We’ve all been there at least once in our careers. Standing in front of a classroom while presenting a topic. Especially strategy & logistics students will often present their work, since this is a valuable skill for their careers. You might know that what you have come up with is the best option, but in order to convince others you will need to present your findings.
In my school career I’ve given a lot of presentations. I do not consider myself the best presenter, but definitely not the worst either. However, I am always trying to improve myself and thus I have picked up a few things from presentations that I attended. I’ve implemented some things I have seen in others’ presentations in my own, and there are also some things I’d rather avoid from happening. In my opinion a lot of students at the university can improve a lot regarding their presentation skills. In this article, I want to share five things that I use during my presentations that I’ve seen many students are not optimally utilizing.
Before I start with the first topic I want to stress the fact that your confidence level is key to give a successful presentation. When seeing a great presenter, some of you might think you’re just not confident enough to give presentations like him or her. I’m here to give you some tips on how to boost your confidence level, which will improve your presentations a lot.
1. Asking the audience a question
My first point might seem the scariest thing to do in a presentation, or maybe you think this will simply not work in a lot of your presentations. However, if done right, it actually gives you a breather from constantly hearing yourself talk and it makes you feel like you are just having a conversation with someone, rather than being a presenter. Asking the audience a question is one thing that is very under used in presentations by students. I once started a presentation with: “who in this classroom wants to earn a lot of money? Raise your hands if you do. Almost everyone? Okay I’m going to present some interesting topics for you guys.” By starting like this I felt like the audience wanted to hear what I was about to present, and it gave my confidence a huge boost for the duration of my presentation.
2. Prep your presentation
A good preparation is key for giving a proper presentation. A lot of students are still trying to find the right words while presenting. This also happened to me once or twice during presentations that I didn’t prepare properly. They were not important enough to spend a lot of time on. However, for a presentation for clients, your boss, or for a grade, prepare the words you are going to use. This helps you to avoid silences or uhh… moments.
Preparation is not only about thinking it. It is about practicing your presentation out loud over and over again until you absolutely master it. In some cases you even want to prepare with others so that they can give you feedback before you stand there on your own presenting when it actually matters.
PowerPoint is a tool that can be used to support your presentation. It should not be a tool that you constantly have to look at. You should know the slides by heart, and the audience can look at pictures, graphs or text that you included to support what you are saying. You should avoid bullet points as much as possible. I know we are all used to presentations with bullet points, our lectures always have these structures. However, these are for a different purpose than most presentations you are going to give, namely so that we can use them for our exams. I once gave a presentation with ten slides exclusively with pictures to support what I was presenting, and it was a very successful presentation.
4. Use a timer
Presentations always have a time limit. Clients or managers simply do not have time to listen to your presentation endlessly. Thus, prepare with a timer and use it during your presentation. This can help you a lot if you have a strict timeframe in which you may present. A timer can be a useful tool to keep track of how long you’ve been presenting and how much time you have left until you have to be finished. You can choose to speed up a bit or take more time to explain some topics if you know exactly how much time is left on the clock.
5. Ask questions
To make your presentation more fluent, you can ask questions and immediately answer them and continue your presentation. For instance, if I talk about a topic and want to make my point clearer on my next slide, I will use sentences like: “And why is this the case?… Because…” or “Why is that?, you will probably be thinking… Well it is because…”. Besides the fact that it makes the presentation more fluent, this also helps with being perceived more spontaneous.
To conclude my arguments, presenting is not rocket science. I think everyone is able to do it, but some people think that they are not confident enough to do some of the things stated above. However, as with everything, you learn by doing. And as you try this, you will be amazed by how much of a boost in confidence some of these tricks will give you.
I hope this article helped some of you out, and I wish you the best of luck with future presentations!