.
7. Be Calm
Practise “ratio breathing.” If you don’t know this powerful tool, make sure to Google it. Basically, watch your breath and let it travel all the way down to the base of your spine, relaxing the belly and letting the diaphragm move into it. On the out breath, breathe all the way out of the top of the head, constantly maintaining your focus on it. Think of it like a barometer. Breathe in for 2 seconds and out for 4 seconds. You can change the ratio to whatever works for you. When we feel anxious, this is a guaranteed tool to calm the body because it switches the parasympathetic nervous system on and switches the “fight or flight” reaction off. So practise it and use it as needed on the day.
8. Take Control
Notice the area around you — this is yours, so own it and fill it. Research by Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy has shown that when we adopt “power poses” – that is, manipulating our own body language so that we feel more poised and confident — testosterone increases and cortisol decreases, so our bodies really can trick our minds into believing we are confident. Practise this at home in front of the mirror so you can get comfortable with your new style. Also, notice any thoughts and keep the feel-good messages, such as “I can do this,” flowing.
Finally, remember you are giving it your best shot and bear in mind that your realistic aim is to give a “good enough” presentation, not to “raise the house” — although, with practise, you very well may!
Featured photo credit: Imagine Cup via flickr.com