Presentations

by Steve Roche

Common questions

  1. Why is presenting important for my career?
  2. What’s the best way to structure a presentation?
  3. How can I make my presentations more interesting and appealing?
  4. What can I do about feeling so nervous?
  5. What can I do if I have to make an impromptu presentation?
  6. Are good presenters born or made?
  7. What’s a good joke to begin my presentation with?

 

1. Why is presenting important for my career?

Creating a reputation as an excellent speaker will raise your visibility and provide you with a long-term career asset.

Making presentations is a skill increasingly required as you gain seniority. Assumptions about a manager are often based on their performance in this area.

Confidence inevitably increases as you practise and develop your skills. The more you know what you are doing, the better you feel about it. You feel better about yourself, too. Presenting offers a great opportunity to build self-esteem: good presenters are liked.

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2. What’s the best way to structure a presentation?

Just as a good story has a beginning, middle and end, your presentation needs an introduction, body and conclusion.

Your introduction explains who you are, why you are here and what’s in it for your audience. The body contains your main points – the facts, arguments, information, examples and so on that you need to make your case. The conclusion should summarise the talk, repeat the main messages, and tell them what happens next.

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3. How can I make my presentations more interesting and appealing?

One of the best ways is to make sure that they meet the needs of your audience. Be sure to establish rapport with the audience in your opening, and keep monitoring their reactions so as to maintain the relationship.

All audiences want to be entertained. Choose visual aids carefully, asking yourself to what extent they will support the audience’s understanding and enjoyment. If you use computer-generated slides, keep them simple and uncluttered, and make them visually attractive.

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4. What can I do about feeling so nervous?

It’s not just you! Everyone feels nervous to a greater or lesser extent. The more experience you gain, the more you learn to use the nerves to your advantage, rather than allowing them to get in the way.

Begin by accepting that feelings such as nervousness or anxiety are in fact a necessary part of getting into the performance state, which is just what you need. Prepare thoroughly, practise and get warmed up beforehand. Then breathe, smile and go for it – it will get easier.

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5. What can I do if I have to make an impromptu presentation?

Don’t panic; it can be done. It’s much easier once you understand the structure of a presentation and have learned a few techniques. Focus on the objective – what’s the main point you need to get across? Think about the ‘Six Qs’ (who, what, when, where, why and how).

Think of the audience – what do they need to hear? Restrict yourself to a few main points and decide what message you want to end with.

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6. Are good presenters born or made?

As with many other abilities, some people seem to come into the world with a natural talent for presenting. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t catch up. Think of all the things you couldn’t do when you were born that you can do now. Presenting is definitely a learnable skill set.

Perhaps the greatest skill is simply to be yourself. Think of charismatic speakers you admire – people listen to them not because they follow any formal rules of presenting, but because they grab attention with their passion and enthusiasm.

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7. What’s a good joke to begin my presentation with?

There can never be one answer to this question because so much depends on the context. Certainly there are many popular opening lines that work well, which you can discover by listening to other speakers.

Don’t start with a joke unless you are sure that it will actually make people laugh, that it suits your personality and that it makes a helpful point. Even more important, be sure it will not offend anyone. For most people, a personal story or anecdote that connects you to the audience and their interests is much better than a joke.

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