Giving an Effective Presentation
Use anxiety to your advantage.
The best thing you can do is channel any anxiety into enthusiasm. You wouldn’t spend so much time on this topic if you didn’t care about it, so show that to your audience. You can also convince your audience that you’re confident, even if you don’t feel it. Do this by pulling your shoulders back and lifting your chin slightly above level. Search out encouraging faces and make eye contact with people who are smiling or nodding at you.
Speak in a conversational tone.
Talk almost as if you are having a conversation with a friend—slow down your speech, vary your speech patterns, speak loud and clear, and be a little laid back. This does not mean, however, that you should use slang or other inappropriate language. Keep it professional, but relaxed.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
The most effective tool you have for a successful presentation is practice. You’ve probably heard this a lot, and that’s because it’s true. The more you practice, the more knowledgeable, confident, and prepared you will be.
What to Wear
When you come to present, you should be wearing “business professional” attire.
This means that your appearance should be clean and well-kept and your clothes wrinkle-free and well-fitting. Be sure that you smell nice, but not strongly of perfume or cologne. Your shoes should be dress shoes, not flip-flops, sandals, or tennis shoes (don’t show your toes). Typically, business professional attire will include a suit and tie, pant suit, or a dress with a blazer or jacket.
Be careful when choosing your outfit that you will be comfortable. You should not need to adjust hemlines during your session, and your shoes should cause no pain.
Your goal with business professional attire is to be comfortable, but not casual. This style of dress will impress your audience, as well as help you to feel confident.
Watch Your Body Language
Although the material of your presentation is important, your body language can tell your audience an entirely different story. Express confidence, friendliness, and professionalism by using the following techniques:
- Be friendly. Make eye contact and smile.
- Avoid playing with your hands or touching your hair. This will make you appear anxious.
- Don’t chew gum during a presentation. If you need to freshen your breath, be sure to spit out gum prior to presenting, or grab a breath mint and use it quickly.
- Don’t rock back and forth on your feet or shift your weight between your feet.
- Rest your arms comfortably at your sides. Don’t stand with your arms folded or partially crossed. Do not put your hands in your pockets.
- Use your hands as you talk. This will prevent you from folding your arms or putting your hands in your pockets, but if you gesticulate as you talk, you keep your stance open as well as engage your audience.
- Lean forward slightly when your audience asks a question or makes a comment, and nod to show your interest. Wait a brief moment after they finish speaking to ensure that you do not interrupt and that they have said everything they wish to say.
- If you are using note cards, practice with them often so you aren’t tempted to fiddle with them when you get nervous.