If you’re like most college students, then you probably don’t have a whole lot of public speaking experience under your belt. And a lack of experience means you likely feel mighty anxious about the prospect of presenting. First, know that this is totally normal. In fact, even the most seasoned presenters in the game feel a healthy amount of anxiety before a talk. But those who are brand new to it tend to feel it the most.
The good news is, there’s a lot you can do to minimize your nerves and maximize the quality of your presentation. The following tips are designed to make you feel better, look better and, most importantly, ensure you crush your next presentation with confidence and grace.
Make Plenty of Eye Contact If you’ve ever been to a presentation where the speaker’s face was buried in their notes the whole time, then you know how painful that is to watch and listen to. According to research, making eye contact helps your audience retain the information you’re sharing in addition to making you seem more credible and trustworthy. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t look at your notes; just take care to absorb them in quick glances rather than spend your whole talk buried in them.
Take Your Time One of the biggest mistakes newbies make is speeding through a presentation. Not only does this make it pretty clear to your audience that you’re nervous, but it also makes it really tough for them to digest the information you’re sharing. Therefore, make sure to slow your pace and take your time. Pausing for a drink of water, taking audience questions, and even cracking a joke or two are great ways to slow your pace and have a better command of the room and your message.
Don’t Just Practice; Rehearse If you want to make sure you deliver an effective, confident presentation, then it’s not enough to know your content; you have to rehearse it. Studies show that your message’s delivery is even more important to giving a great presentation than the message itself. So, be sure to carve time out to run through your presentation as though you’re doing the real deal. When you do it, pay attention to places where you can use your tone to emphasize important points, pause for suspense, and solicit audience questions.
Give Love to Your Visual Aids Your visual aids should never be an afterthought. Thoughtful, well-designed visuals paint a clearer picture of your topic while making your presentation as a whole much more engaging. Plus, they’re a great reference point for you. If you ever find yourself getting stuck on stage with nothing to say, your thoughtful visuals can serve as an information guide so that you’ll never be at a loss for words.
Minimize Nerves With More Preparation Speaking of never being at a loss for words, our anxiety has a way of making us fumble on the word front and forget what we want to say altogether. It’s easy to avoid things we’re nervous about, but the more practiced and prepared you are, the less anxiety you’ll have. If you push through that avoidance and make yourself thoroughly practice, you’ll be amazed how much more relaxed and confident you feel and look to your audience.
In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter what you wear to your presentation because it’s your content and delivery that are important. But, of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, and what you wear on the big day can have a big impact on how you feel as well as how the audiences perceives you.
In fact, there’s hard science behind the importance of attire. According to research from Northwestern University, participants who put on a doctor’s lab coat were able to think more clearly and sustain attention longer than those who didn’t. So, in addition to appearing more credible in front your audience, wearing something that makes you feel confident and successful can also make you perform that way.
That said, what’s appropriate for your presentation depends on your topic, event, and audience, as well as your personal style. But if you adhere to the following guidelines, you can bet you’ll be dressed for success no matter what.
Dress With the Audience in Mind The goal of any presentation is to bring the audience onboard with an idea, so you should keep them in mind when figuring out an outfit. For example, if you’re speaking to a team of investors, then business attire is a good idea as it shows them you’re a serious businessperson they can trust with their money. On the other hand, if you’re speaking to a group of college students, then more casual attire is appropriate as it’ll make you appear more approachable and relatable.
Give Love to the Details
If you want your audience to take you seriously, then you need to show that you take yourself seriously too. That means paying attention to the details. Wrinkled shirts, scuffed shoes, and messy hair signify that you’re not a very detail-oriented person and you might lack respect for yourself and your appearance. But if you step on stage with a polished appearance from head to toe, then it’s a lot easier to take you seriously as a person and a presenter.
As a presenter, you’re already competing with endless distractions from smartphones to laptops, so don’t let your attire become a distraction too. Save busy prints and ultra-bright colors for another day and opt for more subdued hues and patterns. You should also avoid overly flashy jewelry, funky glasses frames, and other eye-catching accessories. In general, err on the side of soft and subdued so that you’re the focal point of your talk; not your clothes.
Wear Something Comfortable
This is a big one. Just because we want you to dress in a polished, professional manner doesn’t mean you need to be stiff and uncomfortable. In fact, dressing in something that makes you uncomfortable will cause you to look uncomfortable, which can seriously hurt your presentation. So, if you haven’t worn a dress since your brother’s wedding, don’t wear one during your presentation. Just stick to clean, sophisticated clothes that makes you feel comfortable inside and out.
