One of my favourite things to do is to give a presentation.
I love public speaking. It fills me with energy and it's the crowd that feeds me with it.
But I used to hate public speaking.
In my first year of university, I had to present on a marketing project in front of the class - about 90 people - and I remember how nervous I was and how my nerves got the best of me. I was sweating, my voice was trembling, I couldn't look anybody in the eyes and I don't think I managed to transmit my message to my public. I was ashamed when it was all over.
My initial reaction to this 'failure' was that I was never going to do public speaking again. I was terrified and I never wanted to experience this again.
But after a couple of days, my attitude changed. I decided that I was going to overcome this fear and I was going to become a terrific public speaker.
I don't know if I am a terrific public speaker but I can certainly say that I no longer loathe giving presentations in front of small and large groups, I love it and I welcome it. The more, the better.
So how did I do it?
I don't know if I have the blueprint for giving good presentations when you're terrified but here are the steps that I took to become better at public speaking:
- Step 1: I made the decision to improve and stubbornly stuck with that decision.
- Step 2: I read multiple blogs posts and watched quite a few videos on everything public speaking, especially best practices.
- Step 3: I jumped on speaking opportunities without thinking too much.
- Step 4: I asked for feedback and practiced my first few presentations in front of others.
There's little I can do to influence steps 1, 3 and 4 for you but I can help you with step 2 which is what this blog post is about.
I recently watched two really good videos on giving great presentations.
The first video focuses on your actual presenting skills. The second video focuses on the supporting material you'll need - aka a deck.
Let's start with some tips on nailing your presentation.
7 Tips on How to Give a Great Presentation
Here's what you need to remember:
- Know your audience - what is the content that your listeners are expecting, what is their level of understanding on the topic, which industry do they work in and what position, who are they in the first place? Knowing your audience is the only way to make your presentation truly memorable as you'll be able to target it the right way.
- Use structure to build on ideas - you need to organise the points you're making and hoping that the audience remembers in a logical order, building upon one another so your audience can follow you and come to the same conclusion that you're hoping to present.
- Use visuals - charts, infographics, photos help illustrate the points that you're making and make them stick in the minds of your audience much faster and better than text - in fact, 65% of listeners are visual learners.
- Repetition is your friend - in addition to building upon ideas, you'll need to repeat the most important learnings again and again so that they stick.
- Have a story to tell - the best way to convey your information is to use a story as this is going to catch your audience's attention and ensure that they remember it.
- Be relatable - this is key because your audience wants to be able to relate to you so they feel comfortable talking to you. You need to strike a fine balance between being confidence and relatability. If you're authentic and enthusiastic, it'll be much easier for your audience to relate to you and engage with you.
- Build your confidence with practice - this is the most important tip because having confidence allows you to transmit authority so that your audience sees you as somebody knowledgable and somebody who they should listen to. Practice for hours will get you there and especially if you do it in front of other people.
Now let's take a look at how you can create killers slides.
5 Tips on Making a Killer Deck
Here's what you need to remember:
- One message per slide - if you have more than one message per slide, your audience will be confused where to focus, some will focus on one message, whereas others will focus on another and you end up not really making the point on any of the messages the way that you want.
- Working memory - if you have text on your slides and at the same time you keep on speaking, your audience won't remember the text and won't remember what you said either. Your slides are there to enhance your message so the best way to design a slide is to have a headline, an image and very little text in a bite-sized format if at all any.
- Size - people are naturally drawn to the biggest or the shiniest object that they see. Rarely, though, we build decks in which we highlight the most important object through its size. Make sure you visually point your audience to the most important thing you want them to pay attention to, meaning that the most important point should be the biggest on your slide.
- Contrast - contrast also determines where your audience focuses on so whitening or darkening objects on your slides is important. Another tip is to have a black background instead of white so that the most important object is you as the presenter.
- Objects - did you know that the cognitive process of counting takes 500% more time and requires 500% more energy than just seeing? What's the magical number for maximum objects on a slide? Six. Remember that the number of slides doesn't matter, it's the number of objects on a slide that can ruin your deck and your presentation.
Videos such as these and blog posts helped me develop my presentation skills which improved my confidence.
Every time before I get on stage, I get nervous. It's normal. But instead of giving in to that fear, now I simply accept it and leverage it as adrenalin.
And you can do it too. With practice and determination.
How do you give a great presentation?