Delivering better presentations
Updated: Jan 7
Public speaking. Two words that seem to terrify people. So, how much do we hate to speak in public? Apparently, a lot! In 2015, Global News did a cool story about Fearless Challenge, a fundraising initiative by the Canadian Cancer Society. The story reported some findings from a survey of 1,500 adult Canadians about their greatest fears. Check out the results.
Top fears of Canadian men
· Snakes (33%)
· Heights (31%)
· Public speaking (28%)
· Spiders (21%)
· Tight spaces (20%)
· Natural disasters (20%)
Top fears of Canadian women
· Snakes (46%)
· Spiders (40%)
· Natural disasters (40%)
· Mice/rats (38%)
· Heights (37%)
· Public speaking (37%)
Poor snakes! All kidding aside, it’s telling that Canadians rank public speaking right up there with imminent death, natural disasters, and creepy crawlies.
What to do?!
Don’t panic. You’ve given presentations before and you’ll do them again. ???? What’s more, by preparing in a new way, this time your presentation will turn out great. Let’s share some tried-and-tested techniques to make this show your best.
Presentation best practices
Set a clear agenda -> Don’t let your meeting meander or get derailed. When you book your presentation date, set an agenda to ensure everyone shares the same expectations.
Be succinct -> Nobody enjoys endless slideshows full of thousands of words and cheesy graphics. If you use slides, keep them simple, visually compelling and above all, succinct.
Practice, practice, practice -> Probably the best thing you can do before a presentation? Practice it over and over. And use the opportunity to refine and improve your content.
Dress for success -> You don’t have to wear a suit to make a good impression. But if you’re delivering a big presentation or intend to speak at an event, why not look your best?
Get there early -> Show up on time, or better yet, try to get to the venue at least 15 minutes early. Use the time to set up your presentation technology, get water & tidy the room.
During the show
Breathe -> Literally! Breathe deeply through your nose. Breathing helps relieve anxiety, feeds your brain with fresh oxygen, and gives you something to focus on while you wait to begin.
Slow down -> Even world leaders get nervous before presenting. But don’t let that nervous energy dictate the pace of your presentation. Most presenters benefit from slowing down.
Look for an ally -> When you present to a room of people, canvass their faces for someone who looks engaged, receptive, and friendly. Use them as an emotional anchor when you speak.
Drink water -> It’ll help keep you cool and keep your thirst quenched. If/when you field questions (see below), you can grab a quick sip of water while other people speak.
After the show
Invite questions -> If someone asks you a question during a presentation, offer to answer it when you take questions after. It’s a good idea to take questions. Makes you look confident.
Take notes -> I like to keep a pencil and a hard copy of my presentations handy, so I can capture notes (such as feedback) and my own thoughts/new ideas on-the-fly.
Follow up email -> Within a few hours of your event, follow up with a thank you and next steps email. If you presented slides (and if appropriate), you can attach a PDF of your presentation.
Congratulate yourself -> You did it! No matter how much anxiety you might have experienced, you got through it, so pat yourself on the back.
Stick to it -> Like any business skill, it takes years to learn how to present effectively. Even if you feel like you did not do very well, keep at it. You’ll get better and more confident with practice.