A few simple steps can help you improve the delivery of your presentation:
- Start off strong by preparing an opening that will capture the audience’s attention.
- Learn how to use visual aids effectively.
- Check the volume of your voice.
- Practice beforehand – to check running time, but not to the point where it is automatic.
As long as you have the confidence to use the room to your advantage, and have your ideas straight in your head, the presentation really will take care of itself for most of the time. You will find that, simply through saying it and hearing it often enough, your speech will evolve to a point where you can make slight adjustments on the spot as and where necessary without it becoming confusing.
Starting Off on the Right Foot
The opening of a presentation has two purposes:
- To capture the audience’s attention.
- To introduce the subject of the presentation.
The opening should be very brief, in most cases one to two minutes. In that short span of time, you need to present yourself and your topic in a way that will make your audience want to pay attention. In planning your opening, go back to your analysis of your audience.
An effective opening convinces your audience that what you are going to say will be worth their time and attention. If you lose them in the first two minutes, there is not much you can do to get them back with you. In some ways the presentation’s most important element is its introduction.
There are many things you can do to catch the audience’s attention. Taking into account that a presentation is generally a quite formal setting, this number is maybe slightly reduced in terms of what you can do to catch the audience’s attention and keep your job. However, if you work on getting the opening right, you will find that your presentations receive the attention they deserve, and that you will be able to hone them to the point where you become a very skilled presenter.
It is worth opening with a bold statement. The statement may be controversial – to the extent that it is something you believe and that some in the audience may disagree with. “Controversy” in this case is more to do with slight differences of opinion than saying something which will offend people. But it is fine to open with a statement along the lines of “X is something which is absolutely essential to the running of a business”, where “X” stands for something that, up to now, many people may not have agreed was essential. Follow this up by saying “I know, many of you may not agree with me, but this is what I plan to prove to you here and now”.
Making a statement which requires backing up will draw the attention of the audience, as they listen in to see how you will back it up. You will also have introduced your subject, and can then follow up with a few lines about how opinions have differed on the subject, but people with more years in the business than you have had very positive, complimentary things to say about it. In some cases, it may be beneficial to write the opening statement for your presentation after you have written the rest of it, as this allows you to make your statement chime with what you are going to say.