Presentation Skills – Shy Jack to Ace Presenter
How many times have you griped because you felt that you did not have it in you, to present a paper before an audience? Countless … well, you are not alone, my friend! If the audience is tech-savvy like your own colleges, then it adds to the misery. Below are some tips that I have compiled based on my own experiences and from ace presenters from various realms and several periods and geographies.
You need to approach your presentation with what I call a laser-guided-missile approach to make your audience be awe-stuck by your charisma, expertise and extraordinary presence of mind, even if you do not have any of these! To help you with this, I have divided the tips into technology-related and soft aspects. Come on, shun the Shy Jack attitude and become an ace presenter.
Big Mistakes Ace Presenters Avoid
1. Lack of Preparation
a. Never ever go towards the podium without adequate preparations and rehearsals. It could be suicidal, if you do.
b. Prepare for the topic at least a couple of days in advance so that you do not ramble in front of the microphone.
c. Age-old technique that really works: Stand in front of a mirror at your home or office and try practicing at least a part of your paper, ALOUD! Think about it: Do not you need the courage to first face yourself before you face other people?
2. Choosing Alien Topics
a. You do not need to be an expert in your field to present something before a techy audience. However, you need to at least know the basics of what you are talking about.
b. If you are given an alien topic with sufficient notice, you can always research and become somewhat of an expert there. However, if you are forced to present such a topic without adequate notice and you accept it, it is setting up yourself for failure, and much worse, for embarrassment.
3. Assuming the Audience Knows Everything
a. Never assume that your audience knows everything that you are talking about and they come to your session because their computers hung up! You may be shocked to take some basic questions from someone whom you thought was an expert. Trust me, this happens all the time!
b. Read through your own presentations several times over and put yourself in the shoes of an average audience. Try shooting several questions to yourself each time; sometimes stupid questions (you are going to have dummies out there). You will be surprised that each time you read through your own presentation, you get new questions. That is the structure of the human mind, my friend, of course you are not alone!
4. Lack of Punctuality and Time Management
a. You do not want to arrive at the podium 20 minutes late, stamp on the feet of some of the audience, realize that your tie is undone and go about doing it, standing in front of the microphone gasping for breath and longing for water! You know what, this is a perfect recipe for a Fiasco!
b. Be a professional! Come in to the presentation hall at least 30 minutes before the first participant comes in, to check the finer logistic arrangements like the microphone configuration, the OHP and other equipment and so forth.
c. Start on the dot and end on the dot. If you're not doing it, it's gonna leave a bitter taste in the mouths of your audience. If you are, your audience is gonna hail you as an ace presenter, they look up to you, take your autograph, and even invite you for a dinner and all that! Ha, is your imagination getting too far?
And the Fifth point is … well, there is no Fifth point. Just follow the above 4 points and rest assured, you are gonna be an ace presenter in no time. Please, please do not take my word for it; go get your hands dirty and find for yourself. So, when is your next presentation?
And the stage is all set, huh? Now, focus on the finer aspects related to technology, if you want to pull off that killer presentation and make your audience wonder as though you were born to do it, I mean, Present. Pal, you are gonna make Winston Churchill proud (or even jealous!) Of ya.
Technology – The New Age Presenter's Weapon
a. Do not use flashy layouts with colors that could make one blind! That being said, you do not want your screen to look dull, lest your audience should sleep. Yup, I can hear you say that 4-letter word (I mean "Damn"!) And if you do, I can not help the least. You've gotta somehow get it right. Use your own sense of coloring and if you are color-blind, ask others for an opinion. After all, what else are friends for?
b. Use animation sparingly. Every word in your presentation flies around and sets on another word, your audience will enjoy the animation but will not hear a single word that you utter. On a more serious note, many people may find it annoying, so be warned!
c. Use fonts according to the occasion and the genre. Use only professional-looking fonts for an official presentation. If you are presenting to school kids, something comical may grab their attention.
d. Avoid writing complete sentences if possible. Your screen content should serve as points for you to explain the point in question.
2. Word Size
a. No matter what presentation software you use, make sure that the size of the words, the font face and other aspects are given due focus. Remember that your audience is gonna read the words from a much longer distance than you do when you are writing the article.
b. Stand up from your seat and walk about for 10 feet or so and look at your screen. If you are seeing nothing but lines, increase the font size. If you are only seeing one word, well, of course, decrease the font size.
3. At Most 4 – 5 Lines Per Page
a. If you were to present a 50-line document, you would need roughly 10 slides. That should be the density you should prepare the slides with.
b. Do not worry if you are not able to accommodate all of your sentences related to a point in a single page. If it should be put in another slide, then so be it. Only, mark it with a "(continued)" suffix or similar, to remind the audience that it is not a new point alike.
4. Video Clips to Keep Sleep at Bay
a. Use short video clips (2 – 3 minutes) to grab the attention of your participants and prevent them from dozing off. Well, you may not appreciate the seriousness of this point, but it can not be embroidered further. Participants dozing off is a very real thing and you must do whatever it takes to avert it, if you want your presentation to be a hit.
b. Be choosy, however. Use not more than one video clip per 20 – 25 slides.
5. Be the Statistician
a. Making your presentation statistically-oriented, is sure to garner respect for you among the audience. If you are going to make dull and unsolicited statements, it may not impress them.
b. If you have the right piece of software, drawing pie charts or histograms is gonna be child's play. However, go easy on this and use it only if it makes 100% sense to include. Perhaps a thumb rule of a maximum of one statistical representation per 20 slides would be appropriate.
6. After the Break!
a. Let your participants go for breaks at strategic points during your session. Well, strategic points, here means when you see someone doze off and fall over on others.
b. Create some small activities like crossword puzzles or other word puzzles.
c. Invite someone from the audience to summarize the discussion at strategic points (see above). This may send alert signals and every participant may think that the next person to do the summary would be himself / herself.
A clever tip: You only need do this once, if you do this earlier on in your session. The audience may be prepared for the next summary and so will be attentive through, but the next summary never will come!
Use all the above tips to gain maximum benefit. However, if you ignore the below tip, you are hijacking the process: "Practice, practice and do more practice"
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide professional guidance and can at best serve as a source of general tips. You are prompted to seek professional and / or legal advice from expert practitioners in the field.