I really enjoy presenting and get a real buzz from talking to a room (or screen) of people about my 2 favourite subjects: kindness and communication. Don’t get me wrong, I do get nervous. But once I start speaking about a subject that I love, I’m in the flow.
Over the years of my career, I have presented to groups large and small about how to communicate effectively. These sessions have ranged from large presentations and breakout discussions at sector conferences to smaller, targeted workshops for specific teams and online business meetings.
At its heart, presenting is about communication. It’s about connecting with your audience and sharing what you have to say. I therefore believe it’s a really useful skill for comms professionals to have.
But I know that the idea of giving a presentation strikes fear into a lot of people. So I’ve put together some tips for presenting, based on my own experiences and what I have found works for me.
- Ensure you know your audience. Take time to think about what they’re looking for from your presentation, not just what you’re looking to tell them.
- Think about your key messages. What do you want people to remember from your presentation after they leave? Make sure that you emphasise these ideas throughout. The trick is to have just a few, simple messages. Don’t be tempted to over-complicate things, because people won’t remember it all.
- Telling a story is a great way to convey important messages in a presentation. It helps to make a connection with your audience and engage them in your content. What stories can you tell to support the points you’re making?
- When it comes to slides, less is more. Aim to have fewer slides and less text on each page. If there is too much text, your audience won’t know whether to read the text or listen to you. It’s unlikely they can do both at the same time. Slide content should support what you’re saying, not repeat it.
- If you’re presenting in person, perhaps you can visit the room where you’re delivering your presentation beforehand. You may find that being familiar with it will make you more comfortable on the day.
- If you’re presenting online, it can help to familiarise yourself with the tech in advance. Zoom, Teams and Google meet all have different functions and buttons in different places. Depending on the event, your host may assign someone to look after the tech functions for you. Whatever the set up, it helps to know before you start how it will work.
On the day
- Choose an outfit you feel comfortable in. You don’t want to be distracted by worrying about what you’re wearing.
- If you’re in the room with your audience, remember to look around the whole room, not just at those immediately in front of you. If you find eye contact difficult, or it’s just not your style, find a way that feels comfortable for you to look up from your notes and work from there. And don’t worry if your audience isn’t smiling – few people smile naturally all the time when they are paying attention to a speaker.
- If it’s an online event, eye contact can be harder. This is particularly true if cameras are turned off. I find it helps to smile anyway, as if I’m connecting with a person in front of me. And sometimes I even picture someone I’m talking to in my mind’s eye.
- Don’t read from the text on your slides. Your audience could do that for themselves. You should be adding to the information on the screen, not simply repeating it.
- Taking a sip of water can be a good way to pause to gather your thoughts or put a natural break in your presentation.
How can I help
If you’re not used to presenting, it can be daunting to do or even to know where to start. During my communications mentoring conversations, we cover the skills and knowledge required for my mentee to feel confident in their role. With presenting as an important part of a communicator’s skillset, talking it through with a mentor helps to identify how to grow your confidence. If you would like to know more about my mentoring programme, please get in touch.
And if you’re looking for a presenter with a warm and friendly style for your next event, get in touch to see how I can join you.
What are your top tips for presenting with confidence? I’d love to hear what works for you.
Until next time