4 Simple Hacks for Surviving Your Next Presentation

By Mia Casey

If you had asked my 8-year-old self what my favourite part of school was, it would be show-and-tell. Each week we got to bring in a new random object to stand up and tell the class about, and basically have a bit of a one minute brag-fest about our amazing new shiny Pokémon cards or that sweet mermaid Barbie doll whose hair changed colour in the water. Flash forward five years and you’ll find me fumbling with palm cards at the front of my year 7 science class, and accidentally cursing when said cards fall in a cascading mess at my feet (luckily my science teacher liked me so I don’t think the swearing lost me any marks).

Public speaking had turned from this amazing moment in the spotlight to a jumbling, jittering tangle of anxiety and dread. And of course this slow influx of nerves happened to coincide with the sudden increase of graded presentations we were required to do throughout high school and university, so there was really no way to escape. Unfortunately, public speaking is pretty much going to be an aspect of most people’s careers – whether it’s talking up in a meeting, presenting a method or product to clients, or trying to pitch a new idea, we’re all destined to talk in front of people in one way or another. So we might as well make it a bit more bearable, right? Well my fellow sweaty-palmed presenters, buckle in because it’s time for some simple public speaking tips and hacks to make presenting that little bit easier.

1. You’re just having a chat

It’s time to channel your inner second-grader and start getting excited about having everyone’s attention again. Except this time, your shiny Pokémon card is a super interesting fact about whatever topic you’ve been asked to speak on. Be proud of the work you’ve done, and try to quiet that little voice in the back of your head that insists you’re screwing up. As long as you don’t pull a Mia Thermopolis à la Princess Diaries and vom’ midway through your speech, you’re going to nail it.

And hey, if your 8-year-old self also didn’t like presentations, then think about last time that super dramatic thing happened on your favourite show and you just had to tell your friend immediately because “OMG how could they?!” When you’re ranting and passionate about something that you’re super excited about, you’re pretty much monologuing in a similar  way you would be required to when public speaking. But just, you know, structure it a little more, be a tad more professional, and maybe take breaths between sentences. Otherwise, you’ve got already got the basic technique down pat.

2. Make it quick

An easy cop out for creating presentation slides is to just chuck all the text from your palm cards onto your slides and hope for the best. Well guys, I’m sorry to tell you, but if you do that then the ‘best’ isn’t going to happen. People don’t want to read every single thing you’re saying. They want their eyeballs to be scintillated with interesting images and succinct facts, not bombarded with huge walls of text looming out at them.

Think of the three main things you’re saying while that slide’s up, and summarise them in three simple dot points. Done. That’s all the text you need. Or, if you’re presenting something more complex, think about creating an infographic to show the information in a more aesthetically pleasing manner. Like Amanda Sampol noted: “If your audience is unable to comprehend your slide in 3 seconds you’ll lose their attention. Keep each slide short and sweet.”

3. Keep them busy

A pretty interesting way of keeping your audience engaged, is to add a level of interactivity to your presentation. Try free software like Kahoot! or Zeetings and throw in a live poll, or quiz your audience on an aspect of your topic. All they need is their phone and the link you’ll be given after creating the interactive element in either of these programs, and presto! You’ve made your presentation fun!

(And hey, it also gives you a good 10-30 seconds where their attention won’t be solely on you, if the staring was getting a tad unnerving and you needed a reprieve).

4. Make it pretty

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a presentation using PowerPoint will be in want of a makeover. While PowerPoint once reigned supreme as the ultimate presentation software, there are so many more interesting and interactive options now, that make it seem more than a little outdated. Instead try something like Prezi, or Sway (which you can access through Office 365 with your student account). Things will flow more easily, external links will embed nicely, and your audience will certainly thank you for the upgrade.

Also, when it comes to choosing a presentation theme try to keep backgrounds light and text dark, as the colours on your screen may not match with how the projector shows your slides, and you certainly don’t want to have people squinting awkwardly up at all of your hard work!   Now, go forth and conquer with your superior presentation skills!

(Need more tips to make your next presentation stellar? Check out Amanda Sampol’s post: ’12 tips to create a better slide deck’)

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash Share:

Author: Mia Casey

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