I remember the first time I spoke to 700 people. I was standing backstage, waiting for my turn to go out and pitch some classes I was teaching. As I tried to look calm and collected, I was visualizing myself slipping out one of the side doors. Somehow I managed to walk out on stage to gave my spiel without passing out.
If you’re new to public speaking, I wouldn’t start with 700 people and certainly recommend visualizing something more positive then slipping out the side exit! Here are some tips to put you on the right track.
Start small and invite feedback
Start with a small group. This may mean inviting a couple friends over for coffee and giving your full presentation to them. Ask them to take notes and give you honest feedback.
Over-prepare/ Have extra material
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If you are afraid you’ll run out of time or end up talking too fast, it’s a good idea to have more material than you need. Although it can be frustrating to spend so much time putting together a presentation and not having the time to go over it, it’s much worse to be done with your talk and see 30 minutes left on the clock!
Having lots of examples is one way you can over-prepare. It’s a good idea to give examples to explain your points anyway, but having multiple ones will give you additional material if it looks like you will be ending too early.
Note time markers
One fear is getting through the presentation too quickly, but what if the opposite happens and it seems you’re running out of time? To prevent this from happening, have time markers in your notes. For example, let’s say you are talking for an hour. Mark off three 20 minute sections so you can monitor how you’re doing on time. After each section, you know whether you need to speed up a bit or slow down.
Stop for questions
I generally stop at different points in my presentations to ask for questions. This is especially important if your points build on each other. This gives you a chance to see if the audience is following you and clears up any confusion before you move on.
If you find questions are taking too long or are getting off-topic, it’s perfectly okay to hold questions or re-direct people. And if there’s a very specific question, ask the person to contact you on the after the talk. If you spend a lot of time on a topic that doesn’t interest the audience in general, you could lose them.
Assume the technology won’t work
This sounds like I’m being pessimistic. From experience, I can tell you it’s a great idea to assume the technology on the day of the event will be “broken”. I had to give a presentation once where the projector didn’t work and I had some great graphics that I wasn’t able to show. I panicked slightly, but did my best to explain what was in the images. If you are doing a PowerPoint, make sure you have a printed copy of your slides in case this happens to you.
Even with practice, you won’t necessarily be perfect – you’re still human after all! But following these steps will have you on the right track for giving a good presentation.
Giving Presentations Without Fear