For the past month, I’ve been working with some students from a local university on the “art of presenting” and why this is such an important skill in today’s professional work and especially in the world of Project Management.
When you are studying, you may not need to present that much or if you do, it may not hold any large significance to your grade. When you enter the world of work, being a good presenter, can really make or break a presentation and ultimately the message you are trying to deliver. Here are a few tips for excelling at presenting:
- Do your homework!
I recommend to everyone that before you even enter the meeting room for a presentation that you first take time to make sure that you understand the objectives of the presentation, who will be attending the presenting and what their interest in the presentaiton is? Do you need to have ‘supporters’ in the room to help you with specific questions? Have you thought about the potential issues that you might run into? (e.g. demo not working etc). With all of this, you need to be prepared in advance.
- Know your topic!
This might sound obvious but you need to learn your slide deck or presentation material so that you’re not just reading from slides or avoiding eye contact with your audience. When reviewing decks I like to try and make sure that the ‘story’ is clear. Do you have a clear start, middle and end? Are you leading your audience on the journey towards a better understanding of the topic? If you cannot understand the flow of your presentation or you struggle to understand what’s going on, then your audience will be the same. A small outline is below:
This is one of the hardest things for people to master but it can really make the difference between success and failure. Are you looking confident in what you’re presenting? Are you being clear, making eye contact and engaging with the audience? A relaxed smile and body language will also give you the confidence to be able to present with ease.
- Look at your language
If you’re a native English speaker, then one thing that I strongly recommend that you’re aware of is your tone, speed and language that you’re using when presenting to anyone that may have English as a secondary language. Informal or slang language can leave the room for misinterpretation and cause your audience to be more focused on the words you’re saying rather than what you’re trying to say. A simple exercise that I do is to close my eyes, take a deep breath and count slowly to 5. This helps me enormously with the speed that I talk!
- Practice and Preparation!
This is perhaps one of the most important things to “get right”. Whenever I am doing a presentation, I practice and prepare the presentation to make sure that I’m going to be on time, that the flow of the presentation is accurate/correct and that I’ve got the right tools available in the room to present successfully. If you can do this in the presentation room, this is even better as you’re able to check the computer connection, lighting and how much space you have to present.
- Learn from others!
If you look at a great presenter either at work or on TV, ask yourself: what are they doing that’s so great? What can I learn from them? I’d also look at yourself critically to understand what your weaknesses are and where you could improve in future. I once had a great mentor who was an absolutely fabulous presenter. They were engaging, thoughtful and they seemed to command the meeting room whenever they spoke. I asked them: what was their secret? They replied: It’s not just about knowing the facts, it’s about believing in the story that you’re trying to sell.
What are your top tips for presenting? What makes a good presenter?