Five tips for great presentations

By Paul Chequer

Affect the audience with everything you do

There are lots of different ways to gain rapport with an audience but perhaps the most effective is to always be asking the question “What am I doing to the audience?’ Making them the primary focus of everything you say is going to mean they are taken on a journey and continually affected not just by what you say but also by how you say it. Think about your objectives for each section of a presentation in terms of the impact on your audience, ‘I want to inspire’ or ‘I want to reassure’ or ‘I want to excite’. This ensures there is a relationship being built between yourself, your content and your audience.

Make your eye contact inclusive

Eye contact is vital when communicating in any situation because it creates a connection. The key is to always be inclusive, no matter what the size of audience they all need to feel that you are talking to them. I like to use the metaphor of a plate spinner at a circus, in order to keep those plates spinning he needs to keep wobbling those sticks and if any one is ignored for too long the plate smashes! If you ignore any member of the audience for too long then they are going to stop listening and disengage. Be direct but don’t stay too long with one person, it will freak them out!

Project confidence physically

You don’t need to feel confident in order to project confidence and in fact just by projecting confidence you will automatically start to feel it too. Audiences are very adept at spotting physical signs of negativity and reluctance and your ability to be composed, to find stillness and to feel free with gesture are all signs that you are confident. A smile is always useful too!

Find variation in your voice

As an actor you spend a lot of time warming the voice and learning how to make sure it is free to work at its full potential. Finding variation in tone is going to help you sound more interesting and confident. Changing the pace at which you talk will help guide an audience through the bits you want them to remember. Think about where to add emphasis to convey the meaning you want. Always ensure there is a good energy in your voice – I often say imagine that every word you speak needs to land at head height on the wall at the back of the room. Also try and eradicate those ers and ums – we don’t need to hear you think!

Breath / Breath / Breath

That’s three breaths not just because it’s important but also because it has three elements. Firstly, it powers the voice so a good amount of breath is needed, particularly in a larger space. Secondly, it signifies to an audience how you feel about being in front of them. So a high, tight breath will indicate nerves whereas a low, calm breath will indicate confidence. Finally, by breathing more and in a relaxed way you gain composure and confidence, you give yourself time to think and space for the audience to digest what you have said. It’s not complicated, just breath more than you think you need to.

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This article draws on content from the ISOC courses Advanced Public Speaking and Presentation Skills (2 days) and Presentation Training and Public Speaking (2 days)

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