Do you want to deliver a confident presentation? This article will guide you through the different stages of your presentation, from preparation and planning to delivery. We will examine the use of visual aids to draw the attention of your audience and look at the importance of personal appearance and how it can inspire a sense of confidence.
What you’ll learn:
- The steps to thoroughly preparing your presentation to ensure you feel confident and prepared.
- The importance of rehearsal and supportive aids such as prompt cards.
- How your outward appearance can instill confidence in yourself and convey it to others.
Prior preparation prevents poor performance and is the key to delivering a confident presentation that successfully gets its message across to the audience.
Purpose: Before you put pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard, you need to decide what the purpose of your presentation is. Ask yourself why you’re doing it and what you want to achieve, then use the answers to form the presentation’s objective. This can be referred back to throughout the process to help keep you on point.
Subject: The secret to delivering a confident presentation is being knowledgeable about the subject. Different from the objective, the presentation’s subject may be chosen for you or you’ll choose it yourself, either way, it must be thoroughly researched using all the available resources. Don’t just rely on the internet, read relevant literature, send out questionnaires and speak to your peers both inside and outside of your organization.
Audience: Before deciding on the specifics of your presentation’s content consider its audience…what do they already know? Is it part of their work? Is it a new concept to them? This will help you identify what you could and should include in the presentation. The audience will also determine your style of delivery, as how you present to a group of children will differ from how you talk to a group of middle-aged businessmen.
Environment: You may be unfamiliar with the environment you’ll be presenting in, therefore it’s a good idea to find out some details in advance so you can properly prepare. For example, the size of the room, if the seating arrangements can be changed, and what equipment is available for you to use. It’s also recommended that you arrive early on the day to give yourself time to check out the environment and note any potential distractions that might have to be overcome, such as loud traffic noise.
Time: Although it’s not always up to you it’s worth considering what time of day you’ll make the presentation and how long it will take. It’s recommended that presentations are made in the morning as people tend to be more awake and productive. Find out how long you have to deliver the presentation and check if this includes time for questions. If you can decide the timing, remember that people find it hard to concentrate for extended periods of time, with most getting restless after 45 minutes.
The structure of your presentation should include an introduction, a series of key points, a conclusion, and a time for questions at the end.
Beginning: Use the introduction to your presentation to put the audience at ease. Inform them of the presentation’s topic and purpose in a 30-second summary that can be reused in the conclusion. Tell them how long you’ll be talking for, when they can ask questions, and if you’ll be giving out a handout. Use a shocking statement or question to hook the audience or, if you feel confident enough, make a joke to break the ice.
Middle: To create the content of the presentation, list the key points you want to make and use them as headings under which the rest of the information can be sorted. It can be difficult to decide what to include and what to leave out. To help decide ask yourself ‘does the audience need to know this?’ Once you have the key points sort them into a logical, connected order that will allow the presentation to naturally flow from point to point.
End: The conclusion is the last impression an audience has of a presentation so make it a good one. Bring the presentation full circle by repeating the 30 second summary from the introduction that states both the topic and purpose while reiterating the key messages that have been brought up. If you choose to end it with a call to action, be clear about what it is you want the audience to do, relate it to the points you’ve made, and remember to frame it in terms of how it matters to them. Alternatively, if you want to leave the audience thinking about the presentation’s key message end with a relevant rhetorical question.
Questions: Don’t be daunted by the question and answer section of your presentation, you’ve done the research and are knowledgeable about the subject. Before answering, check you’ve understood the question by rephrasing it and link back to the key messages of the presentation. If you don’t know an answer, don’t panic, just say so. Offer to research it and get back to the group or individual once you know more. Remember the audience isn’t trying to catch you out, they’re asking because they genuinely want to know the answer.
The last part of the presentation to be created are the visual aids which are designed to reinforce key points and boost effectiveness by helping to keep the audience’s attention.
Research: Having researched the chosen subject, you’ll have an idea about what you’re going to say which will help you decide what to ‘show’ the audience during the planning stages.
Style: The appearance of visual aids is as important as their content, and it’s best to keep it simple. When choosing a theme in PowerPoint, dark text on a light background is recommended as it’s easy to read. Combine it with a clean, clear font like Arial in a size that can be read from the back of the room, for example, size 14. Decorative fonts should be kept to the slide headings and only used if they’re readable. Find out what your organization’s guidelines for presentation style are and make sure you follow them.
Number of Ideas: Putting several ideas on a single slide can result in the audience skipping ahead, as they read quickly, which leaves the presenter playing catch-up. Therefore it’s a good idea to only cover one idea or message per PowerPoint slide, on which you’ll verbally expand before moving on.
Information & Text: To avoid overloading the audience keep the information displayed to a minimum. Visual aids are there to reinforce your message, not deliver it for you. Each slide should only feature key phrases and points, not whole paragraphs and it’s recommended that you only include a maximum of six lines per slide.