A good presenter plans, prepares, and practices their talk. But a great presenter takes their talks to the next level by regularly engaging in drills and activities to enhance their delivery, improve their confidence, and increase their command of the room.
If you want to be among the best of the best, then you should definitely make a habit of practicing the following five public speaking drills.
1. Explain it to a Five-Year-Old
The best presenters know how to break down complex topics and abstract ideas into plain language that anyone can understand. And a great way to get good at that is by using this exercise. The next time you’re preparing a presentation, practice explaining the topic like you would to a five-year-old, using language and analogies they can understand. This will ensure that your topic is clear and concise as well as help you avoid saying more than is necessary to get your message across. Bonus points if you find a real-life child to practice with.
2. Write it Out
One of the toughest parts of presenting is figuring out what, exactly, you need to say about a topic that might feel abstract, broad, or otherwise overwhelming. Writing out your main points will help you distill this information into the most important points while enabling you to better visualize how your presentation should unfold. This also makes it much easier to identify any holes in your topic and any unnecessary information clouding your primary message.
3. Play With Your Posture
The posture you display when presenting is hugely important to your presentation’s overall success. In fact, studies suggest that good posture can significantly improve how confident you look and feel. Posture expert and author, Amy Cuddy, found in her research that when someone stands with their hands on their hips for two minutes prior to a presentation, not only does the audience see them as more confident, but the presenter actually feels more confident as well. So the next time you present, step into the bathroom and do this quick exercise to increase those confidence levels.
4. Try on Different Paces
You probably already know you shouldn’t rush through your presentation nor take too long, but there’s plenty to play with in between those two points. Practicing your talk using different paces will show you the most effective way to deliver it. You’ll have a better grasp of when to slow down for emphasis, when to speed up for engagement, and generally the most effective method of delivery for your particular topic.
5, Record Yourself
Watching a recording of yourself might seem a little cringe-worthy, but it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself as a presenter. Simply put, it’s impossible to really know how we look and sound during a presentation unless we watch ourselves. Taking time to record your talk will shed light on things you’d otherwise miss, like any vocal tics that are interfering with your message or posture improvements you can make to appear more commanding and confident.
Want more ways to elevate your presentations? Then check out Ethos3’s Catapult Training.
Augmented reality is pretty much as it sounds—reality that’s digitally enhanced by technology. And while we’re still learning all that it’s capable of when it comes to improving presentations, what we know so far is pretty exciting.
Interactive Information Discovery
One of the fundamental capabilities of AR is that it can make static images and locations come to life with animations, graphics, and more information. For example, if you have an AR app on your phone, you might point your device at a bus stop advertisement for shoes and a list of nearby retailers selling that product pop up. Or you can scan a movie poster to see the trailer, or a street sign to check out the nearby restaurants and shops.
This particular AR functionality works great for presentations, too. Imagine showing your audience an image on screen that they can then explore further using their AR app. For instance, if you’re presenting on a car, you can show an image of it and members of the audience can then interact with that car in real-time by exploring the interior and exterior in detail using their phones. This allows your audience to experience information rather than simply hear it.
Improve Remote Presentations The world is increasingly working remotely. And while this is great for flexibility, convenience, and creativity, it can really hurt presentations. Research suggests that the combination of body language and visual aids are even more important than the content you’re delivering. But if you’re presenting via webcam or a Zoom Room, then you can only show yourself or your visuals at one time, not both. That is, until AR came into the picture.
AR allows virtual presenters to easily merge their visuals with themselves so that they don’t lose the benefits of either. You can discuss a concept and, as you’re explaining it, graphics designed and chosen by you will appear right next to you on screen. The final result looks a lot like green screen technology without the need for an actual green screen.
Audience Integration One of the biggest obstacles any presenter faces is getting their audience to feel engaged and connected to the presentation and message. And this makes sense—every audience member has a whole universe of unique problems, feelings, and ideas that are constantly competing for their attention.
With augmented reality, you invite the audience to be a part of the presentation. Rather than talk at them, you give them an opportunity to directly participate in and explore what you’re sharing. Not only does this make a presentation more compelling and engaging, but it makes audience members feel as though they’re in control of their learning experience. Furthermore, experiencing your ideas in this way invites an emotional response and connection that you simply won’t find with a standard slideshow.
