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5 Essential Tips for Presenting

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
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Presentations can be daunting, but I want to assure you there is nothing to fear. One thing that keeps me positive when I go into a presentation is that mistakes are okay. When no one but you knows the content or structure of your presentation, it is perfect just the way you present it.

Doesn’t that give you some peace of mind?

Whether it is your first time speaking in front of a specific audience or the information is new to you, the principles remain the same. Even though I have a high level of comfort for presenting in front of an audience, ATD’s Presentation Skills Certificate program provided me with a foundation for effectively delivering a speech and presenting new material.

Consider these five tips before creating and preparing for your next presentation—and make it your best!

  1. Write down your goal or mission statement. What do you want your audience to walk away with when they leave your presentation? Is it a thought, an idea, or an action? When you know what you want from your audience, it makes building your presentation much easier, and it keeps you on track during the presentation.  

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  2. Identify your audience. Ask questions about and research who will be attending before laying out your presentation. That way you’ll understand how much detail should be included. Use appropriate terminology and jargon that matches their level of knowledge on the subject and educational background.  

  3. Create an effective opening and closing. Get the audience’s attention right away with a compelling or thought-provoking statement—it may even be appropriate to tell a joke. You have less than 90 seconds to make an impression on your audience. During that time, they will determine whether you are a credible source, or if they should begin thinking of their grocery list.

    Even if you engage your audience at the start, try not to lose them in the middle! Just in case you do, be sure to have a banging closer. What is your call to action? Even if your entire presentation made zero sense to your audience (although making eye contact and reading your audience’s body language should ensure this does not happen), you can save yourself with a closing that identifies your objective. What should the audience do with the information you gave them?

    One thing to keep in mind: You may need to reconsider the structure of your next presentation if the last thing your audience hears or remembers is “Thank you” or “Does anyone have any questions?”  

  4. Check out your location. If you can access the space where you will be presenting an hour or even a week before your presentation, it is highly recommended. Going to your presentation space in advance not only helps calm your nerves, but it allows you to make sure all the technology you need works as anticipated.  

  5. Keep calm and carry on. Here are just a few additional things that will help you maintain focus and control during the entire presentation:
  • Make notes that are clear and give a basic idea of what you want to say. Attempting to memorize a speech and present it verbatim only puts unnecessary pressure on you.
  • Keep a glass of water nearby. Water is great for dry mouths during a long presentation, and sips in between your sentences can give you some time to gather your thoughts before speaking. 

There are many other presentation best practices to keep in mind, whether you are facilitating for a group of 10 or speaking to an audience of 300. The Presentation Skills Certificate is a great program to help you learn the basics or enhance your skills. I’ve given two presentations since receiving this certificate and I can definitely tell the difference. I have increased personal confidence and skills, and my audiences seem more engaged and receptive to the content.

About the Author
Christine V. Edmond is the former senior specialist for ATD Communities of Practice and also serves as the communications director for the Alliance for Women in Media - National Capital Area Chapter. Christine enjoys and has experience working in multimedia production (audio, video, and print), marketing, client relations, outreach, development, creative services, and strategic communications. She received a BA in broadcast journalism from the American University. Visit www.christinevedmond.com for more information.
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