Chapter 6: Developing Presentations
There is no foolproof recipe for good delivery. You are a unique person, and you embody different experiences and interests from others. This means you have an approach, or a style, that is effective for you. It also means that your concern about what others think of you can cause anxiety, even during the most carefully researched and interesting presentation. But there are some techniques you can use to minimize that anxious feeling and put yourself in the best possible position to succeed on presentation day. You need to prepare for your presentation in as realistic a simulation as possible. What follows are some general tips you should keep in mind, but they all essentially derive from one very straight-forward premise: Practice your presentation beforehand, at home or elsewhere, the way you will give it in person.
Practice Your Presentation Out Loud
Practice allows you to learn what to say, when and how to say it, but it also lets you know where potential problems lie. Since you will be speaking with a normal volume for your presentation, you need to practice that way, even at home. This help you learn the presentation, but it will help identify any places where you tend to mispronounce words. Also, sentences on paper do not always translate well to the spoken medium. Practicing out loud allows you to actually hear where you have trouble and fix it before getting up in front of the audience.
Practice Your Presentation Standing Up
Since you will be standing for your presentation (in all likelihood), you need to practice that way. As we mention in more detail below, the default position for delivering a presentation is with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Practising this way will help develop muscle memory and will make it feel more natural when you are doing it for real.
Practice Your Presentation with an Audience
The best way to prepare for the feeling of having someone watch you while giving a presentation is to have someone watch you while you practice. Ask your colleagues, friends, family, or significant other to listen to you while running through what you will say. Not only will you get practice in front of an audience, but they may be able to tell you about any parts that were unclear or problems you might encounter when delivering it on the day. During practice, it may help to pick out some strategically placed objects around the room to occasionally glance at just to get into the habit of looking around more often and making eye contact with multiple people in your audience.
Practice Your Presentation for Time
You’ll likely have a time limit for presentation. As a rule of thumb, plan to have a 60-second “buffer” at the end of your presentation, in case something goes wrong. For example, if your presentation is set for 10 minutes, plan for nine minutes. Should you rush through or end early, make sure you can add more detail to the end of your presentation if needed. With all of this in mind, practising at least three times at home will ensure your presentation is properly timed.
Practice Your Presentation by Filming Yourself
There is nothing that gets you to change what you’re doing or correct a problem quicker than seeing yourself doing something you don’t like on video. By watching yourself, you will notice all the small things you do that might prove to be distracting during the actual presentation.
It is important enough that it deserves reiterating: Practice your speech beforehand, at home or elsewhere, the way you will give it on the scheduled day.