Want to get to know who you are as a presenter? Then check out Ethos3’s Badge Assessment to discover your unique presentation persona.
From social media notifications to email pings to text message alerts, it seems like we’re facing more interruptions to our workflows than ever before. And while most agree that increased connectivity brings a lot of benefits, being distracted with beeps and buzzes at random moments can also seriously hurt our creativity.
When’s the last time you discovered your next big idea via text message? Or felt a spark of inspiration from checking your email? Chances are, never. To stumble upon new ideas or ride the ever-elusive wave of inspiration, we have to have some semblance of focus and uninterrupted time.
Imagine if Einstein got a text alert just before his brain landed on the theory of relativity. Or if Isaac Newton was on the verge of a gravity revelation only to check his Facebook notifications instead. One of the things that great leaders, thinkers, and other luminaries have in common is that most are known to lock themselves away for extended periods of time to avoid interruption and distraction because that’s how our creative brains work best.
In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, he delves into the importance of removing interruptions for creative work. According to his research: “If you spend large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention—where your regular workflow is constantly broken up by taking frequent breaks to just check-in with social media—that this can permanently reduce your capacity for concentration.”
And further research suggests that when tasked with a creative problem, those who are faced with a steady stream of interruptions not only produce lower-quality content, but they also produce less of it.
In other words, if you’re constantly allowing yourself to be interrupted, then you lose your ability to concentrate. And without concentration, there is no creativity, quality, or productivity.
If you want to reduce your interruptions and maximize your creative thinking, then make the following suggestions a priority:
Carve Out Interruption-Free Time Every Day It doesn’t have to be hours on end, but it’s absolutely critical to your creative brain that you designate some distraction-free time each day. Maybe it’s 20 minutes in the morning or an hour after dinner or 30 minutes at lunch—as long as you’re giving your brain some interruption-free time each day to think freely, it’ll go a long way to working your creative muscle.
Recruit Apps to Help You While technology might contribute to your interruptions, it can also help you eliminate them. Oftentimes, we are our greatest interrupters, clicking on email and opening up Facebook before we even realize we’re doing it. Fortunately, apps like SelfControl and Anti-Social can be installed on your phone or computer and allow you to “blacklist” the websites you find most tempting for as much time as you choose, so you can do less mindless browsing and more creative thinking.
Don’t Feel Bad About Closing Your Office Door If you work in an office setting, then you know how easy it is for the random coworker to stop in for a chat. Sometimes it’s a welcome distraction while other times it can hurt your flow. That said, don’t feel bad about shutting your office door for an hour or two each day. It might feel a little closed off (literally and figuratively) at first if you’re used to an open-door all the time, but it’ll ultimately make you a better worker and coworker if you allow yourself that time to think.
An excellent presentation calls for excellent preparation, but if you’re new to the game or blinded by nerves, it’s tough to pinpoint everything you need to do to be adequately prepared. Lucky for you, that’s what you have us for. We want to take the guesswork out of your presentation prep so you can focus on what’s truly important. As long as you include the following in your preparations, your presentation will be one to remember.
Tap Into Your Enthusiasm Enthusiasm is contagious. If you have it for your topic, your audience will have it too. Before you do anything else, tap into why, exactly, you’re passionate about your topic. What is it that excites you about it? Why do you find it so important? What will it do for others? Having an emotional understanding of the answers to these questions will give you the enthusiasm needed for your audience to make an emotional connection.
Know Your Audience This advice has withstood the test of time for good reason: it works. The aim of most presentations is to persuade, compel, and/or convert the audience in some way, but that’s pretty tough to do if you don’t know who you’re talking to. Take time to get to know your audience’s demographics. Find out their interests and their likely reasons for attending your talk so that you can target your presentation to their desires and speak to what they want to know.
Develop an Outline If you’re excited about a topic, it’s easy to gush about it at the expense of structure and flow. But structure and flow are what your audience needs to understand your main message. Therefore, it’s incredibly helpful to develop an outline of what you want to cover so you can be sure your message is crystal clear rather than confusing and convoluted. This will also ensure you’re covering everything you need to while eliminating any fluff that detracts from your message.
Write Your Message in One Sentence Once you craft an outline, you then want to make sure you can say your main message using only one sentence. One of the biggest mistakes presenters make is saying too much about too many things, and losing their overarching message in the process. If you’re able to distill your presentation to one single sentence, then chances are it’s focused and on target. But if you can’t do that, then you need to do some editing to ensure you’re not trying to cover too much.
