Can we just talk about how much I enjoy giving presentations and public speaking? It’s just fun for me, it really energizes me, and I am generally in a great mood after a successful presentation. I know a lot of people hate standing in front of a large group of people to talk about things, with all eyes focused on them, but I live for these moments in business and academia. I had a presentation last week, and if I do say so myself, we kicked butt. So, how did we go about kicking butt and having a class session that made me happy in my soul?
It starts with the subject matter. Our professor gave us free reign over the subject of the presentation, so doing the research was challenging, engaging, and I’ll go ahead and say it: FUN. Thus, when we stood up to present our findings, we were having fun. I know we don’t always have the luxury of choosing the subject matter and the medium to present, but there’s always an interesting angle, a new statistic, or a new way to make the material applicable to your audience. What gets your juices flowing? It’s much easier to excite and engage the audience if you’re excited and engaged about the material.
We looked the part. I’ve been very surprised at the number of students that show up for a scheduled biggest-project-of-the-semester presentation in jeans and a t-shirt! This is not professional, and I don’t care how great you are at speaking, you lose a few credibility points if you don’t look the part. My entire group showed up in business formal attire, and we looked sharp. Standing up together in a suit and tie or a well-tailored sheath dress immediately set us apart. The professor commented that we all looked nice, and several students noted that we looked so professional. I don’t completely agree that clothes make the man, but I would argue that clothes can definitely break a man in situations that call for a commanding, authoritative presence.
We were practiced and prepared. This sounds like common sense, but it goes beyond just having a group meeting to run through the important points and hand-offs. All of us are seasoned presenters, and we’ve examined our own presentation style with face-to-face criticism, web cams, and mirrors. You might think this is overkill, but you don’t get great presentations by accident. I hate vocal fillers (the ahhs, umms, and uhhhs that punctuate presentations), so I’ve made a point to cut those out. During undergrad, I asked a fellow classmate to count the number of times I uttered a vocal filler. He asked me to give him honest feedback after his presentation as well, and we both honed our skills. So, in addition to the “who’s doing what” conversation, practice alone, and get brutally honest. Watch tapes or look in the mirror… you might be surprised at what you see.
I enjoyed working with this group on this presentation because we had great synergy and work ethic. Everyone did their part, and everyone came to the table prepared and professional. Then we stood up and nailed our presentation. Man, it’s a great high 🙂