"Mam, I am so nervous ! I have prepared my presentation and worked hard on the tips given by you. But still I am getting butterflies in my stomach... " .
No, no, don't be under the illusion that this is a naive , young junior person. The words were uttered by a 8 year experienced manager, who had given several presentations in office. This time, the audience was different. He was amongst a few others , assigned to present to the Board of Directors about his new idea for business incubation.
I tried to calm him. "What is bothering you ? Try to be explicit ".
He thought for a minute and said "Two things - How can I get the Board to listen to me ? How can I keep their attention ? "
Whoever you are , all of us know that we feel flutters when we have to take the centre stage for presentation. And the manager had articulated quite explicitly . These are the key things which is needed for a successful presentation. Keeping the attention of the audience and getting them to listen to you.
I had written about the importance of the Content. You can read the post here : 7 Tips for Managing Content of the PPT .
In this post, I am going to talk about another very important aspect of a good presentation : " Connect ".
- Engagement vs. Attention : In schools of colleges , the teacher often says - Pay attention. But in presentations, if cannot say so. In fact , I always prefer engagement over attention. My words should "engage" the audience. It should evoke curiosity. It should build a rapport. A few ways to do this in the initial slides of the presentation:
- Pose a question to the audience - either to an individual or to the entire group
- Ask the audience to imagine
- Use startling facts
- Voice Modulation : To some people it comes naturally and for others this needs lots of practice. Your voice should not be monotonic. Avoid extremes in pitch. Your voice is a very powerful instrument for connecting with the audience. They will laugh and cry with you if you can attain mastery of your voice.
- The Power of the Pause : I have seen many people just breeze through the slides, in a monotone without pauses. Even if the content of the presentation is very good, this will not create an impact. They fear that if they pause, the audience will lose interest . Or they just want to get it over with. The Pause is very powerful. If you can use a lag of 1 or 2 seconds before telling something which is crucial for the presentation, it will create a greater impact.
- Eye Contact : If the audience is small, it is easy to keep eye contact with them . You just have to give a sweeping glance from left to right and then from right to left after a couple of slides. In case you are on a podium, on the stage, with lights on you , then you should fix up a point in the air, just in the middle of the hall and deliver your presentation.
- Make it a conversation : If your presentation is not interactive, it is very difficult to connect and engage the audience. If appropriate, use humour. You have to look at the body language - a smile, a snigger, twitching of hands will give away the trouble makers, if any. There might be awkward questions from them . Just don't lose your temper. You can thank them for their input and carry on or you can utilize their point to modify the direction of your talk. Do it calmly and intelligently.
- Storytelling : This is one of the most powerful tools to connect with the audience. Use powerful analogies, anecdotes and stories to make your presentation richer. This will get their attention and peak their interest. You should create an atmosphere where the people will feel the desire to take action.
- Smile : I know it is not easy to smile when you are on the stage. But do it anyways. Smiling will loosen you up. Be free and fluid in your movements but avoid aimless movement. Watch out for mannerisms like tapping, swaying etc.
All these are easier said than done.
Practice is the key and that will take you towards perfection. If you are nervous, rehearse in front of the mirror or in front of your friend or family and ask for feedback.
Breathe deeply. Practice mentally.
And remember ... a bit of fear is normal , as well as good for delivering a great presentation !