It doesn’t matter if you’re giving a presentation to your boss, the entire Board of Directors, to your kid’s class or in your own grad school class. This can be a stress-inducing experience for even a seasoned professional. You’re never sure how your audience is going to respond, and you want to strike a balance between informative and entertaining. That’s a lot to handle.
Fortunately, by following these rules you can get the job done. Make sure you have the right technology at hand that you’re comfortable with and can troubleshoot in a jam. That’s the foundation for a great presentation (don’t just assume PowerPoint is the answer). Next, make sure you follow these rules for a flawless approach:
1. Practice out loud, in front of an audience
Practice really does make perfect. You might feel silly giving a presentation to your children and spouse or your group of friends, but it’ll help. Ask them to query you just like they would a real audience and don’t give feedback until the end (otherwise it can fluster you). There are a lot of misconceptions about asking for help according to Inc., but your loved ones are happy to be of service.
2. Practice out loud by yourself
You don’t want to take advantage of your captive audience, so practice by yourself (out loud), too. Hearing the words lets you work out when to pause, where you stumble, and how long the presentation will really take.
3. Have the right amount of visuals
There are all kinds of learners, and as a presenter you need to appeal to all of them. At Inspiration, you can see just how visual learners work, and why it’s important to provide a good amount of graphs, infographics, short videos or memes with your presentation. Plus, it gives you a break from having all eyes on you.
4. Know what you’ll do with your hands
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a clicker or other device to move to the next slide or point out interesting parts of your images. If you don’t plan to have anything in hand, know what you’re going to do with them. Crossing your arms, putting them in pockets or over-gesticulating are all problems. Don’t be afraid to ask for a podium to give you a little barrier (and room to hide your hands).
5. Get plenty of sleep
Poor sleep hygiene for even one night can mess with your presentation skills. It’s okay to take a sleep aid if you’ve taken it before and know how your body responds (if you haven’t taken it before, now isn’t the time to test it out). Avoid screen time two hours before bed, snacking two hours before bed, and take a bath or long hot shower if nerves are giving you sleeplessness.
6. Dress comfortably but well
You don’t want to be the only person in a suit in a room full of people in yoga pants. It’s pretty easy to guess what your audience will be wearing. Match them, but also choose clothes that make you feel like you. If you’re busting out the skirt you’ve only worn once before, it’s not going to feel natural and your discomfort will show.
7. Scan foreheads
It can be disarming to actually make eye contact with your audience. Instead, scan their foreheads and they’ll think your eye contact game is on point. Know your material well enough that you don’t have to read from the screen or cue cards.
Most importantly, remember that it’s just a presentation. Everyone will forget about it soon, including you. Consider it a learning experience and great practice, not a make it or break it moment.