Tips For Presentations and Public Speaking
Presentations and public speaking are a fundamental part of life. They are already embedded in school curriculums at an early age, and will most likely be apart of many occupations. However, presenting, especially in front of larger audiences, can be difficult and nerve-racking; here are some helpful tips that will surely assist you in navigating any future presentations.
I’m sure you have heard this before, but practice, practice, practice. While practice may not necessarily “make perfect”, rehearsing your lines will significantly help your delivery. As you’re practicing, make sure to rehearse pausing, as this will help with your elocution and make it less likely that you’ll speak too fast during your presentation. I highly recommend practicing in front of someone if you can as they can give you valuable feedback on your presentation style.
Body language is a significant factor in how the audience perceives both the speaker and the content of their presentation. It’s important to remain still; (and although moving around can be beneficial in specific instances,) too much movement, such as rocking on your heels or pacing, will distract the audience. Limit hand gestures to moments in which they are specifically related to the discussed material and serve as an important bridge between words and images. Furthermore, it is crucial to maintain eye contact with different audience members/sections throughout the presentation.
Facial expressions are just as important as the content you’re explaining. While they may be second nature and many of us may not think of the ways we express our emotions, these “expressions” are vital to your presentation. If you’re delivering a speech or doing anything in front of an audience you may want to begin by making your audience comfortable, so start out with a smile. This makes the crowd believe that you’re happy to be there and indicates your level of confidence (so even if you’re not confident you’ll appear like you are). Additionally, the expressions you make should match the emotional content of your presentation. For instance, if you are discussing a sensitive subject you may want to have a more serious face, but if you are explaining something more “upbeat” you’ll most likely want to smile. If you’re expressions are inappropriate or do not match the content the audience may be too distracted by your face to listen to what you’re saying.
While physicalities, like body language and facial expressions greatly impact audience engagement, voice inflection speaks volumes. I’ve listened to many presentations where the speaker is not talking loud enough, nor slow enough to understand. That said, make sure that you’re speaking at a volume loud enough to be heard but not overly strong and ensure that the audience can hear each word that you’re saying. Practicing pausing and developing a good pacing can improve one’s clarity, and even give the crowd more time to absorb the communicated information. Another significant factor in delivering presentations is emphasis. Putting emphasis on important words or phrases alerts the audience to their significance. Similar to facial expressions, the tone of what you’re saying should match what you’re reading. So, if you’re encouraging the audience to do something utilize a more hopeful or inspirational tone.
Connect With Your Audience
It seems obvious, but make sure that your content, in some way relates to your audience. If they cannot connect to the material they may easily lose interest.
Keep It Brief
If you’re using powerpoint (or something of the sort) make sure that you keep the words on your slide brief. Your audience should not spend more time reading than they do listening to you. This may seem evident, but ensure that anything included on your slides directly relates to the topic at hand.
If you’re using visuals, make sure that they directly relate to what is being discussed. If they are graphs or anything similar, make sure you explain what they mean in terms of how they relate to your topic/purpose.
Prepare for Questions
Make sure that you know enough about your topic that you can answer any questions that teachers or audience members may pose. If you are unsure of an answer or need time to gather your thoughts, try saying things such as “That’s a good question” or “I’m glad you asked me that” in order to stall. 😉
Presentations and public speaking can be especially difficult at times, but these tips have hopefully provided some relief to any stress you may have about talking in front of an audience. Good luck on your next presentation!
Tips For Presentations and Public Speaking