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Five tips for more engaging presentations

Five tips for more engaging presentations

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Maximise the impact of your presentations with our five top tips

Some
people find delivering a presentation daunting. Others relish the
opportunity to present to an audience but can fall short on getting the
most of their floor time. Mastering presentations is undoubtedly a
learning curve and requires practice, but taking a few key points into
consideration can put you well on the way to becoming a more engaging
speaker.

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1. Plan it thoroughly

Before you begin
to assemble your presentation, it’s important to consider what your overarching
message will be. You’ll undoubtedly have a theme or concept to present on, but
if you don’t consider what your key takeaways are you may end up being vague.

Try starting off
with a mission statement that encapsulates your presentation’s theme and then
break it down into bullet points. These bullet points will become your key
takeaways, from which you can expand upon within your presentation.

Also consider the equipment you’ll use. It can
be helpful to perform a ‘dry run’; hooking up your presentation can highlight
any technical wrinkles that may arise during the real thing.

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2. Accept your nerves

Nerves are a
common hurdle for presentation givers to overcome, and practice certainly goes
a long way to feeling more confident.

Rehearse. This
will allow you to familiarise yourself with the course your presentation will
take and make it easier to find your place if you become flustered.

Meter yourself.
Nervous speakers have a tendency to speak fast, perhaps as a subconscious move
to end the discomfort. Paying attention to the pace of your speech and making
efforts to slow it down not only makes it easier to breathe naturally, it helps
you appear more confident.

Breathe deeply. If
you find yourself panicking, try some deep breathing exercises. The simplest is
to breathe in slowly through your nose, hold for four seconds and then breathe
out through your mouth. Even
medical experts say that repeating
this a few times can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

3. Consider your moves

Making a few
small changes to the way you carry yourself, punctuate your speech, and use
gestures can have a dramatic impact on your ability to engage with your
audience.

This doesn’t mean
waving your arms around like a window cleaner or looming over your audience –
simply pay attention to your posture. A common technique for improving your
posture is to imagine an elastic band is attached between the top of your head
and the ceiling, gently pulling you up.

You’ll also make
a better impression if you keep your hands out of your pockets and avoid fiddling
with pens or clothing.

In his book, Effective Speaking: Communication in Speech,
Christopher Turk makes the point that listening habits are based on receiving
messages only when we are looked at. It’s no use telling your shoes about your
findings – it’s the audience that want to know!

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4. Keep slides short

This is the
cardinal sin of presentations, although to some it seems counter-intuitive.
After all, you’re meant to be getting information across. The trouble is that
people tend to switch off when faced with big bulks of text. On top of this,
it’s easy for you to become guided by the text you place in your presentation
slides and this can limit how natural and knowledgeable you appear.

Try thinking of
your slides as chapter headings and of yourself as the chapter’s text. Images
can be used to illustrate your points but remember: the most effective way of
getting your point across is to speak it directly to your audience.

Cue cards can be
helpful, but again it would be wise to thoroughly rehearse your presentation so
you can speak freely, naturally and authoritatively on your topic without being
prompted. Having a dual screen setup makes it easier to keep track of your
presentation without having to turn and look at the slides on screen.

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5. Get people talking

It can be hard to
maintain attention levels for extended periods without pause, so involving your
audience, even in a small way, can refresh their attention span. Simply ask for
a show of hands on a particular matter or ask someone in the audience (preferably
someone who’ll respond well!) for their opinion – as long as you break the
pattern of speaking at the audience for a little while, you’ll refresh their
concentration.

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Have you got any
tips and tricks that help you ace presentations? We’d love to hear them over at
@VikingDirect

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