As if your plate wasn’t already full enough, you’ve been asked to prepare a presentation and worse, YOU have to present it! Maybe you’ve never done this before. Maybe you have and the thought of doing it again is something you’d rather avoid. Whether you are an experienced public speaker or a novice here are a few handy tips to further guarantee a successful performance.
• Use a lapel microphone whenever possible. Hand held microphones pose several problems you may not have considered. For one, if your microphone has a wire you will be preoccupied with the wire’s whereabouts in order not to trip yourself. Also, for those not used to using a microphone, the natural urge to turn your head towards the screen at times while you’re speaking can be a challenge in hand-eye coordination as speakers often forget to move the microphone along with them.
• If you’ve experienced dry mouth while speaking before, plan to have plenty of water on hand for you to drink during your presentation. If the problem is so severe that your gums and teeth become dry making it difficult to speak, apply a light coat of Vaseline to teeth and gums for lubrication. Dry lips are notorious for sticking together causing the speaker to mall a word to death.
• Empty all of your pockets before your talk. If there is something in your pocket your natural urge at times of stress is to find out what’s in there. Then, once your hand has found the sacred object, it tends to hide in your pocket and play with said object. Not only is this distracting in terms of noise if you so happen to have a pocket full of change, but the visual image infers you have an itch that you just can’t seem to scratch.
• Wear sensible shoes. Never were new shoes which have not been broken in. Not only is the audience’s comfort important, so is your comfort. The pain caused by new shoes is enough to throw even an expert speaker off his game.
• Always have a plan B. What does this mean? Let’s say your projector’s bulb blows—either have spare bulbs on hand, or have a print-out copy of your entire presentation to hand out to the audience. The last thing you want to happen is for the machinery to trip you up while you stand there, red-faced, praying to be struck dead because without your power point, you have no clue what to say.
• Refrain from telling actual jokes. Although humour is vital in giving a talk, it must be woven into the subject matter. Never just recite a joke because the odds are against you in terms of how many audience members will find it funny. Sure you’ll be a hit with some, but you will be an instant bomb with others after one ill-timed bad joke.
• Make friends with the venue’s management. You want to be on a first name basis with the guy or gal who can pull some strings for you and make things happen. For instance, have them select a specific employee to oversee the room making sure there is always water on the tables and the guests are comfortable.
• When putting your presentation together, always prepare more information than you will need to use. First time speakers tend to speak too quickly and race through their presentations, leaving them with nothing else to say.
• Practice and time your speech in segments. If you know the specific amount of time needed for the beginning, middle, and end then you will know where you have ample time to allow for dramatic pauses or a question and answer period. Reciting your speech out loud will also allow for impromptu editing when you come across a word or phrase that does not roll off the tongue and replace it.
• Never arrive late and assume the audience will allow you to compensate by going into overtime. This is an assumption only amateurs make. Continuing to speak after your allotted time could interfere with subsequent speakers and the timing of much needed breaks. Be sure to end your talk on time.
• When dramatizing your ideas bear in mind that there is a fine line between drama and cheesy and be sure never to cross it. If you’ve ever listened to an overly-passionate religious figure implore you to repent with tears in their eyes for your sins, you know how ridiculous and irritating over-acting is.
• If you don’t think you can put emotion, excitement or enthusiasm into your talk, then leave those emotions out. The audience can tell the difference between when you truly feel the emotions and when you’re just trying to make them think you’re feeling the emotions.
• Always check with the audience whether or not they can hear you in the back of the room. There is nothing wrong with asking “Can everyone hear me okay back there?” Your audience members will gladly gesture whether you need to increase the volume or not.
Ask our our expert coach Heidi Crux for help on your presentation skills. Heidi is a professional business coach specializing in public speaking and presentation skills. Heidi regularly conducts meetings, workshops, and seminars in order to further enhance employee performance.