31 Oct 5 Tips to give the best Presentation ever!
I have worked in politics for over 15 years now, and over that time I have picked up a LOT of tips of what works and what doesn’t so heres a post of my 5 tips to give the best presentation ever!
What do I mean by Presentation?
For the purposes of brevity I chose ‘presentation’ as the easiest catch-all term to work with. In my experience presentations include many things. From Public Speaking, Sales Pitching, Job Interviewing, Dating, Wedding Speeches, Networking and really any other situation where you’re trying to influence someone else to your way of thinking. Even if that way of thinking is simply how awesome you are.
My experience as TEDx Speaker Coach
Most recently I was recruited as the Official Speaker Coach for the hugely successful TEDx Ha’penny Bridge event and it was this most recent experience that lead to this blog.
TEDx talks are a little bit different than your ‘average’ pitch. They’re quite lengthy (up to 18 minutes), you’re under pretty extreme pressure with lighting and AV etc, and mainly, you have no audience interaction. Even if everyone is agreeing with you, with the lights you can’t see it, so you are on your own! My role as speaker coach was to work with the Speakers on both content of their speech and their delivery; style, presentation etc.
All of the speakers chosen were accomplished speakers. There were successful entrepreneurs who regularly pitch for business, established Doctors, accomplished Authors and Social Advocates. No-one was a newbie at public speaking but the sheer intensity of how TEDx works means everything had to be polished to perfection. We worked on the very same issues that I always recommend for anyone making a presentation, just more intensely. So here are my top 5 tips for giving the best presentation ever!
1. Choose your Armour
We all want to look fabulous when we’re giving a presentation or a pitch, but the first priority should be COMFORT! There is no reason that you can’t be both by the way. My recommendation is always to wear your chosen outfit; clothes, shoes, any adornments, make up and hairstyle, for at least a day in advance of the event. I also suggest doing this at least a month out so you have time to make any changes if necessary. Here are just some of the horror stories I’ve heard over the years:
- Wearing brand new shoes the whole morning of the event and being crippled at the time of the event itself
- Getting new make up done and not realising it runs
- Wearing green or bold patterns to a tv event with a green screen, it doesn’t turn out well
- Wearing a suit from a year before and not realising its a bit tighter than it was
- Not sitting in an outfit! Then realising its uncomfortable when sitting for a period of time
First of all choose your outfit and then practice wear it. Try walking, standing, sitting, eating, everything you will have to do over the course of your day. Don’t be afraid to google for wardrobe advice, there and loads of really great articles on line.
You have enough to focus on for the event, make sure your clothes chafing or your hair sticking isn’t one of them!
2. Video Yourself
If you think you don’t like watching yourself on video before the event, imagine how bad it will be afterwards without practice! I get it, it is not a fun thing to do for most of us, but it can give you a huge advantage to your presentation.
Many of us have small physical tells that we use without realising. We might keep saying ’em’, or tucking our hair back, or point our finger… the only way you’ll really know is if you see for yourself. Don’t worry, this highly embarrassing activity can be done from the privacy of your own home, courtesy of the ever present smart phone. Simply hit record and perform your speech, or do a fake job interview. It is hugely beneficial to see ourselves the way our audience will.
For bonus points, do it in your chosen outfit. Its a great way to tell if your jacket sits a bit weird or if you have a renegade shirt button!
3. Get Time Savvy
I once had the opportunity to work with an Interview Coach. He explained that in his experience one of the biggest mistakes made by candidates in Interview was around time management. He was right and the same thing happens a lot in presentations.
I think we all remember the Leaving Cert when we would spend a whole hour on question 1 and then have to get the other 4 questions done in the following hour. Most people, (myself included I’ll add!), have a poor understanding of time.
This is exacerbated by the fact that it is much quicker to read something in our head than it is to present. A person might know they have 30 minutes for a presentation. They write what they believe to be a 30 minute presentation, but its actually 45 minutes in practice. This is just bad form. Either the host will have to remove you from the stage mid-speech in order to keep time, or worse, you will severely piss your audience off. We’ve all been there, at the event where someone is supposed to be giving a ten minute speech. Twenty minutes later everyone is eye rolling and nudging one another. Don’t be that person!
When you have your first draft of your speech, stand in front of mirror, read it out and time it on your phone. If its an extremely important speech, record it and work out how long each section takes. This way you can make sure your introduction paragraph isn’t overshadowing your main point etc.
Essentially aim to finish early. Chances are this will mean you will finish right on time. And in the event you finish early, you leave time for audience engagement and thats often the best bit!
4. Keep Language Simple
When you’re asked to give a speech or workshop it can be very tempting to get super excited about your topic and want people to know how qualified and knowledgable you are. The problem is, sometimes this can come across as too academic or wordy, and people don’t understand what you’re saying. When people don’t understand something they’ll stop listening. So its important to keep your content simple.
Running a speech passed a friend who doesn’t know about your topic is a great way of checking for ease of understanding. Now obviously if you’re in a technical field there will be a certain amount of terminology, but they should be able to get the gist. If they don’t, back to the drawing board.
Another way is to use the internet. Its possible to score a piece of writing for ease of reading, its called ‘readability’. It measures things like length of sentence, use of grammar and complexity of language. The higher the score, the more accessible it is to the most people. The most common test is the Flesch test. This is available as part of the Yoast plug in if you use WordPress, or you can access an online version HERE
While its tempting to use complex words to secure your space as an expert, a TRUE expert can let their content speak for itself, it doesn’t need flashing up.
5. Beginning, middle, end
This is easily the most common issue I see with speeches or presentations. People focus on a particular part of the speech and completely neglect the other sections. We humans have being telling stories for millennia and there is an accepted structure; Beginning, Middle, End. Anyone listening to your story is going to be subconsciously looking for that format. If they don’t find it, their minds will wander.
This is also useful when dividing up your time slot. So if, for example you had a 30 minute slot, you might do a 5 minute intro, 15 minute middle content and 10 minute synopsis for example. A simple format that an old lecturer of mine used was:
“Tell them the thing you intend to tell them,
Then tell them the thing
Then remind them what you just told them”
Sharon’s Lecturer from Research Methodolgies
It sounds ridiculously simple but like most things in life, the best things always are deceptively simple!
I could go on about this all day but if you begin with those 5 things you will make an excellent start on a really well-rounded speech.
Don’t be afraid to put the work in because ironically, the most natural looking speeches are often the ones with the most prep. Its an excellent skill to learn!