You sip your coffee but barely taste it. Your stomach is in knots, and your mind is racing. You know the material like the back of your hand, and you're passionate about this idea. You just want everyone to be on board, you want the information to make sense, and—let’s be honest—you want to impress your boss. Whether you’re a seasoned presenter, or this is the first in-person presentation you’ve made in over a year, you want to make sure your presentation doesn’t bomb. You’ve heard that practice makes perfect, but there are several tactics you can put into your practice that will take your presentation to the next level. Leave the room confident that you conveyed exactly what you intended by applying these tips.
1. Practice with an alter ego.
Seasoned presenters who typically present the same material over and over again, can often deliver a tired message. However, it’s important to remember that while the information might be old news to you, it’s new to your audience. To give fresh life to an old presentation, try practicing with an alter ego. During rehearsal, give your presentation as a Disney character, a football coach, or as if it’s a story you’re sharing at a party. While no one will see these entertaining presentations, they will help you discover phrases that require emphasis or statements that demand different inflection, while reigniting your message.
2. Think with active verbs.
Consider what you want your audience to feel during your presentation. What do you want them to commit to at the end? What vision do you want them to catch? What action steps should they feel inspired to take? Work your way through your presentation deciding what emotional response you’d like to have from your audience and what you can do to lead them there. As you give your presentation, think about the verbs you need to use to help your audience understand your message. For example, “excite” or “warn.” “Welcome” or “motivate.” You’ll never say these words aloud, but if you think them during your presentation, you’ll naturally alter your delivery to fit these verbs.
3. Don’t rely on a script.
If you have your presentation written out word for word, several things can happen. One, you rely too heavily on the script that you end up reading it to your audience. Your voice sounds flat and you’re too preoccupied with saying the next right word that you forget your message as a whole. Two, you rely too heavily on the script that you get tripped up when you forget which word comes next or say the wrong thing. Instead, give yourself bullet points to jog your memory and guide you to your next thought or idea.
4. Focus on your audience.
Become so familiar with your presentation that you can relax into it. Rather than focusing on what you’re saying, focus on your audience. Be present and connect with them. Pay attention to facial expressions so you can be sure your audience is tracking with you. By making eye contact, you let your audience know you want them to absorb your message because it matters to you. When you view your presentation as a form of conversation, the goal is connection and common ground, not just getting through the material.
5. Embrace the pause.
Nerves are natural. Speaking so quickly that you forget to breathe or let a phrase sink in? That’s not natural. So, don’t be afraid of silence. After you say something meaningful, take a natural pause to let the information settle. If you lose your place and need to refer to your notes, pause. Find your next bullet point and keep going. While silences on stage feel like an eternity to you, your audience will hardly notice the seconds that have passed.
Presenting information professionally is a mark of a good leader. At Front Line Leadership, our flexible 10-module program is designed to equip your team leaders and managers so that they can connect with employees, deliver clear direction, and provide effective feedback that increases employee involvement and satisfaction. Contact us today to learn more about our in-person training programs and our online leadership program.