5 steps to an engaging presentation

Young man presenting a research project.

Image  by Westminster College, Fulton MO.  CC BY-SA

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Are you afraid of public speaking?

In Canada, presentations will be part of your academic or professional life. Presentation skills are so important here that they are taught at an early age.

Follow these tips to make a great presentation:

Prepare and focus on what is important

  1. Stop worrying.
  2. Think about what you need to accomplish. The content of your presentation is your priority. Ask these questions:
    • Is it to inform?
    • Present an idea?
    • Persuade?
  3. Before creating your presentation, make sure you know:
    • The topic or theme – what you need to talk about.
    • Goal of the presentation – what you need to accomplish.
    • The time allotted for you– make your presentation a little shorter than the allotted time. Prepare a 15-minute presentation if you are given 20 minutes. This will help you deliver a relaxed presentation. It also allows time for questions.
    • Your audience – find out who will attend. This will help you decide on the kind of information to include.
    • The format – it can be a demonstration, lecture or a Powerpoint presentation. This will depend on your message and the equipment available.
  4. Gather your materials. Do research. Know as much as you can about your topic.
  5. It’s good if your presentation is entertaining. But this should be a bonus, not your goal.

Make an outline

  1. Outlining will help you see your content. It will help you plan your delivery.
  2. List down your topics in the right order.
  3. Don’t talk about too many things. Keep it simple.
  4. Estimate how much time each item in your outline will take.
  5. Give time for transitions (going from one subject to the next). Pause to allow your audience to rest and think.

Create and edit

  1. Keep it simple.
    • Don’t use too many pictures, video or audio clips, effects or music.
    • This can be distracting.
    • It can make your Powerpoint file too big.
  2. 10-20-30 rule
    • Never write the complete text on your slides.
    • Your presentation should emphasize your message. Not repeat what you are saying.
    • Guy Kawasaki of Apple made the 10-20-30 rule for slideshows:
      • use no more than 20 slides
      • talk for no more than 20 minutes
      • use the font size of no less than 30 points
  3. The Rule of Three
    • Mention your three main points at the end of your presentation.
    • Leave these three key messages for your audience to remember.
  4. Edit again
    • Read your presentation and edit again.
    • Remove details that you don’t need.
    • Check spelling or grammatical errors.
    • Create a handout if you have more information.
  5. Practice and time yourself
    • Some memorize. Others use notes. Do what you are comfortable with.
    • Just make a guide if you know your material very well.
    • Memorize if you have time.
    • Remember to speak clearly using a normal pace.
    • Do your best not to sound like a robot. This happens when you read your presentation word for word.
    • Practice in front of a mirror. Check your body language.
    • Ask a friend to watch you practice.
    • Make eye contact and smile.

Last minute tips

  1. Check your computer, projector and sound system before your presentation. Make sure they are working.
  2. Dress professionally. It is safer to dress simply and let your message be the star.
  3. Make a backup copy. Copy your Powerpoint file in a flash drive or email it to yourself.
  4. Print enough copies if you have handouts.

Still nervous? That’s normal. Take deep breaths before you speak. Enjoy the experience. Good luck!

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