Do you get nervous and clammy when you have to speak in front of a group? Or maybe you are fairly confident in front of a crowd but want to take your presentation skills to the next level? Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up during my time at Cox School of Business:
- Pick a topic that you actually enjoy!
Sometimes presentation topics are assigned to you, and you just have to work with what you’ve got. But when you have the opportunity to choose your own topic, pick something that actually interests you! If you can relate personal anecdotes to the topic, both you and the audience will enjoy the presentation more!
- Know your stuff – DON’T READ!
“Knowing your stuff” means deeply understanding the topic, memorizing key terms and facts, and preparing yourself for questions that the audience may ask after your presentation. Nothing annoys teachers more than when you read directly off of a notecard or Power Point (not to mention how boring this makes the presentation for your audience)! How do you achieve this masterful sort of presentation? Practice ahead of time until you get it right!
- Know your audience!
If you’re presenting to a small school club, it may be completely acceptable to use a fun presentation, full of memes and jokes to make your audience laugh. However, if you are presenting to your super-strict teacher, this probably isn’t a winning game plan. Ask your teacher for his or her specific guidelines, including how long the presentation needs last, whether or not you can refer to your notes, and how much information is required!
- Don’t let Power Point overpower you!
Power points are meant to be a visual aid for your presentation, not present for you. Refer to your PowerPoint minimally, and make sure you face the crowd when you speak. As a general rule, your Power Point should include 3-6 bullet points per slide, not paragraphs. Use simple and clear font, easy-to-read colors, and include pictures or clip art that relates to the information on each slide. For examples of formal business Power Point templates, visit this SMU Cox page.
- Make sure your group members know what’s going on!
If you’re presenting with a group, everyone should have access to the Power Point ahead of time to practice. Plan out which group member will speak over each topic, and prepare for the first speaker to introduce everyone else. To make your group presentation smooth during the real-deal, it’s very important that you practice the entire presentation together at least once!
- Even if you’re terrified, be a great actor!
If you masterfully control the symptoms of your nervousness, no one will ever know that you’re freaking out on the inside! How do you accomplish this? Avoid holding loose papers that make hand trembling more apparent, stand confidently (without swaying, fidgeting, or putting your hands in your pocket), speak in a loud and clear voice, and make eye contact with your audience. Make your presentation interactive whenever possible. For example, when you introduce new topics, feel free to ask audience members for their opinions!
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