How to Become a Pro at Presentations in 10 Easy Steps
Whatever stage you are at in your career, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll have to put together a presentation at some point. Talking in front of a crowd (or even a handful of people) can be daunting, but with a few key pointers you’ll be well equipped to handle the nerves.
1. Make it interesting
The worst thing you can be subjected to as an audience is a long and dull presentation. You’re not going to get much of a confidence boost if your audience is yawning and fidgeting or, worse still, falling asleep. Whether you have free reign on the subject matter or you’ve been asked to present around a particular topic, try to come up with an angle that’s engaging.
It may be a tall order to make some subjects interesting, but rise to the challenge and you’ll impress with your ability to turn a dry topic into something worth listening to.
2. Draw up a plan
Before launching head first into your presentation, take a little time to think about the content. You’ll need to introduce yourself and your topic, make some key points and then sum it all up at the end. Work around this loose outline and make a rough plan of the main points you want to cover.
You’ll also need to find out whether there are any time restrictions, as this will effect how much detail you can go into.
3. Choose your tools
Microsoft PowerPoint has long been the presentation software of choice. It’s user friendly and comes with a range of built in templates so is a sound option for the newbie presenter. There are lots of other presentation options to choose from if you fancy breaking the mould.
Apple’s alternative to PowerPoint is Keynote, and offers a similar interface to Microsoft’s offering that can be downloaded for free online.
4. Design tips
Once you’ve decided on the content, you’ll need to get it into your template in a way that’s engaging for people to look at and easy on the eye. Simple doesn’t have to mean boring though, and you can create an eye catching presentation that looks clean and professional without using lots of fancy clipart and flashing fonts.
Instead of writing out word for word what you want to cover, just stick to short notes in bullet points. That way you’ll grab people’s attention and have the option to expand upon each point as you speak.
5. Practice makes perfect
After you’ve finished your first draft, have a trial presenting session. This can be in front of the mirror, a friend, or even your cat. It’s just a way for you to get used to speaking out loud and prevent yourself from becoming a waffling mess on the day.
Practicing beforehand also allows you to find out whether your presentation is the right length, which is important if you’re working to a time limit. You don’t have to be bang on with your timing, but you want to show that you can work to the restrictions you’ve been given.
6. Calm your nerves
Even if you’re perfectly prepared and super organised, you’re still likely to get the jitters before you have to present. Just remember that this is entirely normal, and the majority of people feel exactly the same way. There are plenty of tried and tested techniques you can employ to help you feel more in control, both before, during and after your presentation.
7. Test your technology
There’s nothing like a technical glitch to get your pulse racing and your stress levels increasing. Be prepared and arrive early to test your technology. Whether you’ve brought it on a memory stick or you’re presenting from a laptop, you’ll want to make sure that everything synchs together nicely and that you’re ready to roll.
8. Clear and confident
A confident presenter doesn’t mumble or talk to the floor. So even if you’re feeling anxious and nervy, lift your head up high and project your voice in a confident manner. Keep your pace steady and don’t rattle along at a lightning speed to get it all over more quickly. Take time to breathe, and treat each slide as a way to have a brief pause. Having a glass of water to hand is also a good idea.
9. Sum it off
You’ve made it to the end of the presentation. Well done! You can sum up your main points and bring your presentation to its natural end. This is your chance to show that you’ve thoroughly researched your topic and thought about your next steps.
10. Round it off
Factor in some extra time for a Q&A session at the end. People may walk away frustrated if they don’t have the opportunity to ask those burning questions that they’ve been saving up for you. Occasionally you may get an audience who don’t offer up any questions at all. But don’t take offence, as they may be on the shy side. Have a couple of questions up your sleeve that you can ask the audience to get a bit of interaction going, just in case you’re met with a wall of silence.
Last but not least, remember to round off your presentation by thanking your audience for listening. And…that’s a wrap!
Emily Valentine writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.