Speaking in front of a crowd, whether small or big, can be nerve-wracking for most. It is one of the common fears in the corporate world. According to the Statistic Brain, 74% of Americans fear public speaking. It is the number one phobia, with fear of death a close second at 68%.
Suppose you’re a business executive and have given several public speeches. Your company is planning for a product launch. And you’re the one who’s going to handle the demo. You had a great opening. Everything is going smoothly. However, some technical glitches occurred in the middle. Somehow you managed the pace and kept the audience engaged. During the Q&A session, some unexpected queries were raised from the audience, and you broke out in a cold sweat.
The above instance points out that due to a lack of preparation and practice, even an experienced presenter may feel stuck in the middle of a presentation.
Presentations are an integral part of our everyday work life. Whether you want to sell a product/ service or give a demo of a new product that your company has recently launched, or you want to inspire a group of people to take specific actions, presentation plays a major role.
Giving a presentation is not just a skill but an art of influencing people with your words and making them listen to what you want to convey. Working on the basics can shape your presentation style and boost your confidence. With proper planning and practicing, anyone can master the art of presenting and unlock doors to opportunities.
Tips to Ace Your Presentation Practice
1. Preparation is Key
It has been rightly said that “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” Whether you’re a beginner or giving a presentation one-hundredth time, preparation is the key to successful presentations.
You must have enough time to prepare well for the presentation, as a last-minute rush will affect your confidence level. And a confused presenter would never be able to engage his audience.
A number of aspects that need consideration are – the goal of the presentation, the topic, and the audience. You need to be very clear about what message you want to convey, who is your intended audience, what are their pain points, and how your presentation can leave a mark on them.
2. Record Yourself
One of the best ways to hone and analyze your presentation skills is to record it during practice rounds. It allows you to carefully observe and evaluate various elements of your speech and judge your presentations on several grounds. This way, you can identify the gaps and undertake specific actions to improve the same. Whether you’re using unnecessary filler words (like, umm, etc.), or the volume of your speech is too loud or too soft, the pitch, the pace, and the pauses – you can take note of every minute aspect by seeing your recorded practice session. You can also note your facial expressions, posture, and body movements to figure out the areas where more practice is required.
3. Practice in a Simulated Environment
If you’re among those who fear public speaking and get anxious whenever it’s your turn to deliver a presentation, then you’re not alone. One of the highly effective ways to overcome/deal with public anxiety is to prepare yourself for real-world conditions.
Start practicing in front of a small group, your mentors, or colleagues a couple of times before you hit the actual presentation. It is an opportunity that allows you to face what fears you most. Dealing with stress, when received in manageable doses, prepares your mind to tackle high-stress situations. Many psychologists reveal that practicing under stress can bring out the best performance.
In a nutshell, you learn to channel your nervousness into enthusiasm when you practice in a simulated environment.
4. Ask for Feedback
Feedback from peers, mentors, and coaches can provide insights into the areas of improvement. Indeed, it is challenging to hear criticisms from other people. But this is one powerful way to enhance your presentation skills. Therefore, one should be open-minded while receiving feedback. Taking feedback on a positive note and working wholeheartedly on it can help you grow as a presenter.
5. Don’t Cram the Content
Ever heard some legendary speakers who are so much at ease during their presentations? The reason behind it is they have put in a lot of effort to make their presentation look effortless.
As a presenter, you must be very sure of two things – what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Yes, it requires hours and hours of practice to master this art, but you don’t need to learn word for word of the presentations. It should not look as if you’re speaking an essay. Practicing well helps you memorize the content and bring out the natural flow of words during the live show.
- Visual cueing helps memorize the content.
- Using a conversational tone leads to easy engagement with the audience.
6. Set Up a Time Limit
Timing is crucial for a successful presentation. One reason why Ted Talks are so addictive worldwide is – they have a time limit of 18 minutes for every talk. Their short talk model keeps the audience engaged till the last minute.
The lesson that we can learn from it is – keeping the presentation concise and to the point can grab the attention of your audience. Generally, a presentation is divided into three components – introduction, main body, and conclusion. You need to plan out the time that each segment will take. Apart from this, you need to allocate at least 25% of the total time to the Q&A session.
Pro Tip – Decide the time that you’re going to spend on each slide. It will help manage your talking time.
7. Bring Out the Innovation
No one likes text-heavy presentations. They are too boring to attend. To make your presentation stand out, you need to experiment with it and think out-of-the-box ideas to make it gripping.
There are so many ways to captivate your audience – tell them a story, encourage audience participation by asking questions, include visually appealing and pre-designed templates, crack a funny joke, or share a less-known fact that can awe your audience.
Practice different ways to find out which one will work the best.
8. Practice Gestures
Body language and facial expressions are a very important part of public speaking.
There are 5 non-verbal cues that make a big difference in a presentation – hand gestures, eye contact, posture, movement, and facial expression. Watching your recorded session enables you to evaluate the gestures you use.
By using your gestures, body language, and facial expressions effectively in sync with your words, you can build rapport with your audience and clearly express your message.
Pro Tip: Don’t repeat the same gesture too many times.
9. Rehearse Until You Deliver it Confidently
Hours of practice can make any presenter look effortless and polished. Even a fresher with proper preparation can deliver outstanding results.
Have you ever seen Steve Jobs’ presentations? He looks very much at ease during his presentation. The reason is- he prepares extensively for it. He rehearses on the stage for hours as if presenting in front of thousands of people.
So, there is no shortcut to success. A well-prepared person is super confident, which leads to effortless presentation.
No matter whether you are giving a presentation in front of clients, co-workers, or at a corporate event, as a presenter, you must be able to articulate even the most complex concepts into the simplest version.
Remember, it’s not only the visually captivating slides that assure successful presentations. You also need to learn the art of presenting your message and information in a way that leaves a lasting influence on the audience. Practice is the only way to learn it.