Calm your internal dialogue
Arguably the hardest part of preparing to present in front of a crowd is avoiding psyching yourself out before you get your chance. Being nervous often comes with the territory, as does negative self-talk which can sabotage your chances of impressing an audience. To rid yourself of an internal dialogue that actually will lead you to screw things up, prepare more and make sure you have a complete knowledge of the material you’re presenting.
Be excited about what you’re going to present
That said, being legitimately into the subject you’ll be talking about is a massive plus. It will give you the confidence to colour outside the lines of your cue cards and the freedom to engage with your audience. Your enthusiasm can even be infectious, which is especially helpful if you’re presenting on a subject that aims to inspire listeners.
Avoid the pitfalls of digital media
Now that everybody finally knows how to use the computer projector, there’s a temptation to use a PC as a crutch. Done incorrectly, this can reduce the impact of your presentation or replace the need for you to be up on a stage altogether. If you’re using PowerPoint, employ a combination of striking, full-screen images and at most three bullet points per slide. If you write out your script or step aside to play a video clip, your audience will learn to ignore you, and for good reason.
Stories make the best examples
Using each bullet point as a springboard for your main arguments, you have an opportunity to really connect with your audience. Briefly introduce the topic and offer up a few clinical facts and figures, but then give the audience something to relate to with a story that shows them the principle in action. You can use anecdotes from your own life, as well as famous examples and narratives from people you have talked to. Keep them simple so they’re easily processed.
Don’t overlook the power of the Q&A
After most presentations worth their salt, there’s a questions and answers section that puts you on the spot. Don’t sweat it—it can be used to your advantage. Giving short, concise answers, you can make a quick detour back to your presentation material in order to shore up some holes in your arguments or mention points you had forgotten. If you don’t know the answer to a question, however, save your reputation and credibility by admitting it, then moving on.