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The Basics of Presenting

Pitch, poise and passion

Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

I had to audition to be part of a play when I was 10. Everyone had to do it, whether they liked it or not. I did my best, trying to remember my lines but also shaking slightly. At the end of it, I started sobbing to my teacher that I only wanted a small part because I’d be too nervous otherwise. She told me not to worry, and gave me a good sized part with a few scenes.

Fast forward through to secondary school. A few more plays, speeches and presentations, all back in the day when you didn’t have a PowerPoint, pdf or Prezi to support you, just an OHT if you were lucky.

Then came university and the world of work today, where almost everyone has resorted to having a screen. Just like the internet, something that should be everyone’s friend and encourages growth, has turned into a crutch.

Look at the audience, not the screen behind you

The number one mistake we see the presenters make is that they stare at the screen. The presentation they’re meant to be sharing, because the one they are watching. Instead of being active in delivery, they become passive and look at something they’ve made, almost becoming part of the audience.

Don’t make your visual presentation first, make it last. It’s almost like your executive summary if you’ve ever done one of them. Put your speech together first, and then whittle that down to the time limit in hand. Make some small cue cards you can hold and refer to if you need a prompt, or just learn it off by heart.

Once this is done, your presentation can share those key facts, share visuals and provide a bit of support in delivering your message. You can point at it, but you don’t need to watch or read from it.

Learn to project your voice or use a mic

Hopefully you’ll know the room you’ll be addressing, and can work out whether you need some sound support. Yet if that support isn’t there, you’ll have to speak loudly without shouting, making it even more important that you’re facing the audience and not the screen.

You can practise this in your own time too. Set up your mobile phone to record and start delivering your presentation, moving back two steps every five seconds. Listen back to it and you’ll see how far you can project your voice.

There are many tutorials on how to make your voice stronger and louder, and for me the key is having my lungs full of air. Imagine, when we breathe we don’t make much noise, yet when we sigh, we want people to hear us. Talking is like breathing, and projecting is like sighing, but both with our voice in use.

Make sure you have a glass of water too, as it’s tiring for your voice and generally too. After presenting at any kind of event, I need a good rest after.

Speak with passion

If you turn up with a fully rehearsed speech where you know every line, then you’ve got to be careful not to deliver it like a robot. Likewise, if you’re presenting something that’s fairly new to you, then you’ve got to make up what you don’t know with passion.

The audience want to be engaged, why else would they have come? Since you’re facing them and not the screen, and speaking at a volume that everyone can hear, it’s time to turn up the charm offensive and connect.

This could be through a bit of humour, some storytelling, a wow factor or just by showing how ‘into’ it you are and suck them into your world. This is something that can be harder to develop, as it takes your personality plus a bit of acting sometimes. However, as with everything, watching people you think are good at it, taking on their best traits and practising them before the day of the presentation will put you in the right mindset.

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