Whether you’re an expert presenter or someone who only presents now and again, giving a presentation can be both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. Nevertheless, what’s clear about presenting is that there’s a lot of complexity around compiling your thoughts and notes into a dynamic presentation. The challenge and goal in presenting is to create an informative and compelling presentation that keeps your audience engaged.
As you prepare for your next presentation, consider following these simple, actionable ideas to help your audience or learners get more out of your presentation. Before we dive in, keep in mind that the following tips won’t fit every situation. Use your best judgment. Think about your audience/the learners and what they want. If you keep that perspective in mind, you’ll do well.
1. Make sure you can be heard. If the room is large enough to require a microphone, use it correctly. Hold a hand-held mic close to your mouth, not at your chin, throat or neck. Check a lapel mic to make sure it’s not covered by your lapel, necktie, scarf, etc. and is close enough to your mouth so that the audience can hear you. And no matter what model of mic you use, make sure it’s turned on!
2. Don’t block your slides. Stand out of the way of your slides as much as possible so that your audience has a clear view of the materials. And while you’re speaking, use notes instead of turning your back on the group to look at your slides. Maintaining eye contact with audience members signals that you’re invested in the group. Turning away from them creates a disconnect. Speaking of slides? Don’t fill them with information. Instead, use them merely to guide your discussion. Include just a few bullet points and, where applicable, an eye-catching image–that way, the bulk of the attention remains on you and your remarks.
3. Pay attention to the group. If you sense they’re not engaged, stop for a moment and do a quick “turn to your neighbor” activity and ask them to discuss the point you just made. It will help them re-engage, and it’ll give you a short breather! Another tip? Don’t be afraid to introduce other elements into your presentation instead of just relying on PowerPoint. Add a short video, for example, or act out a topic or example with a (properly prepped) audience member. The changing pace will help keep your audience’s attention throughout the presentation.
4. When it’s time for class, arrive early. As busy professionals, we often have our calendar scheduled to the minute. Depending on the type of class (one-hour, full-day, somewhere in between) and the complexity of the equipment you’ll use, arrive 15 to 30 minutes early. Then you can test equipment, check that the room is set the way you want and be on hand to greet people.
5. Practice makes perfect. If any of the tools referenced above (like a remote slide advancer) are new to you, practice with them ahead of time. That way, you’ll not only be comfortable with them, you’ll also know they’re in working order and ready to go at your next presentation.
This article was adapted by Susan Maden who is the Education & Training Manager for Burns & McDonnell University.