Rehearse Your Delivery According to research, an effective presentation is 38% your voice, 55% non-verbal communication, and just 7% your content. In other words, your delivery matters even more than the content you’re delivering, so you need to rehearse it. When rehearsing, pay attention to places where you can pause for suspense, where you can use tone and inflections for emphasis, and how often you’re leaning on filler words like “uh” and “y’know.” We can guarantee that the more you rehearse, the better your presentation will be.
Looking for more ways to enhance your presentations? Then check out Ethos3’s Catapult Training.
Developing your content and designing your visual aids is just the beginning. If you really want to deliver a killer presentation, you also need to practice, practice and practice some more. But don’t just practice aimlessly and hope for the best. Instead, you should focus your efforts to maximize improvement. That means knowing exactly what you want to practice and what to look for when you do it.
To be sure you nail your next presentation and every presentation thereafter, make certain to always practice in the following three ways.
1. Time Yourself Nothing’s worse than a long, drawn-out presentation. It’s boring for the audience and tiresome for you; not to mention, it signifies that you’re under-prepared, making it much harder for the audience to trust what you have to say. You want a tight, edited presentation that’s just long enough to ensure your message is delivered.
It’s really difficult, even for the most seasoned presenters, to gauge just how long a talk is simply by guessing. Therefore, make sure you carve out time during your presentation prep to run through your talk with a timer. And do this continually until you’re consistently stopping at the same time every time.
2. Record Yourself Once you have your timing down, it’s time to practice your delivery. And there’s no better way to start than by recording yourself. It can be a little cringe-inducing to listen to yourself at first, but it’s critically important to ensure you have an excellent delivery.
When you listen back, pay attention things like how you can use your voice and tone to emphasize important points, where you can pause for questions or suspense, and whether you’re leaning on too many filler words like “uh” “um” and “y’know.”
3. Rehearse in Front of an Audience After your timing is on point and your delivery is polished, the last thing you need to practice is giving your talk in front of a few people. In addition to making you more comfortable with your delivery in front of a crowd, doing this will also invite feedback about issues you might’ve overlooked while timing or recording yourself.
That being said, make sure you practice it in front of people you’re comfortable getting critical feedback from. You don’t want to do it in front of a bunch of yes-men who will tell you that you’re doing great no matter what. The point of this exercise is to improve, and the only way to get better is to have people whose insight you value shine a light on those areas that should be worked on.
Want more ways to elevate your presentations? Then check out Ethos3’s Badge Training.
If you want to see what the future of presentations will look like, start with Prezi Next.
Prezi Next is a new set of software tools designed by Prezi that allows audiences to become one with a presentation through augmented reality (AR). According to Prezi founder, Peter Arvai, “This technology stack is something we’ve developed that works across mobile phones, browsers, installed on your computer—and it allows us to do things like AR.”
So what, exactly, does an AR presentation look like? Given how new the technology is, a lot of the power of AR with respect to presentations remains to be seen, but what we know so far is pretty damn cool.
In a traditional presentation, the presenter is standing in front of a room with a screen behind them featuring visual aids. And while these presentations can be beautiful, they also have their limitations. For instance, if you’re presenting a pitch to a team of investors in a web conference or you’re giving a presentation in a Zoom Room, you can either show yourself or your visuals; not both. And given the importance of body language and visual aids to audience attention and retention, this is no small loss.
With augmented reality, though, you can create visuals that dance right next to you on screen. In Prezi’s software, it’s a lot like designing any other presentation—you choose or draw your graphics and develop your design—but the difference is that instead of showing the design on a monitor or projector screen, it shows up in mid-air next to you as you’re talking. Think of it as a green screen, but cooler.
Prezi’s approach to AR is built on research that indicates audiences tend to get distracted by overly flashy visuals and excessive animations. So, rather than use AR to transport audiences and speakers to faraway lands, Prezi keeps the speaker at center stage while simple yet compelling visuals enhance their message. In other words, it’s not about wowing the audience with over-the-top AR visuals; it’s about making it easier for a presenter to convey their ideas.
Arvai thinks of Prezi’s role in the future of AR as a modest one but an important one: “We won’t put a woman on Mars, we won’t cure cancer, and we won’t make peace in Syria, but when we do our jobs correctly, we contribute to all of this.”
