Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was known for giving extraordinarily memorable speeches about his products – seemingly without effort. Steve was not a natural speaker, but he captivated audiences with his confidence and flair. His secret? He worked really hard to ensure that his presentations were flawless: scripting and practising what he was going to say down to the very last word.
Now, you may not have the hours (or inclination) to script every word you’re going to say in your presentation like Steve Jobs did. However, adequate preparation does hold the key to success.
Here are some key points to bear in mind in the planning stages of your presentation:
1. Know your topic thoroughly
If there are obvious gaps in your knowledge, these will quickly become apparent to your audience when they start asking questions. Make sure you take the time to read about your chosen topic, browse the internet and jot down any relevant notes.
2. Always have a main point in mind – then repeat it
It can be hard for the human mind to absorb lots of new information in one sitting, so make sure you know what the main purpose of your presentation is and what you’d like your audience to take from it. Repeat any key points several times throughout your presentation to help your audience remember.
3. Make your slides image-heavy
If you overload your slides with words, you’ll find your audience will spend time trying to read these rather than focusing on what you’re trying to say. If you can stick to images on your slides with a few key bullet points, you’ll be able to hold the attention of your audience much better.
4. Test technology beforehand
Technology is a great asset when it comes to giving presentations and using Powerpoint can enhance the experience for your audience. But technology can sometimes let us down! Half an hour before the presentation starts, make sure that you’ve tested your laptop/slides to make sure they all work.
5. Use open and confident body language
Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, straight posture, and your arms and legs uncrossed will show the audience that you feel confident (even if you feel a bit nervous!). This power stance will also help command their attention as it says, “You should listen to me, I have something important to say.”
6. Give plenty of eye contact
Giving eye contact around the room to your audience is also another key way you can make them believe you are a confident speaker. Do not eyeball one person, instead try to move your gaze gradually around the room as your speak. This will help everyone feel equally involved in your presentation.
7. Ask people to save questions for the end
Rather than having to stop every few minutes to answer a question, ask your audience at the start of your presentation to save questions for the end. Although some speakers don’t mind being interrupted, if you’re really new to giving presentations this could disrupt your ‘flow’ and make it more difficult to pick up your train of thought again.
8. Don’t panic if you don’t know the answer
Sometimes, no matter how much research you’ve done or how well you know a topic – you may get asked a question that you don’t know the answer to. To tackle this, prepare a filler phrase such as “That’s a really good question, I’ve never been asked that before. Let me look into it and I’ll come back to you on that.” Your audience will appreciate your sincerity and it will save your blushes.
If you’re ready to take your career to the next level, why not consider taking a team leading or management course?