6 Secrets to Kick-Ass Confident Presenting

microphoneIf you are an entrepreneur, or think you want to be an entrepreneur, chances are you will have to give a presentation at some point in your career.  If you are not an entrepreneur, and have no desire to be an entrepreneur, chances are you will have to give a presentation at some point in your career.

Having great (or even good) presentation skills can distinguish you apart from the crowd and impress peers in your field.  Public speaking is a fear countless people have.  And I will be the first to admit, when I was young, I always dreaded speaking in front of people (not being able to say my “R’s” correctly might have added to that anxiety…especially when your name has four R’s in it!).

To my huge appreciation, my parents not only sent me to a speech therapist early in life (it is curious the woman’s last name began with the letter R – coincidence?), but also put me in many uncomfortable situations where I had to speak/perform/talk in front of an audience.

In grade school, I was not good at talking in front of people…but, darnit, I tried!  I will save some of the ‘good’ stories for later lessons, but know, that if you keep at it, and continually practice and learn, you WILL get better.  There will come a transition point where all of the sudden you are confident and excited to give your next presentation.  And yes, there will still be nervousness…but you will be excited!

Be warm, friendly, trustworthy, and interesting – people react positively to speakers who appear approachable – use your natural voice, gestures, and eye contact.  Take the positive feedback from the audience and feed off it.  You can make any presentation interesting:  I made a Quality Assurance Process presentation into a game show and it was fun! (note: creating a game show type presentation will not fit for 99% of your presentations).

Use terms your audience knows – as you put together the outline, make sure you know who you are giving the presentation to so that you use terminology they already know.  If you think they might not know a few words, but you need to use them, do a quick overview of some terms you will use throughout the presentation and their definitions (or as each one comes up, simply explain what you mean).  People do not want to feel stupid because they didn’t know a word you used.

Emulate good speakers – there are many great talks online to watch of experienced, interesting speakers.  Watch almost any TED talk.  Take either mental (or better yet, paper) notes on: What makes them interesting? What makes them confident? If you attend a conference: What made the speakers you liked stand out?  Chances are there are many similarities as to the people you watch.

Use easy to read and understand slides – keep the words to a minimum (and large font) and use slides to back up what you are saying – not script out your speech.  You want the audience to be looking at you, not your slides.  Do NOT read your slides.  Do NOT read off a script (goes right into the next “secret”).

Practice. Practice. Practice. – this is the most important step.  Practice in the mirror.  Practice in front of a co-worker.  Practice in front of a friend.  Practice in front of your kid!  It doesn’t matter whom, just do it.  And be receptive to any and all feedback – you don’t want the first time you run through the presentation to be in front of the actual audience.

Arrive early to setup – whether you are presenting at your own office/workplace, at a client office, or in a large room full of strangers…you don’t want the added anxiety of “my slides aren’t looking right on the projector” or “the batteries in my clicker are dead” or “I can’t get the picture to go to the projector” or “I thought I would have time to finish the last few slides before it started”.  There is enough nervousness in any presentation that you don’t need to add more anxiety by rushing to get things ready.

There’s lots of great literature available on not only the skills to practice but also how to make appealing slide presentations.  Preparation is key.

Need some thoughts on your next presentation?  Or want some great resources to check out for more reading?  Want additional secrets? Let me know!