Lindsay Richels Shares Tips on How to Ace Your Next Presentation

REMEMBER YOU’RE THE EXPERT

So you have been asked to give a presentation.  First of all congratulations!  It is an honour to be able to share your thoughts, research, and expertise with others.  Even if it is an “assignment” or something that is required for school I encourage you to approach this as a great opportunity to really showcase your knowledge.  If you are one of those people who hates public speaking and far too often find yourself extremely anxious in front of people, consider this an opportunity to improve upon your skills and face your fears. 

UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE

Anytime you are asked to give a presentation you should consider the following: who are you presenting to? What is the format? How long will you speak? What is your topic?  Once you have nailed down the basics of what your presentation is supposed to look like you can get into the content and work on delivery.  Many times I see people trying to jam 30-minute presentations into 10 minutes, present material that is way above the knowledge of the audience or fail to use technology in a helpful way.

Really understanding your audience can assist you tremendously when it comes to preparation, content, and delivery.  Sometimes creating a presentation can be difficult if you are presenting to a wide range of people with varying levels of education or expertise in a given area.  For example, I recently gave a presentation on diabetes and audience members were from multiple departments in the hospital.  Do I focus on food preparation for dietary? Do I focus on drug management for pharmacy? Do I focus on direct patient care for nurses?  Do I discuss the new cut-offs for diagnosing diabetes for the physicians? Sometimes when a presentation is for that wide array of people you have to take a step back and consider, “If this audience could leave with one thing today what would I have liked them to hear?”  By knowing the ultimate goal of your presentation it is easier to cut out the minutiae and focus on overarching themes that can be beneficial across disciplines.  Leave time at the end for questions so that if someone does want to know more technical or specific information pertaining to their level of practice they are able to ask at that time.

KNOW HOW MUCH TIME YOU HAVE

Know how long you have to present and stay on time!  Although you may think what you are saying is the most important topic/thing that everyone should know about you have been given an allotment of time for a reason.  Respect the time you are given and the time of your audience members.  When you go over your allotted time people get fidgety, start thinking about where they need to be next and usually quit listening to what you are saying.  The best way to stay on track – practice!  Doing a run through of your presentation lets you know for certain if you will stay within your allotted time.

USE TECHNOLOGY WISELY

Technology can enhance presentations and make them more engaging and interactive.  Technology can also tank an entire presentation if “something” doesn’t go right.  Sending your slides or platform for your presentation to the place where you are presenting prior to the big day is important.  Burning through minutes of your precious presentation time trying to get your presentation to work can definitely ramp up stress and put you behind.  You should also consider what if your presentation doesn’t work and it’s just you up there, how will you deliver your presentation.  Sometimes having a print out of your slides or a copy easily accessible on your cell phone is needed if you don’t have every detail of your presentation memorized. Having a hard copy of your presentation with you should IT Armageddon occur would allow you to still deliver a verbal presentation. 

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

If you are new to public speaking or want to get better at your delivery have someone watch you practice giving your presentation.  Ask someone who will give you honest feedback or someone who has experience giving presentations.  It is important to know if you have any distracting mannerisms, use filler words or sounds “like, umm, ya know” and so on.  Are you easy to hear, are your thoughts easy to follow, and are the transitions between topics smooth?  We frequently use filler words or get fidgety when we are nervous and may not even realize we are distracting in our presentation delivery.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

It is presentation day and you are ready to go!  Make sure you wear something comfortable and appropriate for your audience.  Looking good/feeling good is important when you are standing in front of a group of people.  Try on your clothes a few days before your presentation and even practice your presentation in the outfit you plan to wear (including shoes).  Make sure they fit well, are clean, and you can move about easily.  Tugging on clothes that are too tight, or sweating out an entire dress shirt because you are nervous can be distracting and also ramp up anxiety while on stage. 

Lastly, get pumped up! Nothing is worse than listening to someone who isn’t enthusiastic about what they are presenting.  I’m not saying everyone needs to give a Tony Robbins-like presentation but showing interest in your topic (or lack thereof) is conveyed quickly to an audience.  Prior to giving a presentation I cannot help but think about the scene from The Office where Jim and Dwight have to go on a sales call together.  Dwight asks Jim to “leave the keys” and Jim replies, “You still do that thing?”  Dwight then proceeds to play air guitar and punch the back of the seat listening to Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart.”  Now maybe Motley Crue isn’t your go-to pump up song but being passionate or excited about what you are presenting definitely helps engage an audience.

LINDSAY’S FINAL TAKE

There is no cookie cutter way to deliver an “excellent” presentation.  Great presenters can change their style to meet the needs of their audiences and play to their individual strengths as a presenter.  If you are one of those people who hates public speaking or feels awkward while presenting the best way to get better is to keep giving presentations.  It is awkward, and stressful, and even at times embarrassing but the only way to get better is to continue to practice.  Deep breath, you got this!