“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” – Mark Twain, American author and humorist
Kenny here. It’s been a very busy month at Big Fish Presentations and while I haven’t been able to post regularly, I’d like to make the effort today to discuss a topic that’s very important for all presenters. Many audience members that attend my presentations frequently ask me, how do I appear so confident and calm on stage (despite AV equipment crashing when I’m delivering a presentation on presentations: see here). As much as I’d like to say that it’s because I’m just that awesome, I’d be a liar. I’ll admit that I’m actually pretty nervous.
And that’s a good thing, because if I wasn’t nervous I’d probably wouldn’t care too much on the subject that I’m presenting about.
I’ll be the first to admit that the confident and cool persona I show is due to many rigorous hours of practice and preparation. And today I’d like to share with you my steps of preparation and practice for all of my presentations. These steps below are steps that I can personally guarantee that world-famous presenters like Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, and Martin Luther King have practiced at one point in their career. Practice makes perfect after all.
So without further adieu, here are 7 tips to help you prepare and rock your next presentation:
1) Find out what you’re passionate about.
“Grasp the subject, the words will follow.” ~ Cato The Elder, Roman statesman
If you don’t care about what you have to say, why should the audience care? Find a way to discover what makes you passionate in the subjects you speak about. This passion is essential in portraying positive and good body language. Once you find that passion, research and learn intricately about what your subject is. Use that information to piece together a simplistic and engaging presentation that will inspire audiences to listen to you. Just make sure to…
2) Find out who your audience is.
“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. “~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher, lecturer, essayist, and poet
Find out who your audience is. It’s important because you don’t want to try a joke on pop culture at a senior citizen conference. Chances are, cricket noises can be heard. Research before your presentation: who your audience is, what their interests are, when are they attending your presentation (audiences in the later day tend to get tired and less attentive), where are they coming to see you, and why are they attending your presentation. Be respectful to your audience and their time.
3) Outline your Presentation
“Public speaking is the art of diluting a two-minute idea with a two-hour vocabulary.” – Evan Esar, American Humorist
Outlining is a very important step to find out what major points you should focus on in your presentation. This process builds the canvas for the actual script and the thought roadmap for your audience on where the presentation is going. For example, in my “3 Ways to Deliver a Kick-Ass Presentation” presentation, I knew I was going to speak about 3 things: storytelling, simplistic design, and passion. This set an outline for my presentation as shown below:
- Story Opener:
- Explanation of opener and relevance to presentation:
- Introduction of Topics:
- Simplistic Design
- Thesis Statement:
- Main Idea One: Storytelling
- Creating Stories
- What makes great TED speakers
- Main Idea Two: Simplistic Design
- KISS Principle
- Use More Imagery
- Use less text and animations
- Main Idea Three: Passion
- Have fun while you’re presenting
- Keep in mind the 38-55-7% Rule!
- Questions to ask yourself when you present:
- How to implement these practices
- How audiences remember presenters more than presentation
- How to combine these three ideas into your next presentation
After developing this outline, I then was able to fill in the supporting content below the bullet points. This resulted in me being able to maintain structure, flow, and control before writing my script.
4) Script your presentation.
“A speech is like a woman’s skirt: it needs to be long enough to cover the subject matter but short enough to hold the audience’s attention.” – Author Unknown
Using your outline, begin to write the verbiage and supporting content you’d like to use when actually speaking. But remember to keep it simple, short, and to the point! Always ask yourself after making a statement, “So what?” Why should the audience care? Is what you’re saying relevant to progressing the flow of the presentation? If not, remove it! Read the script regularly and hear if it sounds conversational rather than just informational.
Build the supporting content where it’s still easy to remember the key takeaways from the outline. Keep your content simple easy to digest. I’ll be honest that I personally feel like it’s more difficult to be simple sometimes, but at the end of the day I know my audience will appreciate it. After all, this presentation is more for them rather than myself.
NOTE: Also remember if using slides to not overload slides with content. You should be the one telling the audience why you’re excited, not the slides.
5) Tie in body, tone, and speech.
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” – Mark Twain, American author and humorist
Now that you’re done with the script, it’s time to tie it in with the actual delivery of the presentation.
While it’s important to have great content, I believe it’s equally important, if not more, to be able to deliver it. A frequent rule I speak about is the 38-7-55% rule by psychologist Albert Meherbrian. This rule states that audiences tend to judge presentations 38% on vocal tone, 7% on verbal arrangement (actual content), and 55% of the body language (with facial expression being the most important). This is amazing considering that most people would think they are done by the time they finish the script right? Not so fast. Audiences remember the presenter more than the presentation, so presenters have got to be on their a-game during delivery.
Common questions to ask yourself when preparing your body language for a presentation: What hand gestures are you planning to use at certain points? What certain words do you want to emphasize in your statements? Would you like to include pauses after certain statements? Are the emotions you’re portraying on stage properly matching your content?
6) Conquer Stage Fright; visit the stage.
“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about.”
– Michael H Mescon, Founder/Chairman of The Mescon Group
Now if you’re hundreds of miles away before your event and you’re unable to test out the presentation at the venue before the event, make a huge effort to test the equipment out at least 24 hours ahead of time. You never know what can go wrong. Whether it’s the clicker dying, the presentation being incompatible with the venue’s computer system, the A/V system crashing, or even the resolution of the monitors being terrible for your slides, something always can go wrong. Come prepared with an action backup plan.
After all, if something goes wrong there’s the saying that “the show must go on”. It’s your fault for not being prepared and not the venue’s.
7) Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” -Mark Twain, American author and humorist
Practice makes perfect. Say the presentation to yourself and ask yourself constantly, “Would you want to sit through this presentation?” If not, back to the drawing board. Rehearse your presentation multiple times before you begin. I usually prepare piece by piece, then do 1-3 run-throughs of the actual presentation. A very helpful strategy I perform before big presentations is to record myself delivering the actual presentation. That way I can catch the verbal disfluencies, body language mishaps, and confusing statements that need to be revised.
When I’m not embarrassed to watch myself presenting, then I know I’m ready.
It also doesn’t hurt to present in front of trusted colleagues and hear their comments. You never know what last minute revisions you may be able to make that could improve your presentation.
All in all, rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse.
If this blog post helped you on your next presentation please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love to hear feedback from our readers and would love to answer any questions you may have on presentations.
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Thank you for your time visiting our blog today and happy presenting!
– Kenny Nguyen, CEO/Founder of Big Fish Presentations