Preparing Presentations: 5 Ways to Practice ’til Perfect
“Practice makes perfect.”
We’ve all heard it. Many, many times, in fact.
Although it has been repeated many times over your lifetime, it still rings truth. In any skill that you choose to pursue, if you practice it enough, you will be nearly perfect at it. There’s no way to get around it. Unless you are naturally talented at something or get extremely lucky, odds are the only way to “sharpen your sword,” so to speak , is through repetition. Now, we’re not going to lie to you. It takes a lot time and dedication to be a disciplined practitioner of anything. However, if you can sit down, focus and try your best, you will see clear results.
This mindset also applies to presentations. For most people, presentations make them nervous, which is natural. However, you can significantly decrease your nervousness by taking certain steps, carefully preparing yourself for the event to come. At Big Fish Presentations, we encourage our clients to practice a variety of methods that ease nerves, which makes them more successful and confident in their presentations. So, we’ve gathered five of these tactics to share with you today.
Here are five ways in which you can practice your presentation skills.
1. Rehearse in front of a crowd
Standing in front of a group of people, giving your speech and seeing their reactions is a great way to boost your confidence in your material and delivery. Whether it’s a small group of your friends, co-workers, family or even a random group of strangers, the action of giving your presentation allows you to see reactions and get natural human feedback. This will calm your nerves and make you more comfortable with the entire experience. Many times, you’ll find that your worst mistakes will surface on this first go-around, leaving you with plenty of time and feedback to correct mistakes and re-organize your thoughts.
2. Take notes
As you practice, it’s very useful to stop immediately whenever you notice a mistake or an uncomfortable moment and jot down a few notes. In any practicing situation, don’t hesitate to analyze and re-analyze your presentation as you go. After all, this is why you’re practicing in the first place. You can write down things like cutting down on time on certain parts, making sure you enunciate tricky words or refining the structure of your talk. You’d be surprised by how many issues you can find when you take the time to look at yourself closely.
Don’t keep repeating the same lines over and over again if you think it sounds boring or awkward. Let loose and find ways to make your presentation exciting for your audience. Experiment with variations of words, include a funny story, make a joke or two. Relax! Remember, the two most important things in your presentation are being clear and being relevant. Use the stage or props to your advantage. Ask a particular audience member a question. Keep your audience guessing. You can have a lot of fun if you free yourself from the boring presentation structure and have a little fun out there.
4. Time yourself
Timing is crucial in presentations. It takes practice to nail down a solid time, but the general rule of thumb is to keep it short, simple and to the point. Since your goal is to decrease time while maintaining quality, practice trimming your message to include the most important and relevant information without the fluff. Set up a goal of the amount of time that you think is appropriate for your audience, then refine or beef up your talk accordingly. The more comfortable you are with your time, the more flexible you can be as you give your presentation.
5. Record yourself
By hearing and seeing yourself, you can judge the inflection, speed and enunciation of your voice. You always want to put yourself in your audience’s position, seeing and hearing yourself as they would see you. It’s not so much about perfecting your orating skills, although that is important, as it is about showing your personality through your words. In order to come across original and confident, you want to show your true character and that you’re comfortable in your speech.
All in all, it comes down to carefully observing yourself and constructively criticizing the elements of your speech. You’ve got to take the time to truly grade yourself before you can expect to deliver a solid presentation. The true masters of presentations, such as TED speakers, train themselves and prepare extensively in advance for their talks. If you want to truly engage your audience, be yourself, but most importantly be comfortable with yourself. It’s all about blending your personality with your message and finding the happy medium between your goals and the outcome.
What do you think? Was this helpful? Do you have any additional tips or guidelines about preparing for a presentation? Let us know what you think in the comments below, on our Facebook page or tweet us! Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel for more awesome content from the Big Fish team!
Very useful. Especially the suggestion about taking notes. I find that you can’t short-cut the process. I try and practice (for time), and take notes along the way, and then try to figure out how much time it took me to take the notes, etc. This really doesn’t work. Do a practice first, with note taking to refine the presentation, then start working on time. I find this is the best way to proceed.
Fantastic post, I really look forward to updates from you.