April 12, 2011

“How shall I begin my presentation?” is probably one of the most often asked questions and possibly one of the most important questions.

Everyone knows that first impressions count, even if you know your audience and they all know you, the start of your presentation sets the scene for what is about to follow. Give a boring introduction and everyone mentally settles down for a boring presentation.

The most important thing you must do at the start of a presentation is grab. Make them listen. Do or say something unexpected. Challenge your audience. Make them think.

Telling them your name and the title of your talk will NOT suffice. I’m sorry but that’s just boring. Take a tip from the world of stand up comedy, where the comedian gives his/her name at the end of his act when people may actually be interested to know what it is, not at the start.

Rehearse your beginning by saying it aloud several times until you feel comfortable saying it. This will then help you get over the nervous bit at the beginning of your speech.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever



January 5, 2010

Find out in advance how long you should be presenting for.  If this is an ad hoc presentation, ask the audience how long they can spare.  Then make sure you can easily see a clock or a watch, or have someone in the audience who can hold up time cards to let you know how long you have left.

If you are timing yourself the most important things is to look at the time just before you start, with all the other things you are thinking about this can so easily be forgotten and then you do not know if you are on time or not.

There are few greater sins than running over time when giving a presentation and there is no reason why you should.

Most novice presenters worry if they will be able to talk for long enough to fill the allotted time.  This is rarely a problem for two reasons: a) It usually takes longer to give a presentation than it did when you were rehearsing; b) Very few audiences will be worried if you finish ahead of time.

On the rare occasions that you do end up finishing well ahead of time do not apologise, just ask for questions.

It is more likely that you will be running over, in which case, you need to cut some of the anecdotes, go into less detail and maybe speed up your delivery.  If you are using PowerPoint or have a carousel full of 35mm slides, you have a problem, as you cannot miss out a slide.  One of the worst things you can do is put up a slide for a second or two and say, ‘In the interests of time we will skip over this one’.  This makes your audience feel a) that they are missing something and b) that if the slide really was not worth looking at why was it there in the first place.

You are far better to go through each slide but summarise the information they contain, it is surprising how quickly you can work through a set of slides.  You do not need to read out every bullet point, or talk about each of the items.  Summarise the slide and leave the audience to read what it says.

The one thing not to rush is the conclusion and the call to action.  The call to action is in many ways the reason for the presentation, so if you skip over that there was little point in doing the presentation at all.  This is why it is useful to mark interim timings on your cue cards so that you know you are over running before you reach the end.  That way you can speed up the middle of the presentation and leave time for the summary and your call to action at the end.

Of course, the best approach is to practise, practise, practise.  That way you will know you have the right material for the time available.  If you are timing a presentation in rehearsal, it is imperative that you say the presentation aloud when you are timing it.  I would then add an extra 20% to the time taken, as invariably people take longer in real life.

For a 45-minute conference presentation, where you are expecting to have a question and answer session at the end, I would prepare 30 minutes worth of talking.  This should then take about 35 minutes to give and leave 10 minutes for questions and answers.

Remember to give your call to action after the Q&A session not before it or it will be forgotten.

When you are giving one in a series of presentations and the previous speaker has over-run, the best policy is to cut your presentation short to bring the whole event back on to schedule. By giving a crisp, clear but short presentation you will earn far more browny points than by sticking to your original timings and compounding the over-run of the previous speaker(s).

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever

Stage Fright

January 5, 2010

It is perfectly normal to be nervous before you go on stage.  Just like many famous actors, you are entitled to get stage fright before a performance.  ‘F is for Fear‘ provides more information on this aspect of presenting.

Once you start to talk, you should find that any stage fright soon wears off.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


January 5, 2010

One of the key aspects of preparation is practising your presentation.

When you practise your presentation, you should say it aloud not just in your head.  One trick I have used many times in the past is to give the presentation while I am driving to the location.  You are alone in the car and these days with hands free mobiles nobody even worries when they see someone talking to themselves in a car.  So switch off the radio or the CD and give your presentation aloud.  This is a great way to make sure you know what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, before the event.  Do not just go over it in your head, it does not have nearly the same effect.

When you practise, make a note of the timings.  It is a good idea to mark every third cue card with the time you expect to start that part of your presentation.  That way you have a guide as to how you are going time wise.

With the widespread availability of home video cameras, an ideal way to practise is to film yourself giving the presentation.  You will learn a lot about what your audience will see and hear by watching the video.

Do not cheat when you practise!  There is often a temptation to skip over sections of a presentation, because you think you already know that part of the talk.  Maybe you are re-using a section from a previous presentation.  Maybe it is a bit where you are hoping to gain some audience interaction.  My advice is to rehearse the presentation in its entirety rather than make assumptions.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


January 5, 2010

Many people are frightened of public speaking; a survey in the USA actually put public speaking ahead of death as the number one public fear. 

So why is presenting so terrifying?

As a pack animal by nature, we are contradicting our natural behaviour.  Rather than staying with the pack, we are isolating ourselves.  By standing out front, the speaker is stating that he/she is different from the rest of us.  Not only do we have to stand out in front of the pack we actually have to face them eye to eye.  Definitely, a position of conflict. 

