But before we do that, there’s one important thing I need to address.
In-between “produce” and “perform” lies the crucial act of PRACTICE. And it holds the key to controlling your nerves, because if you’re well prepared, you lessen your risk of forgetting what it is you want to say.
So once your slides are done, run through them. And then do it again. And again.
And then record the audio so you can hear how it sounds. So you will memorize it. And so you can time it perfectly. Very often, you will only have a specific amount of
minutes for your presentation. So make sure you practice it well – and don’t run overtime! It will pay off. That’s a promise.
One of the many great books about presentation design suggests that you make 4 complete rehearsal rounds of your presentation:
1. First, you add the full sentences that you want to say in your presenter notes. Run through your slides and say the sentences.
2. Highlight key words in the sentences (in the notes) and then run through your slides again, this time primarily looking at the highlighted keywords
3. Then, delete the sentences in your notes so you’re left with only the keywords. Practice the presentation from this.
4. Remove the notes and now make a practice presentation with only the slides as your support. By now, you’ve been over your presentation 3 times, so you will be able to memorize most of the details by only looking at your slides.
And with that in place, let’s move on to phase 3: Perform.
And so, you have reached the point where it really counts; where all your hard work, planning and practice has to prove its worth: It’s time to perform.
The dreaded opening
If you’re very nervous, show a visual, or maybe even a video as the first thing in your presentation (right after you introduce yourself, of course). It will detract focus from you, and give you a short breathing space so you will be able to calm down and get your nerves under control.
Step away from the computer
Regardless of how much or little space you have available, it’s essential that you make use of it. In other words: Stand up, and stop hiding behind your computer screen.
I know, it’s drastic. And scary. Because your computer is safe haven, and it holds your notes too.
But if you want to really connect with your audience, you have to stop staring at your screen. After all, your audience is not sitting in there, they’re out there – in the room.
Okay, so once you’ve left your happy place behind the screen, what do you do? The first step is to know your body language – and control it.
Control and use your body language
Controlling our body language is difficult because it is something we do/ use intuitively and without thinking about it. If we’re unwilling, we cross our arms over our chest, if we’re nervous, we might pace back and forth or move from side to side when standing up.
A few tips to control your body language and keep the attention of the audience is to:
- Establish eye contact with your entire audience. Don’t just stare at your screen, glance out the window or look at your feet. Talk to your audience, not at them.
- Use hand gestures to emphasize what you’re saying. For instance if you’re saying “from beginning, to end”, use hand gestures from left to right to emphasize it.
- Use pauses. Pauses are a great way to indicate importance of something you’re saying. And it allows you to take a deep breath so you don’t pass out from oxygen deficiency.
And on a final note: Don’t forget that a presentation is a performance. And that a performance is supposed to entertain. So don’t be afraid of making jokes, showing fun visuals and being playful while you present. Making your audience smile is the direct way to their hearts, and they will love you for it.
Make the audience smile. Image credit.
Creating a great presentation can be done in 3 phases:
1. A planning phase where you identify your audience, outline your presentation content, write your script and sketch your slides.
2. A production phase where you create your slides digitally. You should create slides without bullet points but rather slides that work as visual support for your presentation.
3. And once you’ve produced your slides, make sure to practice – practice – practice.
The performance – delivering your presentation to the audience. Make sure you control the opening to minimize your nervousness, step away from the computer and use your body language consciously.
The tips and tricks in this article are just some of the things you should start doing to improve your presentation skills. There are many more details to cover, but if you follow this 3 step plan, you are guaranteed to have improved your presentation immensely. So go ahead – start planning!