From classroom lectures to sales pitches, from panel discussions to a presidential speech … you’ve undoubtedly had the opportunity to be in the audience of one or two powerful presentations. You also may have been on the receiving end of more than one or two talks that fell short. Ever stop to analyze what made the difference?
A great presentation doesn’t necessarily give you more information. It isn’t always packed with details — in fact, many of my favorites were really very simple. There are two main differences between good and bad, or good and great. The first is the speaker … or rather, the speaker’s confidence. The second is his or her attention to the listeners.
Finding that confidence when you’re the presenter can help you wow people. Focusing your attention on your audience can help make you less self-conscious. Here are tips.
- Trust in yourself. You are speaking (or presenting) because you have information … information the audience wants … whether it’s your experience, your talent, or your knowledge of the topic. You don’t need to unload every single detail on the topic. Trust yourself to filter out the clutter and give your audience the good stuff. Trust yourself. Be confident. You’re there for a reason.
- Practice. Script your presentation. Read through it to yourself and out loud many times. Record yourself or practice presenting it to someone. All this preparation will help make you more comfortable … more confident.
- Audience rapport. Most people won’t remember the exact details of your presentation. They will remember you. How did you make them feel? Stop gathering content and spend more time getting comfortable talking to a roomful of people. Start with a greeting that sets the tone. Audiences judge you in the first 30 to 60 seconds, so put some time into your opening. If you give the same presentation more than once, it still needs to sound fresh and original each time. And, finally, remember to pause between elements.
- Stay completely focused. Focus on being less concerned with how you’re doing … and more focused on inspiring your audience. Concentrate on the moment. Breathe. Take your time. Your audience is your focus, so pay attention to them. Also, remember standing perfectly still while you speak can look awkward, so move around a little. Even if you’re behind a podium or seated, use a few arm movements. Lastly, ignore your inner voice — it can be distracting.
You can be an extraordinary presenter if you remember that every presentation is a performance. Like any good performer, smile and look the part. Be confident. Be enthusiastic about your topic. Focus on your audience. And enjoy the moment.