Presentation Knowledge Hub

For most people, it isn’t easy to go in front of a crowd of people and give a stellar speech. But for some, presenting in front of a large audience is a piece of cake. I spoke with the latter about how to not only dazzle a crowd, but also leave a crowd with something they can work with and apply to their own lives. Here are 20 tips for giving a great presentation once you’ve pushed past the heart palpitations and sweaty palms.

1. Breathe!

Its is the most basic and easy thing to do, yet somehow you can forget to do it calmly. Joy Baldridge, an author and speaker with expertise in sales presentation and professional development, is a big fan of her “four-four-six breathing technique.” The technique helps center you so that you don’t risk a false start or trip up on your message.

“Inhale for four seconds, hold it for four and then exhale for six seconds over and over again,” says Baldridge. “Do it as soon as you wake up, when you’re driving to the presentation, and just before the presentation as you are walking up to the podium. It calms you, and then your voice resonates better.”

2. Rehearse.

That might also sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people decide to wing it, and never actually recite their speech aloud before giving it.

3. Time it.

When you’re given 15 minutes to talk, make sure you hit all your points in under 15 minutes. Sparks suggests preparing 25 minutes for a 30 minute speech and 12 minutes for a 15 minute speech.
“People always go long. You have to rehearse to get with the right time. Even the best of us need to go through it. Steve Jobs rehearses and rehearses!” says David Spark, a presenter and former comedian with a social media-publishing firm. “If they say you have a certain amount of time, you should always prepare for under the amount given; never the exact amount. Leave time for those questions that pop in the beginning, middle and end.”

4. Script your first 30 seconds and your last 30 seconds.

Those are your first and last impressions for your audience so it’s OK to write them out.
“People say after the first minute or two they feel good and in their groove,” says Baldridge. “You want to hit it right from the first note.”

5. Be prepared for the tough crowds.

It’s easy to talk about what you should have done, but the skill is being in the moment and knowing how to deal when shit hits the fan.
“You have to know how to cope if you’re doing poorly, ” say Spark. “Stay in charge no matter how bad things are.”

6. Welcome everyone.

Think of your presentation as your very own party. Thank everyone for coming, make them feel welcome, and tell them you appreciate their listening.

7. Avoid fidgeting.

Baldridge suggests doing a toe press to anchor you and combat the nervous energy like fidgeting, pacing and arm flailing. When you feel any anxiety, stand with feet shoulder width apart and press your toes hard into the ground – just don’t tighten your calves! (Charlie horses aren’t the kind of entertainment you want to give your crowd.)

8. Make eye contact.

Look directly at people in the audience to make personal contact.

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