With the rise of technology and an increasing number of people going remote, more and more presenters are finding themselves delivering talks on the go. Of course, it can be a struggle to get all of your ducks in a row on the preparation and design front when you’re fully mobile, but it doesn’t have to be. If you make sure to have the following technology in your presentation arsenal, then you’ll feel right at home, no matter where in the world you are.
Portable Projector If you pack nothing else in your carry-on, pack this item. A portable projector enables you to present from anywhere, at any time without requiring much additional equipment. We’re particularly fond of the Optoma ML750 DLP LED Portable Projector because it’s equipped with microSD and USB ports, which eliminates the need for a computer connection. Plus, it has an incredibly clear HD and WXGA resolution and an LED lifetime of 20,000 hours.
Presentation Remote Presentation remotes have come a long way on the technology front and their current capabilities make them indispensable for mobile presenters. There are a lot of great ones on the market, but we can’t recommend the Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote enough. This handy device allows you to seamlessly move between slides, is completely wireless, and lets you emphasize key points using your choice of a highlighter or magnifier.
Wireless Microphone If you’re delivering great content, you want it to be heard, right? Unfortunately, a lot of presentation spaces have subpar microphones that cut out, make ear-piercing noises, or otherwise malfunction. Avoid encountering a microphone disaster by bringing your own. The Professional XB-601 2.4G Wireless Headset Microphone is a discreet, high-functioning device that’s reasonably priced at $40 and will ensure that the message you’re delivering is received loud and clear.
Bluetooth Speaker Speaking of being heard, it’s also important to have a functioning speaker on hand. Rather than trust that there will be one that works, eliminate the anxiety and bring one with you. The Bose SoundLink Micro Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker costs you less than $100 and features a super compact design, six hours of play time from a rechargeable battery, and just so happens to be waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about any rogue spills from your carry-on.
Mini Wireless Keyboard Tablets are remarkably great for designing and preparing presentations from start to finish, but anyone who’s used one knows that a touchscreen keyboard can be a little frustrating—especially if you’re trying to use it in front of a room full of people. Say goodbye to that struggle with an Rii i8+ 2.4GHz Mini Wireless Keyboard. For just $20, this little device will connect to your phone, computer, or tablet, and allow you to type freely and error-free from anywhere in the room.
Want to elevate your presentation game even further? Start by taking Ethos3’s Badge Assessment to discover your unique presentation persona.
If you’re an entrepreneur, a sales manager, or any other type of leader, then you’re in the business of selling your vision. And, as any great leader knows, doing so is no easy feat. It involves persuading people to not only trust the legitimacy and viability of an idea they might not have heard of, but also getting them to trust you, personally, to the lead the charge on it.
That said, there is a tried and true blueprint that many leaders use to present and sell their vision in a clear, persuasive, and trustworthy manner. And we just so happen to have outlined it for you below.
Start With the Big Picture Before diving into the nitty gritty details of what, exactly, your vision entails, you should begin by wowing your audience with what the world will be if your vision becomes a reality. This is your opportunity to highlight the big-picture value of your idea and to get your audience invested in why it’s important. Think of it as what you’d say in an elevator pitch if you only had two minutes to explain what your idea is and why it matters.
Describe the Problem Most big ideas solve some type of problem. Not only should you detail what that problem is, but you should also explain who’s impacted by it and why it’s critical that it be solved.
Present the Solution Once you’ve detailed the problem, you’ll want to describe how your vision will solve it. You should also explain any potential alternative solutions and why yours is superior.
Provide Your Credibility People want to invest in people; not companies. If you want your audience to trust you and your vision, then they need to find you credible. Present why you and your team are uniquely qualified to take this on and list the credentials of the key players involved.
Discuss the Scope of Impact Next, talk about who and what will be impacted by your vision’s execution. How big will the impact be? How many people will be touched by it? What industries will be affected and what ones will be involved?
Talk Money Of course, most big ideas also require big bucks, and this is especially obvious if you’re speaking to a group of investors. Be sure to talk about the financials in terms of how much money you need, how much you’re expecting to make, and the return investors should expect to receive.
Close Out With How You Started After you’ve covered the aforementioned details, conclude your presentation with how you started: a summary of what your vision is and how the world will improve if it’s executed. This ensures you end on a note of positive inspiration and that the last thing your audience remembers is just how valuable your vision is.
Looking for more ways to elevate your presentation skills? Then check out Ethos3’s Catapult Training.