PUBLIC PRESENTATIONS – PRACTICAL GUIDELINES
Once you know the topic of your presentation, you move on to the next activity, which is the crystallization of the content you wish to convey.
Set the presentation’s target.
Define exactly what your presentation is to address; this will help you with the next steps, i.e. with making a suitable plan and setting the strategy about what to do in the process of creating the speech.
Next, collect detailed information about your audience, who the hearers are, what kind of message will appeal to them, what kind of language will appeal to their tastes. To what extent they know the topic you will be lecturing on, if they know the technical terms used in your presentation; maybe it will be necessary to define some of them.
A on a specific subject presentation will be shown to students in one way, however, very differently to senior personnel specialized e.g. in production, for whom characteristic technical jargon is part of everyday life.
But…if you were expecting to employ a high level of eloquence embellished by specialists’ vocabulary and on site you discover that for some reason this type of presentation does not work with the audience, then unfortunately you need to change your strategy. You need to observe the reactions and quickly react to the way your presentation is received. This is easier possible in smaller venues, where the light is not in our eyes and we can see the audience’s faces, the stage is not high and where the distance to the chairs is not huge.
Now It’s Time to plan the presentation.
You have knowledge concerning what you want to present, you know whom you will be speaking to. Now it’s time for the slides. I personally recommend that the presentation should consist of no more than 5-6 key thoughts, which are new for the audience.
According to my experience, that is the maximum number that can be remembered from such events. Try to tell a story. Forget about dry facts with tables and sequences of numbers. The content put forward should engage the listeners emotionally. Here, it does not matter if this will be caused through humour coming from the stage or by a touching story. Incorporating such a story will help memorizing the information presented.
The slides prepared have two functions – assist the speaker in keeping on topic, the order of the speech and strengthening the message.
4×5 or 5×4.
Slides overloaded with content will disengage your speakers from what you are saying. Regarding the amount of content for one slide, the rule 4×5 or 5×4 works great: Four lines with five words or five lines with four words.
In my presentations I follow the rule of thumb not to use tables and sequences of numbers. During talks, there is not enough time for an exact analysis of numbers, unless the meeting is strictly concerned with that. Graphs always work better, whereas long pieces of information about numbers should be printed out and added to the appendix.
The number of slides for the whole presentation.
Every presentation usually is to be held within given time limits. Count how many slides you need and how much time will be required for each slide. As I mentioned before, the less time for giving the presentation, the more challenging it is to prepare well.
At this point of the article, I will make you concerned, if you did not know this yet…Under no circumstances should you turn your back to the audience and read out your slides. That’s why giving talks is challenging and sometimes tedious in preparing. The purpose of the slides is to emphasize the message or to herald and illustrate what you wish to say. The slides themselves are to make cognition easier, which means that you need to visualize your story.
My way of working out a coherent content within time limits is as follows, … I:
- prepare the text for the slides,
- read it repeatedly,
- record my speech, this time without using notes,
- listen to the recording in combination with the slides and…
- decide what I should omit or revise, I think about whether the examples and stories given are adequate and consistent with the whole presentation,
- write down the changes, record the presentation and listen to it again.
I repeat these activities until I am certain that the form of the speech is satisfying.
Recording your presentations implies that you will hear your story and the line of argumentation used in it. For example, you might find that only by reading your speech aloud you find something does not sound right, even thought it seemed correct before.
To Walk or Not to Walk? That Is the Question
Many schools with courses on giving presentations state that you should not walk while speaking. This originates from the fact that lessons are given mainly by speakers who are trained as journalists, often working in television. And we know, in this context walking does not look very impressive. You should feel comfortable, so I do not recommend that you force yourself to stick to one place. You might discover that it is impossible to speak without walking, just like it seems impossible for Italians to speak without gesturing with their hands ;).
Depending on how good a speaker you are, your stage skills and the character you play will be changing. At the beginning, I advise you to simply be yourself.
Check the Equipment and Expect the Worst
Come early to your presentation, check the equipment and the seating arrangement, become accustomed to the venue and the lighting conditions. I assume that you are well-prepared, so even if the slides stop coming up for some reason, they will not ruin your speech. Personally, I always take my own computer and display my slides on it in order to avoid unnecessary stress.
Observe the Audience
At the beginning of your journey with giving presentations, it is difficult to make eye contact with your audience. However, it is worth paying attention to how the audience receives your speech. If they nod their heads, keep eye contact, laugh when they are supposed to, that is already a good sign
If there is boredom on their faces or most of the people start checking their e-mails in their phones, or part of them actually leaves during the presentation, this is a strong sign that next time you might need to prepare better. Remember to which photographs there was a strong reaction, and which slides caused people to take notes. You will receive many clues, which will help you improve your presentation skills. If it is your first presentation and you are completely stressed-out, try to catch eye contact or move your eyes slowly across the room in the shape of the letter “M”. This way you will be looking at all of the audience.
The guidelines listed above cover only a fraction of the topic, and they are not comprehensive. To become a good presenter, you need to do work a lot, create a character you play, and develop your stage skills. Our target is that people will like to come to our next presentation. And the slides? Yes, they are necessary, but not the most important.