My previous two posts discussed how to prepare for a great presentation. Now I’ll discuss how to actually make that presentation.
The first rule is to practice. Go through the entire presentation several times in front of a mirror. Practice enough times to be familiar with the material, but don’t memorize it. Memorized presentations are often flat.
In your practice, exaggerate your gestures, your smile, your vocal variety. You will tone them down the day of the presentation. Also, speak slower than usual. You will speed up when actually presenting. Pause silently, rather than fill the silence with “ums,” “uhs” and “you knows.”
Do a dry run with your outfit in front of a full-length mirror. Do your clothes creep up, down, out or sideways? If so, change your outfit.
If possible, videotape your practice or at least tape record it. And definitely time it. Your presentation should take about 75 percent of the allotted time. The rest will be taken up with questions, introductions and interruptions.
One of the reasons you practice in front of a mirror is to see your posture and gestures.
Stand with your weight evenly on both feet. That will keep you from rocking back and forth. Rest your arms on your side when not gesturing.
Use natural gestures. Concentrate your gestures on the area from the belt to your eyes. Speech gurus call that the “power space,” where gestures are the most persuasive. Also, open your hands to the audience, showing them the palms of your hands. This open gesture is a great way to connect with your audience.
Review potential Q&As
Go through the questions you think people might ask, and decide how you’ll answer them. Pay particular attention to any controversial questions. Audiences are disappointed when speakers stumble on questions.
It might take people a few minutes to formulate their questions, so consider “planting” a question in the audience. If questions come spontaneously, ignore the plant. Alternatively, you can suggest a question. “I am often asked…”
In any case, repeat the question. If possible, address the questioners by name.
Focus on the questioner for about 25 percent of the time you spend answering. Look at other members of the group the rest of the time.
Avoid saying “good question.” Once you do that, you have to do it for all the questions.
My next post will give specific tips for “presentation day.”
Susan Monroe says
I particularly like your suggestion about practicing your presentation wearing what you plan to wear. I’ve spoken to people who have told me that discomfort with what they wore caused them to feel uncomfortable with what they were saying. And, I love the suggestion about timing your presentation and planning for it to consume 75 percent of the allotted time.