Images: A picture paints a thousand words so carefully choose ones that help deliver your message. Ensure all images used are of high quality and avoid stretching them to fit a space as they’ll pixelate. Too many images can make your presentation seem cluttered so only use an image if it’s relevant to the point you’re making.
Charts: When adding a chart to your visual aids consider how much detail needs to be shown and ensure you use the correct type of chart for the information being presented. Pie charts show percentages, vertical bar charts show changes over time, horizontal bar charts compare quantities, and line charts demonstrate trends. Always check that the information is clearly displayed and readable before the final presentation.
Animation: Getting carried away with PowerPoint animation can leave your presentation looking unprofessional, when used it’s best to keep it simple. Use clean wipe left or right transitions instead of fancy, time-consuming options like ‘fly in’ and remember that not every transition needs to be animated. If you’re worried your presentation is too short don’t try to elongate it by choosing long, over-the-top animations.
Flip Charts: Flip charts are a popular, low-tech alternative to PowerPoint presentations and are ideal if you’re collecting ideas from your audience. Position the flip chart on the side of your non-dominant hand and angle yourself to face the audience while writing. Keep a couple of working pens to hand and make sure your writing is big enough to be seen. Blue or Black ink is recommended as it’s easy to read.
Your appearance projects an image, therefore you must consider how you want to present yourself when preparing for a presentation. The right outfit and appearance will not only help you feel more confident but will also inspire a sense of confidence in the audience.
First Impressions: With first impressions often formed without a word being spoken you must dress for the audience and the event, not just yourself. For example, if you’re presenting at a business seminar opt for a suit and tie. It might not be your usual choice of clothing but it will help the audience feel confident in you and help you to relate to them.
Preparation: You want to make the right impression going into a presentation, therefore it’s important to take care when getting ready. Once you’ve chosen an appropriate outfit, iron your clothes and polish your shoes to ensure you look smart. Although it sounds obvious, make sure you brush your hair, clean your teeth and carefully apply your make-up, double-checking your final appearance just before entering the room to deliver the presentation.
Distractions: Making a fashion statement will only take away from your presentation’s message, so it’s best to keep it simple and avoid wearing distracting items like overlarge jewelry or brightly colored ties and shirts.
As well as prior preparation, a presentation’s success is based on the strength of its delivery.
Nerves: Even the world’s greatest orators get nervous before speaking. Before you enter the room to present take deep breaths and walk around to calm your nerves. Try not to worry about being nervous as this will only make you more so. Remember the audience is on your side, they want the presentation to be a success, they’re not trying to catch you out.
Body language: Use your body language to show the audience you’re relaxed and confident. Stand with your feet apart, shoulder’s down and hands outstretched. Avoid appearing closed off by uncrossing your arms and don’t put your hands in your pockets or fidget.
Eye contact: Eye contact makes the audience feel involved, interested, and flattered while also providing you with feedback about how the presentation is being received. Maintaining eye contact for too long can be intimidating so hold it for a maximum of 10 seconds before moving on. When speaking to a large group it’s impossible to make eye contact with individual members of the audience, so concentrate on sections instead. Move your gaze around, but don’t be systematic in your approach…mix it up.
Smile: Don’t forget to smile as it’s a physical sign of confidence and injects your tone of voice with a sense of life and urgency that draws the audience in. A smile, even a forced one, also helps to calm your nerves as it naturally increases the levels of endorphins released into the body which causes the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, to decrease. However, a fixed smile held for too long is unnatural and can be off-putting, so try to keep it genuine.
Scripts: When choosing how you deliver your presentation pick the method that makes you feel both comfortable and confident. Using a script keeps timings accurate and builds a presenter’s confidence, however, it also encourages mumbling and can result in a lack of eye contact which means the audience loses interest.
Notes: Allowing you to be flexible and make constant eye contact, going without notes can encourage enthusiasm. However, it can also cause you to lose your train of thought and is an added pressure in an already stressful environment. Remember when you choose how to deliver your presentation pick the method that makes you feel comfortable and confident.
Prompt Cards: The recommended method for presenting is to use prompt cards as they enable you to make eye contact while staying on track and delivering all necessary information. Use one card per slide and keep the information to a minimum, a few trigger words, and the key facts alongside a brief opening line, if necessary. To make the information easier to identify at a glance write each part in a different color, for example, red for trigger words and blue for facts. Remember when choosing how to deliver your presentation pick the method that you feel most comfortable and confident with.
Positioning: Before you begin the presentation make sure you’ve practiced where to stand to avoid blocking your visual aids. There’s no reason to stand still for the duration of the presentation so move around and don’t be afraid to use your hands to stress a point.
Engage the Audience: Presentations are like a conversation and shouldn’t be one-sided so remember to engage with your audience. Use props to make a point, conduct a survey or poll and ask the audience to engage with each other as well. Create an environment where the audience feels comfortable asking questions and you feel comfortable asking for their opinions.
Why should you arrive early when making a presentation?
