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Lights, Camera, Action...Terror
How to give presentations
Member Name: spangle359
How to give presentations
Advantages: a few tips and tricks of presenting
Disadvantages: not to be used with animals or children
This all changed when I was put well and truly on the spot and could not get out of delivering a very high level presentation. I had started a new job as manager of an IT Training Centre. I could handle every aspect of this job without any difficulty until they hit me with the news that the centre opening ceremony would be taking place around a month after my appointment and the guest list included all the local dignitaries, MP’s, Mayor, local business owners, Directors of Learn Direct and so the list went on…..I had to provide the role of MC and had to deliver the main presentation of the day, including the cutting of the opening ribbon and all the fuss that is associated with these kind of ceremonies. In addition to all of this, I had to use a presentation program and a whole new set up of presentation hardware that I knew nothing about. (the new projector, screens etc were still in bubblewrap at this point) This was my idea of Hell on Earth and I had to perform, no matter what. I then developed a stragegy for presentations that I have used ever since.
Establish what equipment you will be using for your presentation. This is the most important step…whether you are standing at a podium with a sheet of paper or doing the whole multi/media presentation with lights and music, you need to know before you even start your preparation.
Establish the nature of your audience…after all a presentation to a group of students will be delivered very differently to a group of business owners…the content can be exactly the same but the delivery is totally different and must be taken into account when you are preparing. You should also find out the expected length of your presentation…there is a huge difference between a 5 minute fill in and a 20minute address.
This is the most important stage….find out as much as you can about your subject, spend extra time researching and fact-finding, know your subject inside out. Quite often I have found that even if there is no question and answer session built into a presentation, people will ask questions, if not during the presentation, then afterwards, and there is nothing worse than an ill-prepared presenter.
Gather all your information and prepare your presentation (initial draft stage) break it down into section…all presentations must have a start, middle and conclusion. Don’t tackle the whole thing is one go. Spend time on your opening section, you have to get people interested in what you are going to say. Use whatever aids you think you can get away with, keep them interested. If you are using Powerpoint or any other presentation program, or are using a lightbox projected onto screen or display cards etc. do not just repeat what everyone can see…your audience can read, you don’t need to talk them through it. However, you can use this as trigger words for yourself. I tend to use headings on screen that allow me to discuss that subject…it keeps me focused. Inject some humour or some surprising fact that will keep people awake. Always remember to start by thanking people for attending and give them something to look forward to at the end of the presentation…lunch, drinks etc.
The middle part of the presentation is the worst part to prepare, this is when you are getting deep into your subject (remember that at least some of your audience will have little knowledge or interest) and try to make it interesting. One way to do this is to be very enthusiastic (but not overly so) about it yourself, this makes them think it is exciting. Use examples, bring on props, involve the audience, ask them questions. Most importantly, keep on topic.
The final part of the presentation is where you pull it all together, recall the opening of your speech, pull in a few facts from the middle part and conclude with a final statement. Leave them either with a final conclusion or with an open argument for further discussion. Leave them wanting more.
Now that all sounds very simple but when you are still sitting at three in the morning wondering what on earth to say, it is terribly difficult…if that happens, walk away and return the next day..everything is down to preparation, if you do not know your subject, you will never deliver a good presentation, if you know your subject, you should be able to at least put something together then you can test it out on anyone who will listen. Before you get to the stage of memorising your presentation, read it out to family and friends, as many times as you can get away with…get their honest reactions, listen to their suggestions and take them on board..make the changes they suggest and see how it feels….no matter if you think your presentation is wonderful, they are an audience and you should seriously consider their reaction…watch for signs of boredom or lack of understanding…make sure you look at their faces..it is easy to do that with people you know.
Once you have done all your testing and alterations you should have a presentation that you are happy with..then and only then should you decide how you are going to learn it. Personally, I have always learned my presentations inside out, no matter how long they have been…that is just my way. I have also always had flash cards or something similar on hand so that I have trigger words in case I forget where I am. If you can arrange a podium or stand of some sort it is helpful…we have all seen people present with grubby bits of scribbled and scrunched up paper, it does not look good at all…but you can have that on a podium if you like, no-one will see it.
On the day before your presentation make sure that all equipment is working and that all aids are in place..if this is being done at another location, call ahead and have them check that everything is working properly..you don’t want a bad start due to lack of equipment.
When I am presenting using a projector and a laptop I always carry an additional acetate copy of my presentation…just in case…I can then use a lightbox if the system fails in any way.
On the day of the presentation, get up early and get dressed carefully. You will be under hot lights and will perspire, choose cottons and use plenty of anti-perspirant, make sure you are comfortable in your clothes and make certain that they are anti-crease…who wants to see a crumpled presenter?...If you can, take a chance of clothing with you and get dressed at the last minute. Ladies should leave make-up as late as they can and use as little as they can as it will run off under the lights. Wear shoes that you can walk and stand in and stay calm……..your stomach might be churning but outwardly you must look calm.
Take a last run-through if you can with all the equipment working, get a colleague to sit in to make sure that your voice reaches all areas of the room. Find four focal points in the room and remember them and use them as starting points to look around the audience during your presentation…no point in just looking at the clock at the back of the room all the time. Make sure your notes, aids etc. are in a safe place then leave the room…. go have a coffee or chat with someone about something completely different…just get your mind off the presentation.
Arrive a few minutes before you are due to speak and practice some deep breathing..I always carry a little bottle of lavender water and take a couple of deep sniffs of it before I go up. Then, walk onto the platform, take one last deep breath and talk clearly and slowly, although not too slow..the first few sentences will sound like you are inside your head but when you relax you will look and feel so much better. I use humour a lot in presentations as I think it helps both me and the audience relax, but that is not for everyone and is best left out if you cannot deliver it confidently..you really don't want to see everyone cringing at your humour. Don't shuffle your feet, move around if you can but never stand in front of the screen, they can see you, they don't need to see a 20ft shadow of you.
Most importantly, and this might sound a bit stupid if you have gotten yourself into a real state over the preparation…..ENJOY it, you have worked really hard to get it to this stage and this is your moment of glory…don’t miss it, it is fun!!!!! The last thing you want to do is walk off a platform and collapse from exhaustion, walk off and be prepared to interact with the audience at the first break..they love talking to presenters.
I managed to conquer one of my biggest fears simply because I was thrown into very deep water with no lifebelt and had to learn to swim very quickly. However, by the time I had learned to use all the equipment, knew my subject matter inside out and had bored my family and friends to tears, I couldn’t wait to get on the platform because I really knew what I was doing. Ohh I won’t pretend that there weren’t any last minute wobbles but I got up there and delivered one of my best presentations and it went down so well that I couldn’t wait for the next one…if anyone had told me that previously, I would have shot them down in flames. I have delivered hundreds since then and delivered several hundred training courses, all using the above strategy. It has never let me down so far and now, even if the equipment doesn’t work, I can easily carry of a presentation without it.
It doesn’t matter how many people you are delivering to, they deserve a good standard of professionalism and the biggest part of that is preparation, even if you are standing up in a class of fellow students, keep focused, know your stuff, relax and enjoy it…after all, how many of the audience could do what you are doing?
Summary: Preparation is the key to good presenting