I haven’t always loved presenting.
However, after years of professors and accelerators forcing public speaking upon me, it’s now one of my favorite things to do!
Having the ability to share information, opinions, and ideas in ways in which people are receptive and engaged can lead to more opportunities than imaginable. My hope is that these seven presentation secrets will help you overcome any fears or nerves about public speaking. In case it’s not enough, I’m always here for you, so reach out if you’re feeling like you need some extra presentation support!
1. Prepare with Research
If you’re asking people to listen and trust you, you want to be sure that you have all your facts and know your information. Whenever I prepare for a presentation, I think about why I’m presenting the information, what I hope is gained from my presentation, and what questions might be asked once I’m finished. This helps me structure my presentation and organize my thoughts so I can create a “presentation roadmap.”
It’s inevitable that you’re going to be asked a question you don’t have an answer to, and that’s O.K. You don’t need to pack your slides full of information, you just need to present enough to inform and engage your audience.
Remember, the human brain can only process seven points at a time, so choose your main points wisely.
2. Present Your Data Visually
It’s great to have concrete data that supports what you’re saying. At the same time, it’s hard for audience members to see every data point on a full chart or graph. Instead, consider creating summary charts and statistics that communicate your findings in a simple and aesthetically-pleasing way.
Color coding is my personal favorite for differentiating summary data points. However, I keep a copy of the full chart or graph in an addendum section of my presentation located after my closing slide. This way, if I need to reference more data during the Q&A, I have it available without actually including it in my slide deck.
3. Tell A Story
Storytelling is how people learn. We first need to care about the information being presented; the WHY. Then, we need to understand HOW the information pertains to us. After, we want to know exactly WHAT it means for us.
Whenever you present, be sure there’s order to your presentation. Some speakers choose to begin with a “presentation roadmap,” that lists, in bullet form, what will be discussed and in what order. Personally, I like to summarize my “roadmap” so the audience has a general idea of where we’re going, but is still waiting for the slide to change so they can see what happens next.
When you give a presentation, you are asking your audience to put all of their attention on you. In an era where people are generally time poor, their attention is worth a lot. Be sure to present your information in an interesting way using visuals, voice inflection, and audience participation every now and then.
Even if you’re feeling like you’re running on empty, find that little bit of spunk that you have left and present with the energy that you’d want to see in an entertainer.
5. Dress for Your Audience
I used to recommend always wearing business attire. However, there is a much wider variety of styles that are deemed appropriate for business. To give you the best guidance, I suggest dressing one step above what you anticipate your audience will be wearing. By “dressing up” you establish yourself as someone to be respected and you show your respect for your audience.
As an example, if your audience wears jeans and t-shirts, you may want to consider wearing jeans, a nice shirt, and a blazer.
I’d also like to add your personal brand to this point. What you choose to wear for your presentation should be a reflection of your personal brand.
6. Leave Room for Questions
As I mentioned earlier, you do not need to pack every bit of information you have into your presentation. When I begin to develop my slides, I separate my information into two groups:
- Information that is necessary to the topic.
- Information that will most likely be asked about as a question and can be presented within an answer during the Q&A.
The Q&A is still a part of your presentation, so be strategic about the information you present outright, and how you organize the information you plan to present during the Q&A.
I know this section is a bit vague so if you have any questions or need clarification, please ask in the comments!
7. Be Brief and Honest
I have judged a number of pitch competitions and business presentations. The number one thing that almost every presenter does is try to answer questions by reiterating a paragraph’s worth of information.
When someone asks you a question, answer it in one to two sentences followed by a confirmation that you’ve fully answered their question. This way, you can keep it brief but leave the door open to ensure you haven’t left anything unanswered.
Finally, if you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest! I appreciate and respect a presenter much more if they tell me that they don’t have the answer off hand, but they’d be happy to exchange information following their presentation and get me the answer either later that day or the next. Using this tactic also allows you to expand your network and develop a working relationship with the person who asked the question.
Presenting is an opportunity to let your personality shine, share your hard work, and create ambassadors for your company, brand, or initiative.
If you think of it as a terrifying experience, it will show. Instead, think of it like a fun game or a stimulating conversation.
If you’re enjoying yourself, chances are your audience will, too!