Presentations are hard. They’re time-consuming to write and often scary to present back to class.
I’ve done a lot of presentations in school, university and at work and although I’m no expert, I am a good public speaker now. It’s taken me a while to get this point, but it’s such a great skill to have. I actually quite enjoy public speaking, but even if you don’t, here’s seven of my tips so that you can at least get through the presentation without freaking out.
Choose a good topic
This isn’t always possible, especially in the work place, but if you can, always choose something that interests you. It will make the preparation a much nicer process if it’s something you actually care about, and it will show when you present back to the class. You’ll already be more compelling to the people listening if they can tell that you actually give a shit.
Ideas first, slides second
Write down what you want to talk about before making your slides. There’s no point creating twenty beautiful slides before realising that those twenty slides only cover about six sentences of your talk. Get to grips with your content first and make it look sexy after.
Keep your slides simple: Part I
This is an obvious one – you don’t want your audience to zone out whilst staring at a wall of text. However, personally, I always try to put a bit more on than just one photo. That way, when you first switch to that slide, your audience will be taking in what’s in front of them, and taking their eyes off your face, even just for twenty seconds or so.
Keep your slides simple: Part II
When I was at high school and we had to present back to class, there was always one person who would pick that effect that puts up the words one letter at a time. Don’t do that, ever.
When presenting, the slideshow behind you is important, don’t get me wrong. But what’s more important is what you’re saying. Avoid fancy effects that break concentration, and don’t put too many slides in either. You want your slides to silently back up what you’re saying, not take over.
Learn what you’re talking about
Become familiar with your content. I try to become really comfortable with what I’m talking about, so that if I lose my place in my notes, I can still talk without waffling. It also just means that I don’t stand up and stare at a group of people and feel like an imposter.
Bullet point everything
I very rarely write a presentation out in full. I find it overwhelming to look down at a piece of paper covered in writing, and end up just reading it out, which as I’m sure you’ve heard before, doesn’t tend to lead to a great presentations.
My bullet points are relatively detailed, but they aren’t full sentences, so when I speak, I speak in a much more natural way. It lets me look up at my audience rather than staring at the (probably shaking) piece of paper. And, biggest of all for me, if I lose my place I don’t end up flustered and saying ‘um….hang on, where was I?’ in the middle of my killer point.
Put your notes in a notebook
I actually stole this one from comedian Sarah Millican. Don’t take a piece of paper up with you – I’m a confident public speaker but even my hands start shaking randomly when in front of a group of people. It’s probably adreneline or something. I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. What I can confirm is that if you have a hard-backed notebook or – as I did recently – a clipboard*, it doesn’t shake and make that horrible whispery noise that paper does, that gives you away.
*Clipboards also have the bonus feature of making you look official AF
So that’s all I have for you today, I hope it helped! Even the most experienced public speakers get nervous before presentations, but hopefully these tips will help you ace yours.