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Making a presentation fact sheet

We often have to give a presentation, either at a job interview or to colleagues or clients at work.  It can seem a daunting prospect.  With careful planning and thorough preparation you can come over with confidence and impact.

          1. Planning

Be clear about your objectives
Think through what you want to achieve with your presentation and make sure all you include contributes directly to that end.

Know your subject
First, summarise exactly what you want to say.  Look out any background information which could be incorporated into your speech. 

Know your audience
Try to find out as much as possible about your audience.  Will they be experts on the subject?  The larger the crowd the more formal your presentation needs to be.  Avoid jargon and use appropriate language. 

Choose your style
Even if it is a serious subject you may want to lighten the tone with some humour.  Can you present background information in a handout? 

          2. Preparation

The three most common mistakes are:

  1. Trying to cram too much material into the time available
  2. Pitching your presentation at too high a level
  3. Overestimating the audience’s ability to take in verbal information.

Three Main Points

A strong structure for your speech comes from three main points.  Choose the points that you think will have the most impact, make the most sense and help to best achieve your aims.

Introduce yourself and your subject properly in every presentation.  End on an up-beat note and include personal examples where possible.  Build in a couple of extra points that you can use if the time is available.  Talking into a tape recorder is a good way of timing what you will say.  Practise in front of friends or at least before the mirror.  Do not be tempted to add more material each time you rehearse – a simple message is likely to have more impact.

          3. Presentation

Speaking with Confidence by Rebecca Tee

Handling Nerves
To limber up the muscles around the mouth, slowly say the vowel sounds "A-E-I-O-U" making your mouth stretch as much as possible.  Take a few deep breaths before you start.  Have a glass of water near in case your mouth becomes dry.  Most nerves don’t show, so remember that you will look more confident than you feel.

Add variety to your tone and do not rush your words, most people speak too fast under pressure.  Pauses can be very powerful as they add emphasis to your speech and allow you time to collect your thoughts.  Vary the speed, tone and volume of your voice

Impact and First Impressions
Always smile when you greet and leave your audience.  For instant impact, dress one level more smartly than usual.  Never wear anything distracting which will detract from your message, plain colours are best.  You want the audience to focus on the message not on the messenger.

Eye Contact
With a large audience you will not be able to catch everybody's eye, but remember to glance around the room when you can.  Following a "M" or "W" shape with your eyes in a large area allows you to cover the space and gives the impression that you are relating to everyone.

Body Language
Stand as tall as you can.  If your natural style is to use gestures, then act as normal.  Be aware that folded arms, crossed legs, hands in pockets and jingling coins or jewellery can be distracting. 

Points to remember

  1. Plan and prepare your presentation thoroughly.  
  2. Use three key points to get your message across.

  3. Check your timing and do not be over ambitious in what you include.

  4. Smile, especially at the beginning and the end.

  5. Do not let nerves hold you back

© Rebecca Tee 2010

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