Having dared to be different, we then start to worry about our credentials.  Is my material good enough, can I present it properly, what will the audience think?  Then of course there are all the confidence sucking thoughts about what I look like, do I know what I’m talking about, can they see my knees shaking, will I be able to read my notes, will the slides work, have I put them in the right order, and so on and so on.

It is the same as any other time we are conscious of being judged, like at exams, interviews or our driving test. It is perfectly normal to be anxious before an important presentation.

The main reasons for fear or nervousness are:

  • Isolation
  • Fear of performing badly
  • Fear of the audience and their reaction
  • Fear that your material is not good enough

How to overcome the fear of presenting

The first thing to remember is that people rarely look nervous.  People will not notice that your knuckles are turning white, or that your knees are shaking.  And even if they do, they will probably be sympathetic, remembering the last time they did a presentation.

The audience are just people; they have similar fears, doubts and inabilities as you.  There are various tricks that you can use to remind yourself that the audience are just ordinary people. 

Winston Churchill is reputed to have imagined that his audience were all in the nude.  Franklin Roosevelt used to imagine that every one of them had a hole in his sock.  Conjuring up these pictures in your mind is designed to make the audience feel more like ordinary people, who in fact they are.

The main way to overcome the fear that your performance will not be good enough or that your material is weak is through thorough preparation.  After all, poor preparation produces perfectly pathetic presentations.  So think through the OSRAM components and practise your presentation many times before you give it for real.  This will help give you the confidence to succeed.

Probably the most comforting thought is that your audience want you to succeed.  From the very outset, they are on your side.  It is very rare to have an audience who does not want you to succeed, after all why would they be there.  Why waste their time listening to someone who is a poor presenter or who does not have anything worth listening to.

Another comforting thought is that, more often than not, you are presenting because you know something that the audience do not.  They want to hear what you have to say.

Don’t forget to take some deep breaths before you start.

The most important thing is to remember that you are supposed to be nervous. You just need to put it to one side and get on with the job in hand. Do not start worrying about being worried as that is a downward spiral to oblivion. Fear prior to a presentation is perfectly normal.  If you are not frightened, that is the time to start worrying.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


January 5, 2010

Confidence is inextricably linked with conviction.

To boost general confidence there are a myriad of different techniques, which you can use.  One is the ‘I like me because….’ method.  For one minute every morning, stand in front of the mirror and say ‘I like me because …’ and follow it by as many different reasons why you like yourself.  ‘I like me because I am blonde’, ‘I like me because I am good at my job’, ‘I like me because I’m a good Dad’, ‘I like me because I’m not too overweight’, ‘I like me because I have given up smoking’, ‘I like me because I can drive’.  If you cannot think of anything else just make things up but keep going, saying as many things as you can in the minute.  If you do this every morning, you will get better at it and it will improve your own self-confidence.

Another technique to use before a presentation is to say aloud the following statements before anyone arrives in the room:

‘I am poised, prepared, persuasive, positive and powerful.’

‘I feel composed, confident convincing, commanding and compelling.’

Write these two phrases on your first Cue Card.

Confidence is all a matter of self-belief.  You need to believe in yourself and you will be more confident, and come across as confident.  Do not over do it though.  Do not talk down to your audience they will never forgive you!

Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘No one can make you feel inferior unless you agree with it’.


January 5, 2010

‘It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.’  Anon

To make people to believe in you, you have to belief in yourself first.  You need to talk as if you mean it. 

Leave out all those phrases like ‘I think….’ and ‘Perhaps …’ be more definite. Instead of saying, ‘I think, if we worked together we could probably achieve our goal’ say, ‘Together, we can achieve our goal’, ‘In fact, we can exceed it!’

When it comes down to it, if you do not believe it yourself, you will never get others to believe it.

There are three aspects to a presentation the verbal, the vocal and the visual, i.e. the words we use, the way we say them and what we do while we say them.

When we say words with out really believing what we say, our tone of voice and our body language will give the game away. Everyone will be able to tell that we don’t really mean it. So my advice is to only give presentations on subjects about which you are confident.

If you are ever forced in to giving a presentation on a topic which you are not sure about, find one aspect of that topic you are confident of and give the presentation from that perspective.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever

Creative Visualisation

January 5, 2010

Creative Visualisation is a technique that you can use to instil confidence in yourself, to calm the nerves prior to a presentation and to help ensure your presentation is a success.  It is a technique that first surfaced in sports.  Before a high dive champion jumps off the top board, he or she may use Creative Visualisation to imagine the perfect dive.

Springing off the board, curling in to the first roll, arms in tight, knees up against the chest.  Then extending out, fingers stretched, toes pointing at the ceiling and back perfectly straight.  This is followed by the entry into the water, fingers first followed by the arms, head, torso, legs then feet and toes, without a splash.  Finally, surfacing to rapturous applause and a perfect score from the judges.

By visualising this perfect performance, it helps to convince you that you can do it; it helps to make you think about all the various steps, clarifying in your mind exactly what you have to do to make it perfect.

You can do the same with your presentation; imagine standing on the stage, not fidgeting, talking loud and clear, the audience are hanging on your every word, smiling back at you and when you finish, them rising to give you a standing ovation.

Creative visualisation is just one of the ways of overcoming the fear and nervousness of public speaking.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever