How many times before a presentation you:
😣 fear the audience won’t understand you?
🙄 will forget an important point in a presentation?
😳 worry you will fumble while opening your presentation?
Do you fear all of the above when you open an email from your boss telling you to deliver a presentation at an upcoming conference?
But before your stomach flips, you shouldn’t forget that speaking in front of an audience is very similar to having a regular conversation with anyone.
While conversing, we don’t think a lot before speaking. It comes naturally to us. Imagine you’re coming out of the elevator on a morning and you bump into someone living a floor down. You haven’t yet met this person and are nervous how to introduce yourself.
What do you do? You probably try making small talk to let the awkwardness fly away.
“Excuse me? Hi, I am Joe, I live on the 4th floor.”
Even though you were nervous about meeting a new person, you knew exactly what you wanted to say. You tried to make a connection with an unknown person.
Similarly, when you deliver a presentation, your purpose is to make new connections. Since you have to appear in front of a large audience, you also need to do some groundwork.
Here, your groundwork is preparing and presenting information through slides. That’s why it needs practice. The difference is you’ll be addressing a lot of new people on one topic. Hence before delivering that presentation, you need to:
👉 construct and prepare your topic
👉 understand your audience beforehand
👉 grasp the topic at hand
Explaining your topic through real-life scenarios and stories helps connect with your audience. And at Blackboard Radio, we list a few important points to keep in mind when preparing your next big presentation. Read ahead!
Keep the information simple to understand
Delivering a presentation means you are in charge of explaining something to a large audience. You hold power over the people in front of you. That’s why they have come to listen to you speak on a topic of which they have limited knowledge.
Hence, your job is to make them understand in the simplest possible manner. One great way to do that is to create a mind map before you start preparing your presentation. A mind map gives you enough scope to put out different ideas related to your topic.
It also helps you refresh your ways to approach the topic. Plus, you can create separate points accordingly which in turn boosts your confidence. You don’t have to rush through the topic at hand. Move slowly through the slides to make it simpler.
Form a balance between visuals and text
People respond better to visuals than texts. Yet, they want to read the information that they can easily understand. Hence, explaining a point with balanced text and visuals. So, throw some diagrams between the content.
Diagrams and tables help in compressing the longer texts into small spaces. And yet, they are very helpful in explaining a complex topic in simple words. Besides, adding embedded videos can add more engagement through the slides.
But you should also keep in mind that there are not too many elements in the slides. The audience won’t be able to focus on any element if they are scattered. A minimal design template, background colours, and an attractive theme are enough to keep them focused.
Build your presentation content
Preparing the content for your presentation starts with an outline. An outline includes writing down the main points that you want to cover.
Writing an outline allows you to prepare a rough sketch of all your ideas. It allows you to quickly change and switch between topics without spending too much time.
Include some statistics and don’t shy away from adding some humour too. But create a fine line between the two so that there’s not too much of anything. Another important thing is to use a consistent font and size throughout the slides. Follow the 30pt rule for the fonts.
While you write down the content, make sure to read them aloud too. It’s important to write like you speak to keep it conversational. If you’re unable to understand the language and concept, the audience won’t get it.
Hence, also make sure you keep repeating the core ideas of your presentation from time to time. Frequent mention of the key aspects helps people memorize and grasp the concept better.
Pay attention to slide movements and time limit
Animations in the slides are a good way to engage the audience. However, you must figure out a proper way to use them. If an animation goes beyond the boundaries of text or slide, it distracts the audience.
Instead, you can use a GIF for your opening slide of the presentation. Since today’s audience are very much into social media, you can use a meme also. The moving graphics are fun but they shouldn’t be on every slide. Instead, you can mix and match them with embedded videos, images, and statistics.
Timing your slides is also important. Most conference meetings in offices have a time limit. So, ensure that your slide content is not exceeding that. Practice your timing of slides and consider cutting extra content.
Another good way not to run over time is to memorize some concepts. This way, you don’t have to keep looking at the slides to read. Also, it makes you more confident, knowledgeable and an expert in your field.
Make fewer bullet points, and bring more clarity
Bullet points are great. But they become monotonous if you use them frequently. Also, more bullet points on one slide divert the audience’s attention from you. They would look at the presentation more than giving attention to your words.
You can also add other forms of audio like voiceovers, samples, and sound effects to make it more engaging. Using high-quality graphics is one area that presenters might not look at seriously. But they play an important role in making your presentation stand out.
Adding a theme to the background will make it feel alive. But ensure that the theme and colours go with the topic you are presenting. You can use tools like Canva to create your own templates. It creates an impression that you have taken your time to create it professionally.
While practising, pay attention to the extra or hard-to-read sentences. If there are too many, consider removing them to cut out noise and clutter. Easy and simple language brings more clarity and engages the audience too.
Instead, you can use cue cards so that you can put down some points from your presentation. Write those cue cards in big letters to help you switch between topics and also introduce the audience to the next segment.
Create takeaways from each slide
A sign of a great presentation is when it gives away useful points to remember. But the audience won’t remember because they pay attention to the presentation in front of them. You, the presenter, have to make sure that the audience gets your message loud and clear.
Sometimes it means asking the audience from time to time “Are all of you with me?”. Other times it means creating some important takeaway points from each slide. Hence, you have to explicitly tell the valuable points.
Takeaways require precise and minimum usage of words. So, spend a good time writing the takeaways to make them concise, valuable, and impactful. The takeaways help the audience connect with the subject matter. Throwing in your ideas on the topic make the audience relate to you and stay relevant.
Tell stories to connect
Anecdotes from your past and some funny incidents are always a great opening stance for a presentation. It creates a light environment around. It also alleviates your anxiety when you have to go and speak in front of so many people.
Stories from your childhood, upbringing, and experiences open you up in front of people. It makes the audience feel you are one of them. They relate to your struggles and flaws. And they find it inspiring that someone took it to the stage to talk about them. Hence, sharing stories is always a great ice breaker.
While stories are a great way to connect; your body language matters equally. So, make eye contact while telling your stories to the audience. The audience also doesn’t feel excluded when they see you are talking to them directly. Plus, both can see the facial expressions of each other. It creates confidence in the speaker that the audience is listening.
Even if you’re a bit anxious, a straight posture with hands in the pockets is better than crossed arms. It projects confidence and gives you more ideas to connect with the audience. You can call someone from the audience to volunteer on stage. Or you can ask questions from the audience too when you need to. It engages the audience and they become more attentive.
Closing Thoughts: Learn to look like you were born to be on stage!
Practicing in your own room is a great way to get that confidence boost. But, you should also consider doing a practice run with a colleague or a trusted friend. And ask them to be brutally honest in the feedback. You can get a true picture of where you stand - right now and on the stage!
Take the feedback as observations and include them in your presentation as improvements.
And when you get ready for the big day, take a few deep breaths before you start. Even after practising for weeks, it can be nerve-wracking to speak in front of a large audience. Hydrate yourself well and allow the positive thoughts to flow and guide you.
Lastly, don’t forget to put a smile on your face to water down those stress levels. Give yourself a pat on the back as you get ready to take over the stage.
And remember, “The world is your oyster.” 🗺
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