Public speaking is among the commonly cited fear people have in life.
Despite that, it is an important skill to have that can come in useful across many facets in your life, especially while in university where, depending on your course, you may be required to do so frequently.
We know that presentations can fill some people with dread, so here are five tips to help you ace it.
1. Know your topic
It is essential to have a thorough understanding of your topic to help you deliver your presentation with confidence.
For this to happen, you will not only need to read the content in your textbooks or the first few items that appear in your Google search, but also the latest news and research papers on the topic.
Having a wealth of information at hand will help make structuring the content of your presentation easier – this includes what to include in the introduction, body and conclusion, as well as supporting information to help your audience understand your topic better.
Once you become an “expert” in your topic, your knowledge will also work as ammunition when answering questions from the floor during your Q and A session.
2. Create a professional slide deck
Mind mapping allows you to see your ideas and literally map them out. The result is a more focused and relevant #presentation that’s completely built around your core message. #publicspeaking #tips pic.twitter.com/9JSx09Ciuv
— Effective Presentations (@epresentations) December 30, 2018
Avoid text-heavy slides, or you will find your audience reading your slides as opposed to listening to you.
Instead, TED UX lead Aaron Weyenberg, who creates keynote presentations, advises people to progressively reveal text, such as unveiling bullet points one by one, as you need it; this can help hold the audience’s attention.
Weyenberg also encourages the use of consistent typography, colours and imagery across all your slides for a consistent look and feel, and simplifying charts and graphs for your audience.
3. Polish your delivery
Believe it or not, weather presenters are a great source of inspiration when looking for tips on how to present well. They’re brilliant at using their hands to get the message (or the weather) across! #PresentationTips pic.twitter.com/RfjfRlBZUP
— Richard Newman Speaks (@RNewmanSpeaks) December 13, 2018
With your research and slides done, you will also need to practice delivering your presentation with your deck to ensure a smooth delivery. This does not only mean knowing when to hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard for a point to show up as you speak about it but also on your delivery style.
You may be nervous during your presentation, but it is important not to speak at warp speed – your points may be difficult to catch, or your audience may be distracted that you appear nervous.
Use vocal variety and let your personality shine through. You can also move your hands – research suggests that it can help engage a crowd. If you are using cue cards, be sure to number each card and staple them – this way, you can avoid a horror show from unfolding should you drop your notes during a presentation.
4. Dress to impress
You’ve heard the saying: clothes maketh the man.
Intuitively, when we dress well, including wearing clothes that fit and flatter our body type, we tend to feel good about ourselves. Similarly, it pays to dress well during your presentation as it can help build your confidence.
Remember to pick items that fit your body type – you do not want to wear clothes that are too baggy or tight. Women may want to avoid wearing excessive jewellery or plunging necklines. Shirts and pants should be ironed – it goes without saying that a crumpled look is not professional.
Additionally, you may want to pick out your clothes the day before your presentation to avoid unnecessary surprises on the day itself.
5. Remember, practice makes perfect
Tricia Brouk, who has directed speakers on to TEDx stages, sums it up perfectly when she said, “Public speaking is hard work. It’s time-consuming, and it’s emotionally and physically draining – especially if you are an introvert.”
Hence, allocate sufficient time to practice delivering your presentation, especially if you are someone who gets terrifyingly nervous during public speaking. You may also want to consider practising in the clothes you will be wearing during your presentation to ensure you can move comfortably.
Practice speaking in front of a trusted friend or friends to help provide useful feedback on your delivery. Alternatively, you can practice in front of a mirror or record a video of yourself presenting. Make changes to your delivery based on what you see, such as whether you have a tendency to cross your arms, or failing to make eye contact with your audience.
At the end of the day, we know presentations can be stressful. However, with practice, remember that you can only get better with time.