From the endless queues of hopefuls auditioning for reality talent shows each year, you would think we were a nation who revelled in the spotlight. However, when it comes to giving presentations in the workplace, the feeling that fills most people is dread.
Many of us have experienced sitting through presentations that are dull and severely lacking in star quality. What should be a time to shine in front of colleagues, clients and the boss is often an unpleasant experience that many find hard to thrive in, whether in a one-on-one situation or in front of a whole lecture theatre. So, when trying to give a presentation, what can you do to make sure you impress?
- Use positive body language “Making eye contact shows that you are confident and gives people confidence in you,” says Richard Israel, co-author of Mind Chi. “Keep your hands out of your pockets and keep both feet on the ground. Fidgeting is a giveaway sign that you are not happy.
- Rehearse your presentation “People die on stage because they think they can wing it,” says Paul McGee, author of Self-Confidence. “They think they know it because their PowerPoint is done, and don’t realise that rehearsing is time well spent. I use the phrase, ‘Avoid the hearse, go and rehearse’.”
- Think about the audience Remember who you are giving the presentation to and what their needs are. McGee says: “The pitfall most people fall into is forgetting who the audience is and why they are giving the presentation.”
- Use stories “The messages that stick are those told with stories,” says McGee. “Tell stories from your own experiences, ideally. It’s a tactic used by a lot of politicians.”
- Hesitate at the end of sentences “Ending sentences with ‘you know’, ummms and aaahs drives audiences crazy,” reckons Israel. “Get someone you know to write down whether you have annoying habits when you present. If they keep a tick sheet of your habits in presentations it will help your brain to change.”
- Read from a script “Reading a speech from a piece of paper is the worst thing you can do, especially if you lose your place,” says Israel. Using only brief headings will mean you do not lose eye contact and will make your presentation more spontaneous.
- Bore your audience “If you cram too much content into the time available, people get brain overload,” says McGee. “On slides use words rather than sentences. Some highly intelligent people use PowerPoint appallingly. If you use PowerPoint as a prop, with a dozen sentences that people cannot read, your personality will be lost.”
Written by John Stevens and First Published by The Guardian, 16th Janurary 2010