Anyone can be a great presenter. Many people think that effective presenters are born, not made. I don’t believe that to be the case at all. It has been shown again and again that by honing skills over time and by solid training and practise, anyone really can learn to be a great presenter.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. It may sound a little clichéd I agree, but I really believe this to be true.
So with this in mind let’s think about how you can bypass the mistakes that a number of presenters make by keeping the phrase firmly in your mind.
Be clear about your purpose and your outcome. What is it you want to achieve and what response do you want from your audience? Think about what motivates and engages your audience. How will you grab their attention so they are ready and open to listen?
Having a strong opener is key to getting this attention. Also consider how you will end it. Once you have got your purpose and objectives in place, along with a great opener and close, then you need to build the presentation.
Think of it like a story that has a beginning, middle and an end.
Once you have prepared the content it is time to get up on your feet and start rehearsing. This is where a number of people prepare to fail. So much time and energy is given to the writing and content, often overloading it with facts and data, and even too many visuals that they don’t leave time to practise. By rehearsing you will internalise the messages, allowing you to speak more authentically and confidently. You will have a greater knowledge of your material and so it will be delivered with more conviction.
There is always the debate around using notes too. Some really good presenters do use notes, and the reason they still engage their audience is because they know how to use them. Limit the notes to bullet points, key words or ideas. Do NOT make it a script or you will be caught up in the notes rather than sharing your message with your audience. Remember eye contact is so important.
We communicate on many levels. Your body language (voice, eye contact, gestures, posture etc…) needs to be completely congruent with the words you are delivering. It will help you build trust and credibility with your audience. Think about the practical side of preparation. Do you know the space in which you will be presenting? If it is unfamiliar to you that will only add to the preparing to fail scenario. What equipment will you be using?
Don’t hide behind furniture either. The lectern, table or whatever else might be seen as useful, only acts as a barrier between you and your audience. Step in front of it so that the audience can see all of you. Remember you are the visual, it’s you they want to see and listen to.