BY KATE LARSON
Public speaking is a skill that’s valued by employers the world over, which is why many courses at university include presentations as part of their assessment criteria.
While some might assume presenting in front of your classmates is easier than a room of strangers, in many cases, it’s not. To make sure you’ve got the confidence to put your best foot forward, we’ve compiled a list of ten essential presentations dos and don’ts.
Even the most confident of public speakers should never wing a presentation. Rehearsing will make you feel more comfortable with what you’re presenting, which will, in turn, stop you from freezing in front of your classmates.
Human brains process images 60,000 times faster than text. Therefore, you should always try to present your findings in an aesthetically-pleasing presentation that visualizes numerical data into charts. If design isn’t your thing, try using a free online presentation maker such as Flipsnack. Presentation tools such as these allow you to add sound, images, video, and other media to slides using a simple click and drop format.
Reduce the Word Count
Each slide you create should focus on communicating one point. The written content on that slide should support what you’re about to expand on orally. Although there isn’t a limit on how many words you should use per slide, a good rule of thumb is that it shouldn’t take longer than ten seconds to read. Keeping to this rule will allow your classmates the time to take in the information before you begin talking. It will also give you a brief moment to compose yourself between slides.
Get Your Classmates Involved
One easy way to capture the attention of your classmates (and teacher) is to ask them questions during your presentation. These questions can be broken down into two main categories: rhetorical and interactive.
Rhetorical questions aren’t designed to elicit a verbal response from a listener but will keep them engaged in what you’re telling them. Some examples include:
“How many times have you thought about…?”
“How many of you have gone…?”
Interactive questions, one the other hand, encourage verbal participation from an audience. They should, however, be close-ended. Otherwise, you may find yourself listening to an array of responses, or, worst of all, none at all. Some examples include:
“Out of these options, which is your favorite?”
“By a show of hands, how many of you agree with this opinion?
Keep Eye Contact
Eye contact is what connects you to your listeners. It creates the impression that you’re confident in what you’re presenting. If you’re not looking at your audience, they’re not looking at you. When that happens, it’s easy for their concentration to drift.
Speak Too Quickly
Nerves have a profound effect on the speed in which we talk. Professor Raymond H. Hull explained in his 2017 book, The Art of Presenting: Your Competitive Edge, how fast talkers can reach speeds that exceed the brain’s natural ability to understand what is being said without concerted effort. Although there isn’t an overnight cure to speaking too quickly, recording yourself and listening back is a good way of comprehending just how easy it’s for listeners to take in what you’re saying.
Forget Your Personality
Don’t worry if you’re not naturally confident or charismatic. These aren’t necessarily prerequisites for a good presentation. What you do need to be, however, is relatable and honest. Your audience needs to feel a human element in your presentation so that they feel a connection with you, and consequently, your presentation.
Read Your Slides Aloud
This follows on from the last point. Simply reading aloud what is written on your slides points to a lack of preparation. Worst yet, it’s boring. Using physical cue cards to jot down the important pieces of information to convey for each slide is the easiest way to overcome this problem. Write small hints that will help to jog your memory when presenting. Remember, you shouldn’t just repeat what is already on your slide; you need to expand on it.
Try to Be Funny
Humor that reads well on paper doesn’t always translate well to speech. Unfortunately, a joke that lands flat on its face could see your confidence plummet and affect the rest of your presentation. For those reasons alone, it’s best to leave humor out of your presentations until you become more confident in public speaking.
Forget to Prepare for Questions
Q&A sessions are common at the end of a presentation. If your lecturer has asked you to prepare for this, try to envisage the types of questions you may be asked and prepare some appropriate responses.
Kate Larson is a college student and aspiring blogger, who has a strong interest in the environment and personal well-being. She enjoys travelling and reading, as well as writing novels.