For many folks public speaking and presenting is one of their worst fears. There’s just something about standing up all alone in front of people and having the spotlight on them that makes some people run for the hills. Conversely, there are some fortunate ones who love and embrace attention. What’s important to remember though is that loving the spotlight does mean someone is a good presenter and a shy person is not a disadvantage as a presenter either. Learning to become a better presenter isn’t hard. In fact, the hard part is just remembering what to do next time it’s our turn.
A problem some presenters run into is “over speaking”. This is a particular problem for confident speakers. You may have seen it before in a presentation. A presenter who is clearly confident with public speaking and just gets into too much detail. What is worse is some speak in tangents. That skittish way of presenting on the face of it can look good, but it’s frustrating for people trying to absorb the information. The lack of focus drowns out their message and the presentation lacks substance.
To combat this, try to start by asking the audience what it is they want to know, as opposed to simply deciding yourself on what they need to know. Let the focus of your discussion be dictated by your audience and not only will you be more focused in your presentation, but more informative too.
Finally, having some humour makes any presentation better. Humour, primarily, is the best way you can keep someone’s (or a group’s) attention. Being sporadic and measured with your infusion of humour in a presentation makes the dish you present much more palatable. For visual presentations, let images and (appropriate) memes help infuse humour. This is great if you aren’t a particularly funny person.
Authenticity is another crucial quality to have when you present to people. Presentations in a professional setting are not performance art. You need to be true to yourself and “read the room”. If you totally switch gears for a presentation and appear alien to those you work with, your message will get lost because everyone will be confused by what they saw and heard. Leave your acting abilities for role-playing activities on the next corporate retreat.
Being self-deprecating is a great way of being humorous and connecting on a more personal level with the audience. It chips away at the authoritative aura an audience may feel towards a presenter and the humour maintains attention. Of course, moderation goes a long way with humour in presentations. You don’t want to be the next Michael Scott from the TV show The Office!
This article was based on an episode of The Simplifying Entrepreneurship Podcast with Jenny Locklin. You can watch my full interview with her below: