A skilled presenter can bring to life even the most mundane content and maintain audience engagement beyond their quick-twitch attention spans. Establishing yourself as a credible, confident presenter will make you a trusted, sought-after resource by your clients and ensure that your insights stick with your audience long after they exit the conference room. Presenting with confidence doesn't mean that you don't feel nerves. Public speaking is a real, common fear. Luckily, there are some key things you can do to push past those butterflies and become more comfortable as a speaker. Feign your confidence as you build on your craft; it's only necessary that your audience perceive you as confident and credible. Don't let them see you sweat! Leverage the tips below to engage your audience and keep your nerves at bay.
1) Establish credibility.
Before diving into your presentation, introduce yourself. Be sure to clearly elucidate why your audience should consider you a reputable, trustworthy source of information on the subject. Building a rapport with your audience will make them feel more comfortable asking questions and increase their likelihood of maintaining interest throughout your presentation.
2) Traverse the room and master eye contact.
How you engage with your audience will determine how included they feel in the presentation. Make your way around the room, taking turns maintaining eye contact with audience members for about one sentence at a time. If you are in a smaller group setting, avoid darting around the room and spend time with each audience member. When presenting to larger rooms, focus on one section of the room at a time. Share a key point with one segment of the room, and then move on to another.
3) Avoid fillers.
Work to eliminate verbal pauses, such as ‘like,' ‘um,' and ‘you know' by taking a pause to breathe and collect your thoughts. There is no need to fill the silence between presentation beats. In fact, pausing to select just the right word from your toolbox or mentally access the insight you want to share will be perceived by your audience as a thoughtful pause, as opposed to the distracting fillers that convey nervousness or lack of confidence. Taking a deep breath, looking away to gather your thoughts, and starting up again will be received as poise and thoughtfulness. Most times we are unaware of our own habits – consider videotaping yourself presenting to identify any fillers or any other distractions you can work to reduce.
4) Use a strong visual aid.
Your audience can't listen to you and read a slide at the same time, so keep your presentation or other visual aid very streamlined. Use as few words as possible on slides, and leverage images and short videos, as applicable, to keep your audience stimulated and increase their retention. Ensure that visual aids have a purpose, as opposed to functioning as purely entertainment; this will help you simplify your presentation materials and keep your audience focused on key takeaways. And remember, you may be the best visual aid for the presentation! Get a good night's rest the evening before, hydrate, fuel your body with nourishing food, and dress appropriately for the occasion. Use thoughtful hand gestures and feel free to stand, move away from your seat or podium, and slowly pace the room.
5) Practice makes perfect
Find a preparatory regimen that works for you. Whether you practice saying your presentation aloud to your dog, or capture your key points on notecards, find a ritualistic preparation that instills confidence in your knowledge of the content. Think of your presentation as a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. This simple arc will help you remember the path of your key points and ensure that your audience can easily follow along. When you feel confident in the story you are telling, you will feel comfortable and relaxed enough to allow your personal, authentic voice to come through in your presentation.
Stay tuned for more market research tips coming in the following weeks!