I’m going to be doing some presenter training this afternoon and as I prepare I thought I’d share some of my top pieces of advice with you all.
Making a presentation can strike fear into the heart of the most confident of people. Give someone an audience and a few words that they have to get across and suddenly Mr or Mrs Outgoing is reduced to a nervous wreck. I can’t claim to get rid of the nerves, nor would I want to, but there are some tried and tested methods of making the speech easier and more enjoyable for both the presenter and the audience.
Start with the content:
When you are writing your presentation think deeply about the audience and the message you want to get across to them. What do you want them to think, feel and do as result of listening to you? Craft a story that addresses those three questions and then you have presentation that is worth making. The happier you are with your content, the more confident you will feel about standing up and saying it.
Know the space:
Take as many unknowns out of the presentation as possible. Make time to familiarise yourself with the space that you are presenting in. Where will you stand? Is there a lectern? What type of microphone will you have? Where are the audience? Where is the screen? Who will introduce you? Making sure you are totally comfortable with your environment will eliminate a whole raft of nerves and anxieties. The biggest tip of all, make friends with the crew and they will look after you.
What are you going to wear?
I know this is a really girly question, but with a presentation it is really important that you look your best – and know it. Wear an outfit that is 10% smarter than you need to be and that you feel really great in. Spend time on your hair and make up (and that includes the boys reading this), especially if there is live camera on the show. Think about where the sound crew will fix your radio mic. Wear shoes that are AMAZING but that you can still walk confidently in. Make sure you look the part and then you are off to a great start.
When you are out in front of the audience, you want your body to be saying “look at me, I am relaxed, comfortable, practically enjoying presenting to you”. The truth may well be the polar opposite to this, but the good news is you can fake it. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and lock off your legs. Drop your shoulders back and down. Relax your arms and make sure there is space between your elbows and your body (don’t go for the T-rex look….). Show your hands to the audience (see I have no weapons, we’re friends…) Drop your chin slightly and widen your eyes. Have a slight smile on your face. Now you look relaxed and happy – honest – you are ready to start.
A great first line:
As you walk out on stage, the chances are that the adrenaline is now pumping through your body and you are in full flight or fight mode. So, take a deep breath, smile and deliver the first line. This is the first line that you have practised over and over again in the bathroom mirror, to your other half, to the dog, hamster and maybe even your children. The first line that you know so well that the rest of the presentation will flow from it. A great start is all you need and now you’re off and running….
…although when I say running what I really mean is walking. The truly good presenters speak much more slowly than you would imagine. Try talking along to a presidential address or with the news reader. They are giving each word space. Pausing for emphasis. Taking a breath before changing their tone. Adding a lightness of touch. Looking around at the audience. You might want this to be over as quickly as possible but for your presentation to have impact you need to give the audience time to absorb your words and understand the meaning behind them.
To move or not to move
I have met many presenters who tell me that they prefer not to stand at a lectern, they like to move around the stage and engage with the audience. I agree with them that this is a great way of presenting. Then I stand and watch their rehearsal as they pace around the stage looking like a mad tiger in a Mexican zoo. As the carpet wears down under their feet, they feel great, burning the lactic acid out of their legs and the audience feels exhausted, trying to follow a ranting presentation. So please STAND STILL. Not all time, but a lot of the time. If you want to move to engage with the audience, then do so, but then stand still and actually engage with them. They will thank you for it.
Stick to the script all the way to the end
And my final piece of advice, stick to your script. As the presentation is going so well and the audience is responding to your messages, maybe even laughing at your jokes, don’t get carried away and think that you can ad lib. Please don’t. All that lovely content that you worked so hard on will be swept aside as you try to tell a story that takes you all the way to Peru and there you are stranded with no way of getting back on message. Don’t do it to yourself. Stick to your script and deliver a brilliant closing line. This is the line that you’ve practiced as much as your opening line so you know it’s a killer.
And it’s all over:
Well done, you’ve done it, it’s behind you. As you plan your congratulatory drink try and gather some feedback that you can build into your next presentation. Start from your perspective: did you run to time, what felt good and not so good. Then move to the audience. Their feedback is the fairest (and harshest) so if there is a survey ask how you can get the results. If there is a recording of the presentation, ask if you can have a copy – and then watch it. You will be amazed at what your body does under pressure, how your voice sounds. Watch it objectively and pick one thing that you will work on for next time. Then go and get that drink – you deserve it.
So, that’s a starter for 10. I’m really warmed up for my training session this afternoon now and if you’d like some help with a presentation – either writing it or delivering it, please get in touch. I’ve worked with hundreds of presenters over the years and would be delighted to share more with you.