Let’s face it: delivering any talk is often a hair-raising experience. Even many of the most experienced speakers admit that keeping cool in front of an expectant audience doesn’t always come automatically. Yet the quality of your delivery very definitely matters. A lot. If you’re flabby or disorganized, or if you just don’t manage to be compelling in what you say, your credibility is going to suffer. Your self-confidence is going to suffer some dents, too.
Fortunately, the reverse is also true: if your delivery is smooth, well-thought-out and compelling, you boost your credibility with your audience – and your self-confidence, too.
So how do you set yourself up for that kind of success? Let’s make a fast review of the essentials.
From the outset, it’s imperative to emphasize that confidence is the most important ingredient in presentation success. Of course the confidence has to be warranted – warranted by the fact that you really do know what you’re talking about, and that you’ve put together a polished, well-practiced presentation. When you do, your confidence will be intrinsic. You won’t just believe that you’re going to engage and impress that audience; you know it. You have certainty that when you step up on that stage, you’ll capture the attention of your audience and coherently, convincingly argue your points. Once again, though, you only attain that kind of certainty with proper practice.
On capturing audience attention
Here’s a fact that’s as hopeful and encouraging as it is true: in almost any presentation, your audience wants you to succeed. That’s right. They want you to do a great job, thoroughly engage their attention, and tell them things they’ll remember and be happy to act upon. You’re not facing a skeptical, even hostile jury. They’re are eager to be inspired, educated, motivated, or convinced. It’s up to you to capitalize on all that good will and give them what they’re hoping for. How you do that should be guided by two factors: the topic at hand, and the nature of the audience. Once you’re sure of those two points, bring into play one of the following approaches to captivate them: tell a captivating story, start with a rhetoric question, laugh (appropriately), give a shocking statistic or headline, or use a visual aid. Do it well, and the audience is happily yours.
On introducing the main idea or argument
Once you’ve captured your audience’s attention, introduce your main idea. Don’t just hint at it or beat around the bush – get to the point and be clear about it. That includes presenting it in such a way that it’s clear you’re certain of the truth and importance (importance to the audience) of what you are saying. Deliver it that way and they will accept your point, and be eager for more.
On explaining your idea and driving the point home
Once you’ve successfully introduced your main idea, expand upon it. Back it up with scientific research findings, survey results, visual evidence and so on. Whatever you say, do and show in support of your main premise, be careful not to go off message, break the presentation’s smooth and logical flow, or introduce anything confusing or difficult to comprehend. One more thing: give your most important supportive elements first – research has established that an audience pays its most and best attention early on.
End by retelling. Reiterate your major message, recap your supporting information – but this time, be brief. In a nutshell, a presentation should mirror an investor pitch: it should be short, coherent, and well packaged.
In the end, preparation is everything. A presentation is not a freestyle event. Rehearse, research, and rehearse some more until you’re confident you’re going to hit the bull’s eye. Above all, deliver the presentation genuinely – with sincerity, as something you believe in, and as yourself. And always remember that your presentation isn’t about you, but about your important, useful and compelling message.
All the best!
About the Author
Remy Langelier is a PowerPoint expert at SlidePro, the PowerPoint agency from Paris, France. He helps companies tell great stories and impact their audiences with clear and memorable presentations.