Presentation Perfection

I talked about presentation attire in yesterday’s post, so today I want to talk about actually giving the presentation. What makes a great presentation, and how do you ensure that you give a stellar performance? Great presentation are engaging, informative, and provide clarity for an idea or strategy. Speakers should not distract from the message by fidgeting or using vocal fillers (those pesky “um” and “er” words), and visual aids should be clean, clear, and concise. Today’s post will address the speaker’s role in creating and giving a great presentation.

Stop fidgeting! When I was in high school, I wore rings on 4 fingers, and I played with them constantly. People were always commenting on the fact that I was fiddling with my rings, and that slight movement of my hands distracted my companions in nearly every conversation I had. My mom always worried that I would be messing with my rings during a singing performance, but that was the one place I managed to quell the incessant fidgeting. How did I do it? I kept my hands at my sides, loosely hanging straight down. I made a point to just leave them there, at all times. Granted, it turned out to be a little boring, but it helped me learn to keep my hands still while performing. Effective presenters use hand motions with purpose. I recommend letting your hands and arms remain at your sides, and practicing use of hand motions only to make a point. It might even be helpful to over-exaggerate until you are comfortable that your hands aren’t distracting, but strategically placed during a presentation. Practice not touching your clothes or accessories, but only touching either your other hand or a specific point in the air (for example, directing toward your visual aid).

Stop shifting listlessly! I mentioned wearing comfortable shoes to avoid shifting and moving aimlessly. To further prevent random movement, I suggest planting your feet firmly on the floor, about shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other. This forces you to move intentionally, as swaying or shifting is difficult in this stance. If your weight is balanced as it should be, it will take more effort to move it off balance, making your movements more intentional. I also recommend picking a path and a rhythm. For example, practice saying point number 1 to the middle of the room, turning to the left, walking 3 steps, and saying point number 2 to the left side of the room. Repeat this process back to the center, to the right of the room, and back to center. With enough practice, it will be more natural to move during your presentation.

Stop “presenting”! I’m always annoyed when people “act” like a presenter. It’s as if they woke up and decided to “play pretend” presenter today, just like we’d play house or high-school when we were younger. You don’t have to alter your voice to “sound like a presenter”. If you speak slowly and clearly, your message will be understood. Fake confidence is almost worse than no confidence, so “playing” enthusiastic presenter just looks cheesy. To avoid acting like a presenter, I don’t think you should over-practice. Don’t memorize a speech or read directly from note cards, but tell your colleagues about your idea in the way that you discussed it among your team. You know the information… you wrote it! You’re the expert, so practice flexibility within structure when presenting.

Stop using “vocal fillers”! I was taught that silence is better than “um”, so I do my best to weed out the vocal fillers during my presentation. You may not realize how often you use these types of words, including, “er”, “you know”, “ok”, “uh”, “soooo”, and the list goes on. It’s eye-opening to ask someone to count the use of these types of words during a presentation, and I highly recommend making that request during your practice sessions. If you need a moment to think, simply stand quietly until you are ready to speak again. It seems awkward at first, but it’s much better to let other process during the silence than annoying them with vocal fillers.

Public speaking is often cited as one of the most prevalent fears, but it can be overcome with practice. Using the afore-mentioned tips will help you become a confident, engaging presenter.


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