We’ve all been there. You’re at your desk dutifully getting through your long list of to-dos, when your boss asks you to put together a talk for the next staff meeting.
You may feel anxious about doing this for a variety of reasons. Maybe you hate public speaking. Maybe you don’t feel like you have enough time to prepare. Or, maybe you don’t feel you are an expert in the topic you are having to present upon.
No matter the reason you’re feeling anxious, you can still present a great presentation by simply following and practicing these six skills.
So let’s get started:
Tip #1: Make Bullet Points
The first step to creating a great presentation is to make an outline with bullet points of all the topics you need to cover. You don’t need to write out exactly what you are going to say because that can feel forced and too stiff. Audiences want to feel like they are in a conversation with you.
Instead, start with a brainstorm that includes the topic from an aerial view. Then, drill down into specific sections of your talk and bullet the most important points and transitions.
As you work on this format, you’ll find yourself deleting points that aren’t quite as strong and streamlining them to make sure your talk is tight and focused.
Tip #2: Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you have your bullet points and you know exactly what you’d like to say, it’s time to practice. If you practice your bullet points enough, you’ll find that it feels natural to move from section to section.
Familiarizing yourself with the topic content will also help you when audience members have questions. If you’ve practiced enough, you’ll be able to snap back into focus and move right where you left off.
One way you can effectively practice your key points is to put them on index cards or in the notes section of your slide platform. Practice them the same way each time — and try practicing in front of different people to get feedback on how you sound, if you are talking too quickly, if any part of your talk is confusing and more.
Only with honest feedback from people watching you and listening to your talk will you be able to improve upon your content and delivery — so make sure you tell the people listening to you that they should speak their mind!
Tip #3: Incorporate Graphics
There’s possibly nothing worse than being in a meeting and having to just listen to someone talk at you. Don’t do that! If you do, you’re guaranteed to see a few people yawning, pulling out their cell phones or worse, falling asleep.
Remember, you’re competing for the attention of your audience in a tech-crazed world. You’ve got to compete in ways that your audience members are going resonate with — and that means being as visual as possible.
Use your bullet points as the foundation for your visuals. Great presentations aren’t text heavy, instead they focus more on images to keep their audience entertained and interested.
For example, let’s say an employee is tasked with showing the kinds of content customers are clicking on and interacting with in a monthly newsletter. Use a graphic — such as a pie chart — to show the most-clicked content types so that while your audience is listening to your key insights, they can better visualize them.
Remember, graphics don’t make sense without content! Outlining your presentation points first will ensure your content is reinforced by useful graphics and images. Let those key insights guide what is important to visualize on your screen.
Tip #4: Get the Audience Involved
Because your audience does not want listen to you talk for 30 straight minutes, it’s important to develop audience interaction skills. This helps your audience feel invested in your talk and even encourages more learning because they begin interacting with you and your content.
Some speakers will use audience interaction tactics like icebreakers at the beginning of the talk as a way to make members feel comfortable and to gauge who actually is in the audience. Lighten the mood in the room and don’t be afraid to throw in a little humor, especially if you’re speaking to your co-workers.
For example, if you’re giving a presentation to colleagues about alma mater affinity, you may ask them to raise their hands if they feel more affinity for their undergraduate vs. graduate school. Use this method as a way to informally poll your audience.
In addition, you could ask your audience members to offer questions or insights they have about the topic and your presentation. Encouraging your audience to answer their fellow co-workers questions also helps to create engagement and interest.
Be creative and let them feel invested in your talk by including them.
Tip #5: Narrow the Lessons
As you plan your talk, narrow the lessons you want your audience members to take away from your project. If they leave the meeting room with only one lesson, what would that lesson actually be?
One easy way to make sure you have strong takeaways for your audience is to narrow them to a trio that answer the following three questions:
- What is one tip I’ll use immediately in my work?
- What am I inspired to do now?
- What is one new thing I have learned?
These guiding questions will help you decide what your takeaway lessons are for your group. Narrowing your focus will help control your presentation breadth and keep you, and your audience, attentive.
As you plan your talk, keep your takeaway lessons in mind and put them on a final slide to stress the importance of the lessons your audience should be taking home. Reinforcing your points at the end of your presentation will leave those ideas fresh in the minds of your audience. You want the last points they hear to be important.
Tip #6: Be Helpful
Finally, s great presentation will actually be helpful. Ask your audience members for feedback, and consider sending them a quick survey following your talk to gauge what they learned. What was helpful and what they wish you had included in your talk?
Getting better at presenting is all about growing your abilities over time through practice. Very few people are good presenters on the first try. So take the lessons you learn from audience feedback surveys to improve upon your content and your delivery.
The next time your boss asks you to present, you’ll be well-prepared to take on the challenge like a true pro!
As a bonus, it’s good to practice a few confidence-boosting exercises right before you begin your talk. Remember, everyone gets nervous about having to talk in front of big groups or to present research or content that might get challenged by the people in the office.
To help you focus and settle before you begin your presentation, try this quick mindfulness exercise:
- Find a quiet spot and close your eyes.
- Breathe in and out deeply three times, letting your body relax.
- Do a mental body scan, starting at the top of your head and moving all the way to your toes. If you get distracted, return to focusing your mind on the specific part of your body and moving to the next. By the end of the scan, you’ll be feeling focused and relaxed.
- If nervous or anxious thoughts return, imagine they are items floating down a river. Let them pass by you.
Before you begin your talk, tell yourself that you are well-prepared, smart and that your audience members will be impressed. Think confidently and you will deliver your talk confidently!
Everyone is called upon to give a presentation for a work or personal project at some point. The issue is not whether you’ve ever done it before. Rather, it’s that you are prepared when the time comes.
It’s very common to feel nervous or anxious — especially if you dislike public speaking — but if you keep this guide of quick pro tips handy as you prepare, you’ll be on your way to feeling confident and empowered to deliver a great presentation. Best of all, with these tips, you’ll actually get your audience’s attention and keep it.
Let us know what you’ve learned — and add any additional tips that you have found have helped you in the process of preparing for your presentation by leaving a comment below!
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