There are five key elements which make up a good presentation. If you get these presentations skills right, it will help to make sure what you have to say stays in your audience’s mind:
Who your audience are
- Research your audience well beforehand if you can – and always ask them questions about themselves before you start the presentation. That way you can identify the two or three things that are most likely to interest them and then hang what you say on these. Make sure you explain the benefits to these particular people – not just general features of the product. It’s the difference between “We can help you save £200 per week for your old age” and “We save money.”
- Remember this may be all new to them – so allow them plenty of time to take it in. You may need to talk more slowly than normal and put plenty of pauses into your talk.
Your body language and dress
- Eye contact is the thing that makes the biggest difference between trusting someone and not. Look each member of your audience in the eye in turn – don’t sweep vaguely round. If you feel uncomfortable with that then look at the bridge of their nose – it’s close enough. However if you can make proper eye contact you will get signals back from your audience about how they are finding your presentation – and these are invaluable.
- Stand or sit upright with an open posture – hands above your waist and tilted slightly upwards. Don’t fold your arms or make repetitive gestures – they can totally distract from what you are saying.
- Dress smartly but not in a way that will overwhelm your audience. To build trust yet show authority/professionalism, the best thing is to dress “one notch up” from your audience. So if they are likely to be wearing jeans you can do the same but with a jacket and/or more accessories. Older people tend to expect more formal dress than younger people.
- Make your voice interesting by emphasising key words or sentences and varying the volume and pitch. When people have given a presentation many times or are very familiar with their subject they can tend to get rather monotone – which makes them sound boring and uninterested in what they are saying. Don’t let that happen to you!
The visual aids you use
- People can’t read what’s on a slide or handout and listen to you at the same time. So allow your audience time to read each slide and take it in before you start talking about it. Otherwise you’ll overload them and waste your voice. If necessary cover up parts of a slide and reveal them gradually.
- When explaining things, point to the relevant part of the slide to help them understand the logic of your argument.
How you handle questions
- It’s more interesting and involving for your audience if they can ask questions as you go along. This also gives you a chance to gauge how much they are taking in. However this can lead to you losing track of what you are saying or going off at a tangent, so you need to be confident in your ability to bring the talk back on track. It’s a matter of what you feel most comfortable with. For new presenters the questions at the end approach is often best.
And finally…… Relax, enjoy yourself and be yourself. No-one likes to be in the presence of someone who is tense, as it rubs off. Remember even a good presentation isn’t necessarily perfect; it’s more about being approachable and leaving them wanting to know more.