I can’t over emphasise the vital importance of adequate preparation for a successful presentation. Only if you are fully prepared - and rehearsed - will you know that your material flows as you’d imagined, that your messages are clear and logically ordered, and that you’ll look and feel fully confident. Start early, set goals - and stick to them!
It’s vital that you carefully consider who they are, why they’re there, and what they expect to get from your presentation. Only then can you find the right tone of voice and choose material to achieve your objectives. Bear in mind that most of your listeners will be thinking, “what’s in this for me?”
Always begin your preparation by setting out your objectives - one main one, and no more than two others! Consider how you want your audience to respond. What do you want them to do, think or feel as a result of your presentation? Then, when you’re assembling your content, ensure that everything your say or show supports your required outcome.
Within seconds, your audience will decide whether or not your presentation is going to be interesting, relevant and enjoyable. So you need an opening that’s ‘different’; engaging, provocative or entertaining. And you need to learn it! For the first minute or so, you should be able to address them directly without looking at notes.
However brilliant your content and your delivery, badly prepared graphics will detract from your performance - as your audience struggles to decipher complex diagrams, illegible type, too many words and frivolous clip art! So keep your graphic support simple! It’s there to support you - and should never detract from your presence or your narrative.
Making any presentation, especially to a larger group, is a ‘performance’.
That’s why you need to rehearse your presentation aloud. Get used to speaking slightly more loudly than normal conversation and at a ‘measured’ pace that allows your audience to consider your content and prevents you from stumbling over your words. Be conscious of breathing properly to help you maintain your delivery, and try to vary your delivery by finding ‘light and shade’ in your voice. All this is, of course, best learned in one-to-on training!
Just as the opening of your presentation must grab your audience, so too must you go out on a high, leaving your audience impressed, convinced and motivated. Work hard on your summary and conclusion - and, like your opening, learn the last few moments of your presentation so that you can deliver it without reference to notes. If you plan to have a Q & A session, have that before your close. Don’t run the risk of an awkward question overshadowing all your hard work. End your presentation yourself on a positive note.
Don’t expect to eliminate nerves completely! Everyone - even the most seasoned actors and presenters - experience them. The trick is to anticipate the feeling, and learn to embrace it. Remember that your audience is probably on your side - they want you to be good! Remember that speaking to an audience of 500 isn’t really any more difficult than presenting to a group of five. And remember that, because your content and graphic support are just right, because you’re fully prepared, and because you’ve rehearsed your presentation aloud at least twice and you know your opening sequence off-by-heart - you can put any perfectly natural nervousness in perspective - and get on with the job you know you can do well!