Delivery Tips: fix your on-stage performance
Your presentation is ready to rock & roll. Now, you must deliver it. All this also boils down to being prepared. Please find below a few tips to help you deliver your presentation successfully. Give them conscious thought to ensure that you can go and make your show a great one.
Get some rest the night before
It may be glaringly obvious, but make sure that you have rested sufficiently before giving your presentation. Don't go to that party the night before (but do go to the 'I've landed a new client!'-party afterwards!). So catch an early sleep. And, if you can have any influence on the issue, plan your presentation at a time of day when your bio-rhythm is most active. It will greatly assist you.
Many presenters think (by mistake) that it is information transfer that happens between an audience and a speaker. Information transfer plays only a minor part. It is emotional transfer that counts. Do you truly believe in what you are telling them? Because if you do, and thus speak passionately about it, your audience will ‘feel’ this on a very basic human level. Many mediocre presentations have been held and became still a smashing success because the presenter was able to convey his message with passion. Remember, your presentation is, in the end, just wallpaper. YOU are the one they’re coming to see. So, show your passion!
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
What more can be said? If anything will help you to deliver your message, it is in rehearsing extensively. It will uproot flaws in your storyline, flaws in your slides, flaws that will –only- show when you actually give the presentation. Further, by listening to yourself talking, you will effectively cement the argumentation in your own mind. Also, have colleagues sit in and comment. Yes, it may feel awkward at first, and maybe even painful, but nothing will boost your confidence more than knowing things run smoothly as intended and knowing what you are going to say. Know it by heart.
Test it, and bring a back-up
Be at the venue with ample time to test whether the technology works as intended. How often have you seen a presenter fumble apologetically with his gear because it somehow does not work? It looks unprofessional, and it is unprofessional. Also, bring your presentation on multiple media, so next to the one living in your laptop, bring one on a CD and on a USB-stick. Yes, comes that day for sure that you will be grateful that you did.
First impressions count. Really. The audience wants to like you, and will give you a few minutes to establish rapport with them. Don’t miss this opportunity. Most presenters fail, because they ramble on for too long about insignificant things like personal history and such. And they do so, just to get over that initial anxiety that all people feel when they must stand up and face the crowd. So, be confident, step up and start strong.
Keep it short
Humans have short attention spans. On average, a person can stay on high alert for about 45 minutes. And the fact that you sit down passively and listen to a speaker does not help in keeping this high energy state for too long. Audience attention is greatest at the opening & closing stages of your presentation. So, deliver your presentation in a timely fashion. You will make your audience very happy when you are able to deliver your presentation in 25 minutes where you said you would need 30. It will make you look focussed, prepared and professional.
A simple but vital thing to do is to tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you’ve just told them. Telling them what you will tell them primes the audiences mind, because it puts a frame of reference in place. People will know what to expect in advance and will subliminally prepare themselves to receive that information. Then, obviously, tell them what you want to tell them, in the same fashion as you told them you would tell them. Finally, recap for them by telling them what you’ve just told them.
Don’t stay behind that table or podium, walk around! Standing behind a table is just you unconsciously trying to put distance between yourself and your audience due to anxiety. And that’s exactly how your audience will unconsciously feel it. So, walk around and engage the audience. It will make you feel (and look) so much more relaxed.
Make eye contact, and smile
Try looking at individual persons, and not just scan the group. Establish eye contact, and smile when you do: a smile is still a very, very powerful thing. Also, don’t look at just one person during the whole presentation. He or she will feel very awkward about it, and the rest of the audience will feel left out. And never, ever turn your back on the audience, for you are sure to lose them permanently. Since you’re using a laptop, if you need to refresh yourself on what’s on the wall behind you (and becoming prepared and having rehearsed, you hardly will need to), just briefly glance at the screen. And, for heaven's sake, please understand that turning your back on the audience and just -read- to them what's displayed on-screen is, well, a mortal sin.
Use a remote
If you do walk around, then a remote control device to advance your slides is an absolute must. Otherwise, you must walk back to your laptop every time you need to advance a slide and briefly focus on it to find the right key to press. Each and every time you do this, you will 'break' the connection you have with your adience. This is highly undesirable, and moreover, it will make you look unprepared. With a remote, you can stay totally audience-focussed all of the time and look very professional in doing so. So, spend that €50.
The B & W - keys are your friends
If you press the ‘B’-key while your PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentation is running, the screen will turn black. This is very useful if you need to move off-topic for a while. With the screen black, all attention can be focussed on you, where it should be. The ‘W’-key does exactly the opposite, it turns the screen white. Both keys are toggles, pressing them again resumes the presentation exactly where you left off.
Keep the lights on
Most modern projectors are bright enough for you to strike a good balance between a bright screen image and the room’s ambient light. Many presenters succumb to the temptation to turn the lights off because it will make the slides look extra good. Turning the lights off induces sleep however, and further puts all the focus on the screen. The attention should be on you in stead, and for this the audience must be able to see you clearly. You may even consider using a TV in stead of a screen when presenting for small groups. This will ensure that you can keep most if not all of the lights on.
Grace, at all times
At all times, you must remain gracious, professional and courteous. Thank them for the opportunity to speak with them and for their time invested in you. Thank audience members for posing a question. And even if someone is being difficult, stay firm and remain a gentleman or woman at all times. Deal with them courteously, and you will see that in a while, someone from the audience will step in for you and tell the other to abstain. Stay cool, relaxed, in control and professional. It is your reputation that’s on the line.