People are sometimes introduced to presenting at school or university, and the truth is that it helps if you start early, but so often people aren’t given any clues about how to go about speaking in front of an audience – this is why we’ve all had to sit through so many bad examples.
The essence of presentation training is to clarify messages and ensure people are confident in their delivery. It sounds easy but of course, like anything you want to get right, it takes a bit of time and some effort. It’s been said that Winston Churchill, who seemed calm, in control, and a natural presenter, would spend one hour of preparation for every one minute of a speech he was giving. Basically; if you don’t put in the time to prepare it shows quite clearly in your end result.
So what can you do to get your presentation right? Firstly; it’s about the aim; what are you really trying to achieve and communicate? You should be able to boil down your point to a single item e.g. you want to raise funds, you want to convince future customers to use you, you want to explain a vital finding on your area of work. This is the thing you want the audience to go away thinking and or acting upon. This can be difficult, particularly if you are ‘close’ to your subject, but taking a step back and seeing the wider picture will help you and your audience.
Secondly, you have to do your research; what do the audience want to hear from you? Are they experts on this topic or will you have to cut out the jargon and keep the story simple? What questions will they have – can you anticipate, and answer these in the presentation? This tailoring will really help the audience relate to you and your story, without this the danger is that they won’t follow what you are saying and the message won’t resonate.
Knowing your aim and researching your audience will also increase your confidence levels; as you will now have a more clearly defined goal to work towards. The bulk of the content should really just be supporting and pushing the key message and this also helps to give the presentation a rough structure. Your introduction should highlight your overarching thesis, then; examples, facts, figures, back this up, finally; a conclusion should repeat and emphasize your original proposition (including a call to action at this stage is another vital element).
Confidence will come from knowing you have an effective structure with solid content, if you are missing this, or worse, if you are presenting with other people’s content, your performance will suffer.
Finally; you have to do the practice – this allows you to adjust your approach to make it flow smoothly and ensure that it starts to sink-in, giving you less reliance on speakers notes (a full script is never recommended as it’s far too tempting to just read from it).
Working at your presenting skills is the only way to success -, watching those who do it well and then tweaking your approach will make sure you and the audience get the result you want, when you stand up to speak.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – April 2013