A. To sample the free buffet
B. To take a peek at other presentations
C. To scope out the environment in which you’ll give the presentation
C. To scope out the environment in which you’ll give the presentation
It’s advised that you arrive early to your presentation, even if it’s only a few minutes, as this will give you time to scope out the environment. Make sure all the equipment is working correctly, that the room isn’t too hot or too cold and that you’re aware of any potential distractions.
What’s the recommended method for delivering a presentation?
A. Prompt Cards
B. No Notes
C. A Script
A. Prompt Cards
A script can build the presenter’s confidence and keep them on track but it prevents eye contact from being made with the audience which can cause them to lose interest. It’s recommended that you use Prompt Cards as they provide enough information to help you stay on track while allowing you to make eye contact with the audience.
Is it a good idea to wear a red shirt and yellow tie when delivering a presentation at a business exhibition?
It’s not a good idea to wear brightly colored or overly patterned clothing while delivering a presentation as they act as a distraction for the audience and can appear unprofessional. Keep it plain and simple for example a dark, colored suit, with a white or light-colored shirt. Remember you should dress for the audience and the event, not just yourself.
Why should you practice your presentation in front of a mirror?
A. Because it’s fun to see yourself
B. Because it allows you to pick up any flaws in your technique
C. To check your overall appearance
B. Because it allows you to pick up any flaws in your technique
Although checking your overall appearance is important, particularly on the day itself, it’s recommended you practice your presentation in front of a mirror because it enables you to pick up any flaws in your technique. Alternatively, you could film yourself doing a practice run for the same purpose.
What should you do if you don’t know the answer to a question?
A. Make something up
B. Say you don’t know but offer to find out
C. Dismiss the question as silly
B. Say you don’t know but offer to find out
If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t panic just say so. You could open the question up to the rest of the group and see if someone else knows the answer or suggest you’ll do some research and get back to the group or individual with the answer. Make sure you validate the person who has asked the question and don’t just dismiss it because you’re unsure.
- The key to a successful presentation is preparation, so research your subject thoroughly.
- Practice your presentation beforehand.
- Use prompt cards to help you stay on track.
The key to any presentation is preparation. If you’re knowledgeable about a subject, you’ll feel more confident talking about it.
So, where to begin?
Whether you’re assigned a topic to talk about, or you chose it yourself, the next step is to research it.
Don’t just rely on the internet as a resource, talk to your peers, send out questionnaires, attend exhibitions and read the relevant literature.
Once the research is finished, you’ll have an idea of what your key points are. These form the body of the presentation’s structure and are the headings under which the rest of the information is categorized.
It can be difficult to decide what should be included and what should be left out, so ask yourself ‘does my audience really need to know this?’
What about visual aids?
When creating a digital presentation, it’s good practice to put each message or idea on a new slide and keep the information to a minimum. Remember the slides are there to aid your presentation, not to do the work for you.
Use graphics to help your visual aids engage the audience, be consistent in the style you choose, and avoid using different fonts, colors, or sizes.
When delivering the presentation, it’s recommended that you use prompt cards as they provide the right about of detail to help you stay on track while also allowing you to make eye contact with your audience. They should be clear and concise. If they take longer than 10 seconds to read, they’re too long!
Practice your presentation at least twice to make sure it works. It’s best to practice in front of a mirror or film yourself, as you’ll be able to pick up the flaws in your technique and make improvements.
On the day of the presentation, arrive early and arrange the room. Is it too hot or too cold? If you’re using a digital presentation, check that your computer is plugged in and displaying properly, make sure it can be seen from all angles, and be sure to practice where you stand so you don’t block the screen.
Alternatively, if you’re using a flipchart, place it on the side of your dominant hand, ensure your writing can be seen clearly, and pause before you flip the page over.
Think about your body language. Standing with your feet apart, shoulders down and hands outstretched shows you’re relaxed and confident. Avoid putting your hands in your pockets or fidgeting. There’s no need to stand rigidly, so feel free to move around and don’t forget to smile.
It’s important to speak clearly so what you’re saying can be heard. Check with those at the back that they can hear you before beginning the presentation and try to project your voice, without shouting.
Eye contact allows your audience to feel involved, interested and flattered. It also provides you with feedback about how the presentation is being received.
Don’t just concentrate on one person or hold their gaze for too long as this will become uncomfortable.
If the audience is large, concentrate on sections instead of people, but don’t be systematic in the way you move your gaze around…mix it up!
In the introduction, put your audience at ease and provide a 30 second summary of the presentation’s purpose, which can be repeated in the closing statement to bring the presentation full circle.
If you can, hook the audience with a question or shocking statement, and don’t forget to let them know when questions can be asked or if you’re giving out a handout. It’s also a good idea to say how long the presentation will last.
So, what about questions?
Select the person with a question and listen to it. When they’ve finished, break eye contact and rephrase the question to check you’ve understood it. When answering, remember to link back to the main point of your presentation.
If you don’t know the answer…don’t panic, just say so. Someone else might and if they don’t, suggest you’ll do some research and follow up on it later.
If you have prepared well, you’ll be able to present with confidence. So make sure you research the subject, practice the presentation, and speak clearly to get your message across.