Delivering a presentation can be an anxious time for even the most outwardly confident business man or woman. Dealing with nerves, PowerPoint and crowd control can get the better of us all. Jacky Selway, business tourism manager at the Aberdeen Convention Bureau, offers advice for first time speakers to help ensure their presentation runs effectively and smoothly.
"Presenting in front of a small or large audience is not everyone’s favourite past time but with the correct advice, guidelines and practice it can make life a lot easier. Preparation is everything and it is essential that you know your subject matter. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel which makes for a better presentation."
"Images speak louder than words so use pictures to get your idea across. They're easier to remember, less distracting and make more impact. Have your accompanying text ready and use imagery to set the backdrop."
Jacky gives her top tips on presenting for first time speakers:
- Don't read directly from your notes – One of the most common mistakes made by first time speakers is to stand up and read directly from notes. If a speaker is looking down at a page of notes it does not allow them to engage eye contact with the audience to hold their interest. As alternative, bullet point key messages that you wish to get across on cue cards to keep you on track and it won't sound so scripted.
- Make eye contact with the audience - If you try to look directly at one person for just a few seconds they, and also the people near them, will feel like you have connected with them. Try to look around the room to engage the whole audience, not just the front row.
- Project your voice – Audience members at the back of the room will lose interest quickly if they have to struggle to hear what you are saying. Speak steadily and clearly. There's nothing more boring than a slow talker. Be energetic.
- Appear confident – Even the most outwardly confident people can be a bag of nerves underneath it all. Whether you are or not fake it!
- Audience participation – Where possible try to involve the audience which can help put everyone, including you, at ease. Start off by asking "How many people here have some experience with..." Raise your own hand, so that they know that it's not a rhetorical question. Questions like this early in the talk can help you gauge the audiences’ understanding of the subject and the level at which the talk should be pitched.
- Practice makes perfect – Prior to the real thing perform your talk in front of some willing volunteers. This will enable you to have the talk timed and they can also give you their top two or three honest criticisms at the end which you can remedy before the real thing.
- Bad habits - If you have a really bad habit, like playing with your hair or touching your face when you talk, have someone interrupt you every time you do it until the habit is broken.
- Made a mistake? – You are only human but if you make a mistake just keep on going, chances are that the audience won't know as you are the person who has drafted the talk and they won't know the exact running order.
- Silence is golden? - Silence is boring unless it has a purpose. The longest quiet time you should have is a brief pause whilst moving the power point presentation on so that the audience has a moment to absorb the old screen and get ready for the new one.
- Question time – At the beginning of the talk ask that that audience members note down their questions and let them know that there will be time for a question and answer session at the end. This way you will not be thrown during your presentation and you can run as close to your allocated time as possible.
Jacky concludes: "End strongly. Make your finale crisp, clean and powerful but be prepared for questions. If you are doing well, you may have lots of questions at the end. Above all try and enjoy yourself and be safe in the knowledge that there is only one first time!"
For more information about the Aberdeen Convention Bureau telephone 01224 288815 or visit www.aberdeenconferences.com