Paul Jackson offers 10 tips for avoiding stage fright and getting your message across
A presentation is a golden opportunity for you to deliver a message with impact. It is live, takes priority and commands attention. More than any written report, a presentation, if handled correctly, works. Follow my top tips for giving a well-structured, absorbing speech with confidence, clarity, style and success.
1. Plan well in advance and make sure you know your subject.
2. Write a script. Know what you want to achieve and what your audience expects. Give your script structure and keep it concise. Remember, this is a presentation and not a research paper.
3. As you write, say your script out loud so it reflects the dynamic way you speak. Your script will have short sentences—some without verbs. Build in good links to take your audience from one section to the next. And delete a passage if it appears too complex. You can provide further details in a handout to be distributed after, not before, the presentation.
4. If you intend to use slides, remember that you will make the biggest impact, not your slides. They must be tailor-made, simple and meaningful. There are too many congested, ugly, pointless examples.
5. Develop your style. Replace bad habits—we have all witnessed them—with good mannerisms.
6. Practise and keep practising. On the day, you will want to deliver seamlessly and without reference to your notes. But do have your notes to hand.
7. Do a few pre-flight checks. Familiarise yourself with equipment you will use and the layout of the hall; run through your breathing and voice exercises; and, crucially, look like you care. Appear a little more sharp and colourful than usual.
8. Make a positive entrance. When you go on stage, you are the expert, so make it special. Stand tall, with shoulders back and chin up. Smile at your audience—they are not the enemy. Do not rush your opening remarks. Give you and the audience time to settle. Movement and animation should be excellent; just make sure it is all under control.
9. Your voice is the medium. Modulate your voice and sound consonants. Vary the tempo and take time to think. When pausing, look inscrutable. Do not fill a gap with babble—ums, ahs and OKs are banned. And remember to inject some passion.
10. Never attack your audience, despite any provocation. Do not overrun your time. It is vital to leave an audience with a grand finish—a well-honed final message, a thank-you and a bow.
Paul Jackson at PBJ Presenting runs workshops on a group or one-to-one basis