Public speaking isn’t hard, I remind my clients that it is just a conversation with more people. The challenge for many new presenters is that they envision the audience as cruel, rowdy, and a group wishing ill-will on the presenter. However, in the vast majority of cases (if you’re not a politician), your audience is quite hospitable and they want to see you do well. After all, your audience is spending their time watching your presentation, why wouldn’t they be rooting for your success? Knowing these basic presentation techniques will make you a better presenter, and your audience will appreciate it. Mastering these presentation techniques will make you a better presenter, a speaker audiences love and one they will invite to do more presentations.
9 Basic Presentation Techniques Your Audience Appreciate
- Arrive Early for Your Presentation – Rushing to a presentation increases your adrenaline, and being late is rude, so I suggest you arrive early. Getting to your venue early allows you to get set up, calm your nerves, and meet some of the audience members beforehand. Additionally, you get a chance to review the room and mentally go through your presentation, which will calm your nerves.
- Hold Still, Do Not Pace the Stage – Although many people think presenters must pace around the stage to “work the audience”, this unnecessary movement is distracting and annoying for your office. Instead of pacing, pick three spots on the stage (center stage, a mark on the left, and another spot of the right) and move back and forth to each, standing still in each spot for a few moments. Turn side to side slowly and look your audience in the eyes, then move to your next mark. This allows you to get closer to your audience, move around because standing still can be difficult for longer presentations, and still not be distracting like a nervous presenter pacing. [Needless to say, don’t stand behind the lectern either.]
- Make Eye Contact – Your audience wants to interact with you and you should make them feel like you’re talking to just them, you do that with eye contact. Additionally, looking your audience in the eyes calms your nerves because you see the people sitting in your audience as humans engaged in your message and not a room of savages wanting blood.
- Don’t Mention Your Nervous – Fake it until you make it, right? Unless you tell your audience that you’re nervous, most signs of nervousness are undetectable. Once you tell your audience that you’re nervous, they will hone in on your tells, which is distracting. Some of these nervous tells may show up as pacing, shaking things in your pockets, fidgeting with objects in your hand (presentation remotes, pens, laser pointers). I also suggest emptying your pockets before taking the stage, just in case. (Empty pockets also makes for better pictures because keys and cell phones can create odd bulges.)
- Practice & Rehearse Before Taking the Stage – The best advice I can give any public speaker, especially a beginner presenter, is to practice, practice, practice. Get your message down, fine tune your wording, and work out the kinks before taking the stage. Take time to have a dress rehearsal where you go through your entire presentation, ideally with a projector and presentation remote, small audience, and in the clothes you plan to wear for your presentation. (Dress rehearsals are best because you may find out the suit coat you plan to wear doesn’t allow you to point to the screen or move around comfortably.) If you don’t practice and do a rehearsal, then your audience is seeing your rehearsal.
- Don’t Block the Projector or Turn Your Back – A common mistake new presenters make is walking in front of the projector or turning their back to the audience because they have to read what is on the screen. Keep your visual aid (PowerPoint or Prezi) simple with large images and a short headline of 5-7 words. Your slides should be a thumbnail to jog your memory and to keep you on track, it shouldn’t be a script. Slidedecks with bullet points bore audiences, shows that you’re unprepared (or not the expert), and annoys your audience because they can read faster than you can talk.
- Take Questions – Engage your audience by asking them questions and taking questions from them. I suggest having multiple breaks for Q&A so your audience can ask questions early on so they can stay engaged and not get lost because they didn’t understand something at the beginning of your presentation. (This break also gives you a chance to get a drink of water and resets your pace in case you started talking too fast.)
- Finish Your Presentation Early – Regardless how long you have to speak, plan your presentation and practice it so you finish early. Running over your time is disrespectful to your audience and can aggravate your audience because it can put them in a bind.
- Hang Back After Your Presentation – Besides finishing early, don’t bolt out the door when you wrap up your presentation. I know it sounds basic, but hanging around after your speech gives you a chance to speak to your audience one-on-one, answer questions, and to collect business cards, which is vital for thought leadership presentations to prospective clients. If you’re giving presentations with the hope/intent of earning business, you’re probably doing two things wrong – skipping out early and not being audience-centric.
Developing these basic presentation techniques will make you a better presenter and ensure that your audiences appreciate you. Additionally, it will help you get more speaking engagements and to earn additional leads to grow your business.
Presentations are one of the best ways to grow your business because you’re showcasing your expertise and getting quality face time with prospective clients. These basic presentation techniques make sure you put the right foot forward.
- Download 6 Amazing Ways to Overcome Presentation Fear, a free guide.
- Learn more about how my self-guided presentation training curriculum, SpeakU, can help you dramatically increase your effectiveness when speaking and close more deals.
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How Speak Simple Can Help You
Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.