The good news for people who are faced with making a presentation for the first time, is that in almost all situations, people are interested in the content of your presentation rather than the delivery. In fact, one of the keys to success, when giving presentations, is to ensure that the delivery doesn’t get in the way of the content. Don’t worry yourself too much about style and audience manipulation. Focus on delivering information clearly. That means taking care of the basics first – face your audience, speak clearly and not too fast.
If you are responsible for setting up the stage or presentation area, do this well in advance and try at least one dummy run to make sure that everything works. You may need to recruit someone to sit at the back of the room or the hall to ensure that they can see and hear you properly. Headworn microphones are perhaps the most popular among those who give presentations – wearing one leaves you free to move around and liberates your hands. If you are going to be giving presentations on a regular basis, you might want to invest in one for your personal use – you can find more information at http://microphonegeeks.com/.
The main thing to remember is that good content and good preparation will make for a good presentation. Making sure that you are familiar with your content is crucial. The most painful presentations to sit through are those in which the presenters find themselves being pulled from slide to slide, reading what is on the screen.
Whether you are going to use video, slides or other supplementary material in your presentation, or if you are simply going to speak directly to your audience, you’ll need to create pointers. These are merely notes or cues to guide you through the different stages of your presentation. Rather than painfully reading from a script (and thus wasting everyone’s time – they could have simply read through it themselves in their own time), use bullet-point style cues to prompt you to talk naturally about the topic at hand. If you are familiar with the content of your presentation, this shouldn’t be too difficult. Many people will simply write down a handful of keywords on a slip of paper, the back of their hand (even some of the most celebrated orators of our time have been spotted doing this). If you know you have a good memory, you could simply memorize the keywords, thus allowing you to speak freely and note-free for the whole presentation, a feat which will earn you respect by itself.
If you are aware of feeling especially nervous or shy, you’re going to have to accept that this may show. It is extremely rare that someone gives their first presentation and doesn’t feel nervous. Most of us still feel jittery even with years of experience of giving presentations. Audiences are actually more sympathetic, usually, to those who appear to be nervous. Most of the people there will understand exactly what you are going through, respect you for it and will be privately egging you on to succeed. If the situation allows for it, you can relieve some of the tension by simply apologizing in advance for appearing to be nervous. This can be incredibly relaxing and a surprising confidence booster. You can now forget about what you look like and focus on the content – which is what you want.
When it comes to the content, be aware what your purpose is – are you trying to persuade people, train them or simply inform them? Prepare it as if you are going to present to one person only. Try to deliver it in this style, too. People will appreciate being addressed as an individual, even if you are actually talking to a thousand individuals.
As for structure, be aware of how much time you have. It’s worth having extra content in case you have time left over, but with good presentation it is far more likely that you’ll risk running out of time. Divide your presentation into an introduction, the body (subdivided into the main parts of your presentation), and a conclusion. Try to estimate how much time will pass between your cues. Rehearsing this while keeping an eye on the clock may help you with this.
After your first presentation is over, be sure to ask for feedback, and reflect on it for your next presentation.