Within the past few days I have attended a record number of presentations, many of which have been given by people who had never spoken in public until six months ago. During this time, everyone has developed their own personal style and techniques for successfully presenting their ideas in public. Whether you’re starting out in PR or are a seasoned pro in search of inspiration, these are the tips I can give you as a result of my experience and that of my colleagues:
- Don’t be too wordy: Your presentation should get straight to the point and use a language that’s easily understandable. If you’re using slides make sure that their content is clear and concise, more like bullet points than an essay. Remember: people are going to read what’s on the screen. They need to be able to do so easily and quickly, so that it doesn’t take attention away from you.
- Rehearse: I always say that my neighbours prepare my presentations with me, as I always rehearse at home, out loud, as many times as are necessary to get comfortable with my presentation and learn my material. If you’re using slides, practice changing them while you’re speaking to make your presentation as fluid as possible.
- Don’t read: It’s fine if you want to have our main ideas written down on a piece of paper which you can refer to in case you forget something. When reading, we tend to adopt a monotonous tone of voice, we don’t look at our audience and it looks like we don’t know our material. These are precisely the things we want to avoid.
- Be original: You want to make sure that your presentation isn’t boring and stands out among the rest. Get creative! I’ve attended presentations in which the audience was divided into teams and made to compete against each other and where the people making the presentation actually mimed part of it. I did a presentation a few months ago about promoting visits to forests and used a soundtrack of birds chirping in the background to create ambiance. Remember, we have five senses (sound, touch, taste, sight and smell) and you can play on one or some of them to grab people’s attention, whether it’s by using a slide template that’s particularly attractive or by bringing along some candy or food for your audience.
- Engage with your audience: Just as you would do when maintaining a normal conversation with someone, make sure that you look at your audience while you’re speaking. If possible, ask them questions and get them involved in the presentation. Talk to your audience, not at them.
- Experiment with new presentation tools: While PowerPoint is great, the truth is everyone is using it. If you want to be different, consider using Prezi or Sliderocket. Both are easy to use, follow similar principles as PowerPoint, but allow you to create animated presentations which are very attractive. It may take you a couple of hours to get the hang of them, but the results are great.
Last, but not least (and cheesy as it may sound), the most important thing to do is to be yourself. Let your personality shine and your presentation will as well.