Many people dread getting up in front of an audience, but with the right tools and a creative approach, you have nothing to worry about. Here are some top tips for your presentation.
There is always a narrative to your subject. Your job is to figure it out and explain it to the audience. If you are planning to read a list of facts and figures, you may as well cancel the presentation and give out a leaflet.
Your topic might not be the most exciting. Maybe you have to talk about tax reforms in the nineteenth century. In this case, the story you need is who the reforms affected and how. Tell the story of a fictional family whose lives were changed. Did their business have to close? Maybe their children were sent to live with relatives?
The point of a presentation is to involve the audience in your subject and give them a broader understanding. You can apply this to any topic, no matter how dry it might seem. The story will also give structure to your presentation, a beginning, middle and end.
With thanks to Simon
No matter how engaged your audience is, their attention will drift if you talk for too long on one topic. This can be a problem in longer presentations, so break yours into sections of no more than ten minutes. Every time you reach the ten-minute mark, re-engage your audience. You might do this by fielding their questions, taking a poll, or by swapping to a new speaker if working with a group.
With thanks to Sarathy
Use Real Props
Presentations often have a strong focus on digital content. There is nothing wrong with that, but you may find that a simple physical prop makes more of an impact.
Peeling a leek is a great example of this, however unlikely it may sound, and can be used to demonstrate any number of things.
For example, imagine giving a presentation on the environmental policy of your office. You have noticed that co-workers use disposable plastic cups. Peel the first layer from the leek, pointing out that it doesn’t look much different from before. You’ve also noticed that computers are left on overnight. Another small thing, and you peel another layer from the leek. Again, it doesn’t look too different. The point is that no individual layer of the leek seems to make much difference but there is a cumulative change.
There are lots of applications for this one example, and many other ways to highlight your point with a simple object. You can be sure that the underlying message of a striking central image will be remembered.
With thanks to Neil
If you’re having trouble knowing where to start, think about how much time you need to fill. Just ten minutes can seem daunting when you don’t have a starting point. The best way to look at it is as ten one-minute slots. So, if your presentation is on World War II your topics could be:
1) Pre-war Germany
2) The Great War
3) European Empire Building
The framework this provides means that all you need to do is fill in the gaps. You might find that with only one minute per category, you have more material than you can use.
With thanks to Sophia
Throw Out PowerPoint
There’s nothing wrong with using PowerPoint, but you shouldn’t feel obliged to when there are other options. The important thing for you to consider is whether you need to display information on screen. Take a look at your presentation. If you’re speaking to your audience and the same information is appearing on the screen, what purpose is the PowerPoint serving?
One alternative is to use a whiteboard for a more free-form approach. If you have an old overhead projector, one of your group can draw straight onto the transparencies. Or, if you have the resources, prepare an animation in advance that will illustrate your points.
You don’t have to have any visual component at all; if you think you can do without it, then go ahead. At the very least, you should strip your PowerPoint down to the bare minimum, visualising complex ideas for your audience.
With thanks to Meera
Even if you are not particularly familiar with Twitter yourself, you can guarantee that a decent cross-section of your audience will be. There are numerous benefits to inviting your audience to live tweet at a speech or conference. You can get quick feedback on where the audience need further clarification. You can also use it to gather questions for a Q&A session at the end. Live tweeting also generates publicity for you and for the event. Don’t forget to supply a hashtag for the audience members to use.
The Ball of String
This is a fun exercise that gets your audience thinking as a group and lets you see how much they already know.
Ask if anyone knows something about your topic that they can share. So, if you are discussing Shakespeare, they might be able to name one of his plays. When somebody raises their hand, throw them the ball of string. Have them hold onto the end of the string and throw the ball to the next person who can tell you something about Shakespeare.
The second person holds onto the string and passes the ball to a third person, and so on.
Pretty soon you will have a web of string going all around the room connecting people, a live visualisation of the subject knowledge.
With thanks to Simon
Make an Infomercial
Infomercials are a particular type of advert that aim to make conventional wisdom seem impractical compared to an exciting new product. They are often over the top but can give a strong and recognisable structure to your work.
Infomercials usually feature two people: an expert with a solution and a novice who is keen to ‘find out more’. You can adopt this approach by performing an infomercial for the topic of your presentation, explaining the subject like a product that you are selling. This is a good-humoured approach to what might otherwise be a flat topic.
With thanks to Shadez
A Note on PowerPoint
PowerPoint is most people’s default setting when it comes to giving a presentation. There is nothing wrong with this, and having slides can be very useful. However, there are some do’s and do nots that you should bear in mind.
– The slides aren’t the presentation; they are supplementary. That means you need to plan what you are going to say and do, and then add slides that support your points.
– Stick to images or very limited text. No long sentences that distract from what you’re saying, and no tiny text that the people at the back can’t read.
– Pick a style and stick to it. That means consistent colours, fonts and transitions.
– Most importantly, DO NOT read from the slides. You are just giving the same information twice, which is pointless.
With thanks to Nikolay
Give Everyone a Coconut for Inspiration
I had a presentation once, and the topic was “My Life on a Desert Island”.
I walked into the presentation with a hessian bag. After going through my slides, I said, “You are all probably wondering what is in the bag. I’ve brought you each a coconut from my time on the island.”
I then walked around giving each person a coconut. “Take these home with you, and if you are ever stuck for ideas, ponder on them, and I’m sure that they will bring you the inspiration you need.”
My coconut now resides in our site manager’s office, in pride of place sitting atop a GE values coffee mug.
With thanks to Matt
Some really great ideas and tips here.
I love the coconut one – but I’m not sure how practical it’s going to be for a large audience!!