Are you new to the business world? Is that first big presentation looming over your head? Here are some ways to simplify and de-stress the process.
1. Be Practical
A very normal instinct when preparing for a presentation like this is to do everything you can to be impressive and flashy with your content.
This is incredibly dangerous as it leaves you very open to becoming overly complicated. Whether you are presenting within your own company or to an outside company or individual, highlight the simple and practical aspects of your topic. By doing this, you eliminate the stress of covering difficult concepts and the potential of confusing yourself if nerves hit you during the presentation.
This practicality also makes you sound more genuine. As The University of Southern California says, “Genuine passion for your potential project is more impressive than any bells and whistles you introduce during your pitch.”
2. Be Conversational
It is completely normal to be nervous about public speaking, especially when it is a group you have little or no experience presenting to.
While you should absolutely prepare what you are going to say, it is important to keep your tone casual and conversational. The most sure-fire way of revealing how nervous you are is by stumbling over a word-for-word script.
Instead, prepare on your topic enough that you would feel comfortable having a conversation with a single person about it, then take this tone and use it in your presentation. If this is difficult for you, find someone, whether that person knows anything about the topic or not, to actually have this conversation with, and practise it.
3. Encourage a Dialogue With Your Listeners
One of the best ways to reduce the stress of these presentations is by getting the audience to do some of the work for you. Encourage your listeners to throw out or answer questions as they arise. If there is an active discussion of your topic, it reduces the amount of uninterrupted time you need to fill with your own words. Additionally, this is a great way to keep your audience engaged and creates a more cohesive learning environment if the presentation is within your own team at work. With this, however, you need to make sure to moderate the conversation.
If the audience is especially talkative, it can easily derail the presentation. A good way to keep the conversation on track is by interjecting with small bits of your opinion or follow-up questions after someone makes a point. In a guest blog, Charles Greene points out that “Ending with Q&A could allow an off-topic question to drag you on a tangent away from your main message,” and suggests moving questions to before a closing remark so that you may reorient the audience to your main point. The same principle holds if you engage your audience in a dialogue throughout. If this discussion goes off-topic at all, you still have the ability to bring it back in your conclusion.
4. Let Visual Aids Work for You
Visual aids like charts or PowerPoint can be an incredibly effective tool for you to use in your presentation.
They give your audience a visual connection with your information that can be instrumental in making your major points stay in their mind longer after you are finished. However, it is important to use these in an effective way.
It is easy to let your visual aids take over your presentation in a way that devalues its oral aspect, so instead of filling them with information that your audience has to read or pay substantial attention to in order to understand your point, give them highlights of these points in shorter phrases and bullet points. Using visual aids in an effective way again takes away some of the stress placed on you to drive each of these points home.
5. Don’t Try Too Hard To Be Funny
Humour can be an excellent tool to lighten the mood and eliminate tension within the presentation setting. It can also highlight a specific moment or point in your presentation because it draws additional attention to the point being made if the joke is related.
Humour is such an effective tool in the workplace that an overwhelming majority of executives believe it is important for career advancement.
However, it is important not to force humour into your presentation, or life at work in general, in an awkward or unnatural way. The audience will pick up on it and it will distract them from your content. If a joke fits naturally within the presentation and actually adds to your words, then definitely use it, but if it does not, just leave it out.
With thanks to Zachary Evans, a freelance web writer and graduate of Boise State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing.
You can follow him on Twitter at @ZacharyMEvans
[Author photo by Lindsey Morris]