Before you read this article, you should make sure to read the article on Presentation preparation hints first. Okay, you have read it? Great! Now let’s talk about your actual presentation yourself. There are some skills you need to work on in order to ensure that you are the best presenter you can be.
The first thing that is a problem for a lot of people is just simply talking in front of people. When surveys are given in America, more people are afraid of public speaking than death. Think about that. People are more afraid of giving a speech in front of other people than they are of dying. That’s crazy! There is no reason to be afraid of public speaking but if you find yourself someone who breaks out in a cold sweat at the idea of talking in front of a small or large group, you need to practice. The best way to get over this fear is to face it. You should try to find as many chances as you can to speak in front of people. Being comfortable in front of people is a skill and like all skills, it is one you can develop and grow.
Now that we have you comfortable standing and talking in front of people, let’s work on some skills to make you a better speaker and stander! First, learn to use to the space you are given. This means, don’t just stand there and speak! If you go to YouTube and look up videos of comedians, you will find that the best of them do not stand in one spot. They use the space they are given wisely. Even the ones who seem to be standing in one place are not. They are using their bodies to create a smaller space than the giant stage they might find themselves on. They move just a few feet to each side occasionally, or they use their hands and body language to create an image of themselves that is bigger than it really is. All this means is they do not stand perfectly still. They also do not move about nervously. You want to make your movements appear purposefully and confident. One way to work on this skill is in class. Next time you are presenting in front of the class, try walking very slowly from one side of the class to the other. Or watch you teachers. If they are not being lazy and sitting in their chair, you will find that they do not stand in one place. They walk around the room. They do this because it gets their audience (the students) more interested in what they are teaching (their presentation) This is a skill, one that comes from practice, and one you can and should learn.
One of the hardest things for a lot of people to do when presenting is smiling and making eye contact with their audience. It is surprising because this is one of the easiest things to do! By smiling at your audience (if the subject of the presentation is appropriate for smiling) make you seem like a nicer, friendlier person. This helps you to build a relationship with them that will only make for a better presentation. Once again, let’s go to YouTube. Let’s go back to another video of a comedian. See if you can find a comedian performing in a large space. Try Fluffy, a famous American comedian. Most of the time, he is performing for thousands of people. But when you watch him, he is looking people in the eyes. He is not just staring at the back of the arena or looking at only one section of his audience. Without moving his head too fast, he is trying to look as many people in the eyes as he can. This helps him develop a rapport with the audience, which is very important for his presentation. If your audience likes you, they are more likely to enjoy what you have to say and think of it highly. If you are very shy and just can’t bring yourself to look someone in the eyes you can cheat. If you are presenting in a small space with a small group of people, try looking at their eyebrows. To the audience, it will look like you are looking them in the eyes. If you are presenting to a larger group of people, try looking just over the top of their heads. Once again, they will believe you are staring them right in the eyes and only you will know the truth!
Maybe the biggest skill for any good presentation is being interesting. This is actually very easy. First, make sure you are not talking in a mono tone. In any language, we uses tones and stress to make our speech more interesting. Second, use your body. You can read up on body language in another article but there are a few things that are useful here too. Be aware of what you are doing with your hands. You should be doing something with them. Use them to engage the audience. Do not cross them or put them in your pockets. Second, try changing the volume and speed of your voice too. You want to make sure you are keeping your audience interested in what you are saying, and the best way to do that is to sound interesting. Speakers who can vary how they use their voice are the best. If you want some good examples, trying listening to some TED talks. A lot of them are great presentations done by great speakers, on very boring topics. But they make the topics interesting in part by using their voices effectively.
A very important skill that every great presenter has had trouble with: Speaking clearly. If you are doing your presentation in your native language or in your second language, there is one problem you might encounter: The Uhh’s! We might also call these fillers. When we are speaking and we stop to think for a second, we sometimes fill that space with “uhh” or “ummm” or some version of it. Most of us do not even know we are doing it. You are probably reading this right now thinking you are not guilty of this but I would be willing to bet you are! Here is how you find out: Prepare a short two minute or so presentation. Ask a friend to be your audience. Their only job will be to count how many times you say “umm” “uhh” or any other kind of filler words or noises. After two minutes is up, ask them how many. Chances are it will be high. Next, give you speech again and ask your friend to count again. Repeat this until you are down to almost no “umm” “uhh” or any other filler words or sounds.
Finally, make sure to breathe, relax, and have fun. If you are stressed, nervous, or not enjoying yourself, your presentation will suffer and your audience will not enjoy themselves either.