If You Hate Presentations, You’ll Love This
20 February 2024
Presentations are often the bane of corporate life.
One common burden of presenting is that someone dumps a slides on you, and if you’re really unlucky, it’s already filled with someone else’s words and graphics.
Presenting another person’s work is often harder than doing it yourself from scratch. Not only is this is a test of patience, but also of your presentation skills, communication skills and public speaking skills.
Even if your fully in control of what visuals you use – and whether you use them at all – you’re launched into the pit of anxiety.
So here are seven ways to make presenting – dare I say it – enjoyable.
Seven ways to make presentations easier
Read on if you want to save your heart rate for the gym.
- Define the key message – Don’t be someone else’s glove puppet. You’ve got 76 tedious slides to decipher and you need to trim it down dramatically. Define the key message, make sure you make a maximum of nine points to support it, then chuck, change or skip the slides you don’t need. Your job is to communicate a message, not be a mouthpiece for someone else’s ramblings. Read on if you don’t have the time to do this…
- Make it easy to present the data– Let’s say that you’ve defined the key message but the slides do you a disservice. They’re full of irrelevant information or too much detail. You don’t have time to redo them. Basically, they’re handouts replicated as slides. This is prevalent among the technical specialists I train, causing so much ‘night-before stress’. However, by highlighting specific data, you can use those same slides for your presentation. They may be full of words but at least your can pull your audience’s attention to the necessary detail without re-hashing the slides. When distributing them as handouts, you can keep the highlights in. Any slides you don’t want to use, you can simply hide during the presentation. Then you’ll have a deck that serves you without having to massively re-edit the lot. My clients love this as it saves them so much time and trouble. Here’s how to prepare slides and handouts when you’re short of time.
- Reframe it as a conversation– When asked to do a presentation, many consider this a huge ordeal. After all, it’s not the core part of their role, unless they’re a professional presenter. So tell yourself: ‘I do not do presentations. I do dialogues, with one person speaking most of the time.’
- Learn to control your nerves – When you’re nervous, your breathing may tend to go up to your chest. This ‘upper thoracic’ pattern generates more adrenaline, making you short of breath and further increasing anxiety. By breathing slowly and deeply from the stomach, or ribs around the centre of the torso, you’ll stabilise your breathing and achieve greater calm. There’s also scientific evidence that by using these three magic words you can control nerves so that they don’t control you.
- Dump the script– Trying to remember a script can not only make your presentation a stressful experience but can also make you look and sound rather wooden. You need some spontaneity and personality but you also want to keep on point. Using a mind map and / or prompt cards, will help you find clear pathway through your content without becoming shackled to a script
- Only humans – Chatting with members of your audience before starting your presentation breaks down barriers. This can be done online as well, as a sort of ‘soft start’, before the ‘formal’ beginning of your presentation. It’ll forge a connection with your listeners. As a result, that anonymous mass of faces you perceive when intimidated, becomes a group of individuals who really want to listen to you. Here are some example of soft starts using tech from which it’s easy to expand into some relevant chit chat, depending on how large your audience is.
- Don’t introduce yourself– You may not have to do this anyway if someone is introducing you. It will feel very unnatural to begin by introducing yourself as we rarely do this when we’re meeting someone. In social situations, have you started chatting to someone and, after a while, realised you hadn’t asked their name? More times than you can remember, I bet. You engaged each other first. Consequently, you’re more likely to recall each others’ names. So there’s nothing wrong with your interpersonal communication skills if you don’t begin by introducing yourself. Engaging others is your priority. To do this in a presentation, you can use the Spice Rack™, my techniques of engagement. Such spices could include a picture, an anecdote or a prop. Then, and only then, introducing yourself would be timely. This will feel more natural and conversational while helping you to instantly engage your listeners.
- Ascertain which of the three above points will make most of a difference to your presentations and apply them.
- Note afterwards what worked so you remember to do it again next time.
My coaching and training has helped specialists in tech to deliver engaging presentations and pitches, winning them new jobs, more business, millions of pounds in funding and the ability to see their ideas come to life. Check out my range of communication courses here to see what I can do for you and your teams.
This article was originally published in April 2017 and was completely updated in February 2024.