“A presentation that doesn’t seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.” – Seth Godin
All great speakers have one thing in common no matter the topic – they leave the audience with a clear and concise message. If your listeners have trouble figuring out the important points you’re trying to make, they’ll walk away confused, or worse, feeling like your presentation was a big waste of time. Don’t let that happen!
We’ve put together some tips on content and performance to help you deliver a memorable presentation and have your message heard loud and clear.
Plan the talk with your audience in mind
Place your audience at the centre of your presentation. It sounds obvious but many speakers focus on the relationship with content rather than the audience.
You need to plan your presentation based on what your audience wants and needs to know, not how much you can tell them about the topic.
Great public speakers make their audiences the star of the presentation, not themselves, and stay alert to how the audience is responding and react accordingly.
Focus on your core message
Again, this might sound obvious but it’s very easy to lose sight of what your core message is when you go overboard with information.
Your goal is to make sure your audience hears and remembers the most important parts of the presentation. Everything you include – from data to personal stories – should contribute in driving home your key message.
Avoid turning the talk into a total data-dump, you’ll only overwhelm listeners. If information doesn’t contribute to building the message, leave it out.
Keep it conversational
Connect with your audience by crafting your talk with a conversational style – you’re speaking to people who are listening to learn; not to be steamrolled with a bunch of jargon and industry talk. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a presentation like that and know they are boring and unmemorable!
Cut the waffle and be precise by choosing easy to understand words that most accurately convey what you want to say. Express complex ideas using easily understood sentences; even the listeners who are paying close attention will lose track of long and complicated explanations.
Use signposts and transitions
If you take a road trip and drive for hours with no signs of direction along the way, the trip may begin to feel aimless and much longer than it is.
The same is true for a presentation or speech. You’re taking your audience on a journey and verbal signposts help orientate listeners and give them a sense of where they are now and where they’re headed.
Your presentation shouldn’t be a big jumbled mess of concepts, your main points need to be woven together in a logical flow of ideas. The use of verbal signposts and transitions throughout your presentation or speech are important for making this flow happen effectively.
Here are a few examples –
- Let’s move on to the next point where I’ll be discussing XYZ
- OK, now we’ll turn to something completely different
- I want to expand on that idea
- Recapping my previous point
- Going back to my initial story of XYZ
- To summarise
- The thought I’d like to leave you with
Used effectively, signposts and transitions will help the audience keep up, stay engaged and drive home your key message.
How you use your voice plays a huge role in effectively communicating your message. Without modulating the tone of your voice, your presentation becomes one long string of flat, monotonous words.
Listeners need modulation to help them separate the important messages and points; not to mention it’s much more interesting to listen to! Voice modulation also helps you convey you are confident and knowledgeable on the topic.
There are 4 parts to voice modulation;
Pitch – The volume of your voice
Tone – This is the emotion you speak with
Pause – The breaks you take in speaking
Pace – How fast or slow you speak
Practice your presentation out loud – preferably in front of a mirror – and see where you can improve on each of these points.
Improving your body language is important to come across as confident and composed in the eyes of your audience. Strong body language will capture their attention and help them receive your message loud and clear.
Here are 3 ways you can improve your body language during the presentation:
Make eye contact – Be looking at someone (not the same person!) for the majority of the presentation. Look at one person while you make a point then move onto another audience member for the next point.
Posture – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and put a little weight on the front foot with soft knees; this is a ready and responsive looking position.
Don’t endlessly pace back and forth; if you want to walk that’s fine but stop and say something before walking again – you could do this during your transition phrases.
Keep your body language open – Avoid folding your arms or keeping your hands in front of you; it’s a sign of nervousness. Keep your body language open so there is no ‘barrier’ between you and the audience. Confident speakers gesture with their palms towards the audience to create openness.
Awkward body language only distracts the audience and the impact of your message will be lost. Don’t skip practicing your body language!
With our program Presentations & Speaking, we can help anyone (yes, introverts too!) learn how to become a confident speaker. We cover practical tools for managing nerves, delivering an impactful message and creating polished presentations.