11 Nov

Engaging presentations – preparation and practice

 “There is in the act of preparing, the moment you start caring.” – Winston Churchill

Delivering a presentation can be one of the most stressful tasks undertaken in the workplace. People can get anxious and even sometimes sick at the thought. It is a shame most don’t realise that if they simply applied this nervous energy to preparation time, then the whole experience would not be so bad!

Preparation for a presentation takes time, but the return on investment can  be high. Every minute you spend preparing will increase your confidence, reduce your anxiety (sorry, it will rarely eliminate it but a little nervous energy can be OK) and improve your chance of delivering an engaging presentation.

Focus on three areas for preparation and practice:

  • Clear purpose
  • Clear message
  • Clear delivery

Clear Purpose

  • Ensure that your presentation has an objective and that it’s clear, not only to you, but will be to your audience. (It’s useful to include the purpose at the start of the presentation so everyone knows why they are there!)
  • In the preparation phase, think about how you would state the purpose. Practice saying the objective out loud. Is it easy to say? Will it mean anything to the audience? Is there a way to state it in fewer words?
  • Remember to bear the audience in mind – what’s in it for them? What might they hope to learn from the presentation and how will that help or benefit them in the future?

Clear message

  • Ask yourself questions as you begin to structure your content. Who is the audience? What is their level of knowledge and interest in the topic? How much time do I have to deliver my message? What outcomes am I looking for?
  • Think about the three key points you want to deliver in this presentation.What do you want the audience to know / believe / think about at the end of your presentation?
  • Once you have your three key points, decide on the supporting information for each point. Keep this content to the minimum information to highlight your point – a succinct, well structured message will be more easily recalled than a long-winded explanation.
  • If using PowerPoint, try to use only key words or a picture to support your message. Don’t fill the slide with bullet points! A slide is meant to reinforce your message, not be notes for you to read!

Clear delivery

  • Practice your presentation a week or a few days before hand – either with a video camera, with a colleague or just by yourself. Make sure you are comfortable with the content and also with your stance, verbal tone and audience eye contact.
  • Focus on your messages – are you being clear in what you are saying? Will the audience understand and remember your key points?
  • Get used to standing with your feet slightly apart and your arms at your sides – it will seem strange at first but it looks professional and confident.
  • Use your voice for effect! Vary your tone through the presentation; speak clearly and slowly, with pauses after key points; vary the volume to highlight certain words or messages.

With a little preparation and practice, you will be on your way to delivering a confident and engaging presentation!

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