If the very idea of standing up in front of a group of people to give a presentation makes you weak in the knees, you are not alone!
But, despite the nerves you are feeling, you can present like a rock star! Don’t believe me? I have first-hand experience. In the past year, I have gone from being terrified to speak in front of even small groups, to being comfortable speaking in front of our entire staff. How did I do it?
First and foremost, the biggest thing that will make you comfortable speaking in front of all size groups is to know your material and speak about it with authority. Not only are you going to feel more confident, but the people listening will be more confident in your presentation as well.
Now, let’s talk about the slide show that will accompany your presentation. The first thing to get out of the way is to keep in mind that the slide show is not your presentation. You are giving the presentation and your slides should complement the talking points you have prepared.
When it comes to the slide show, remember that a picture is worth 1,000 words. If you put 1,000 words on the slide behind you, no one is going to listen to you speaking. They are just going to read the words behind you. Rather than a bunch of bullet points (yawn), try using images to help illustrate the story you are telling. Animations are also a fun way to help draw attention and vary the way you present images.
And what about graphs? Graphs are what I call a necessary evil. If you throw a graph up on a slide that is too small to read and makes sense to only a few people in the room, it is going to flop. Used well, a graph can offer wonderful support to the story you are telling. The biggest key to graphs is to make sure they are large enough to read. Secondly, make sure to explain them well, so people understand what they are looking at.
A general tip: make your audience feel something. The topic of your presentation will dictate what you want the audience to feel, but if you want to make them laugh, make them laugh. If you want them to be thoughtful for a moment, take a pause. And if you want them to act, make sure to issue a call to action.
One of the books I found most helpful to becoming a better presented is Carmine Gallo’s The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Whether you are a fan of the man or not, it is undeniable that he was a fantastic presenter. Learn from him. I did.