I had the pleasure of offering a presentation to a class of business students on Tuesday. We reviewed a number of important writing tips as well as presentation skills. I always enjoy speaking to groups. Presentations allow me to educate an audience, enhance my presentation skills, and even learn from the event. Each presentation you give is unique. This one offered reminders of certain presentation principles, which I’d like to share with you.
Tips for a successful presentation
1. Adjust your presentation style to fit class size. I was expecting six students, which would’ve been small anyway. (The classroom was standard size.) Instead, only three attended. All sat in the back row. I used PowerPoint for one presentation and the whiteboard for the other. A tiny group like this forced me to approach and speak from just a few feet away.
While rehearsing and visualizing your presentation, you might picture a full (or nearly full) room. Be prepared for something less. Don’t act shocked if only a handful of audience members arrive. Adjust your presentation style accordingly.
A related note: If your audience is small and spread out, ask them to cluster closer together. Normally a friendly request will work, but don’t be afraid to use some gentle prodding. As presenter, it is your responsibility to ensure your presentation runs well. Sometimes you need to project a little authority.
This process may require to you reposition your notes/script, digital recorder, and any other tools you brought with you. Do that as soon as possible to minimize disruption to your presentation.
2. Involve all attendees in discussion. Some audience members are more enthusiastic than others. They will respond to your questions and offer comments. Others sit quietly. Engage all audience members during your presentation. They want to and need to feel a part of the group. Follow your questions with: “I’ve heard from A, B and C. Now let’s hear from the others. How do you feel about this, X?”
3. Test your equipment just prior to presentation. I had the luxury of testing the computer and projector the night before. Most often, you’ll be setting up just moments before your presentation. Always arrive at least 15 minutes early you can prepare properly.
4. Always face the audience when speaking. Too often I have seen presenters talk while writing on the board or facing the screen. Train yourself to speak only when you are facing the audience. It comes naturally for me now, but it took some practice.
5. Maintain your enthusiasm and energy. It’s natural to feel a bit dejected if your audience isn’t as large or enthusiastic as you hoped. Don’t show it. Exude energy and excitement throughout your presentation.
Hosting a successful presentation is not difficult. It just requires knowing and applying some basic principles, of which I offer a handful here. Adhere to them, and you are sure to deliver an effective presentation every time.
For related reading, see “How to give a presentation when disaster strikes” and “Eliminate filler words for a more effective presentation.”