image This is the second part of a three part blog post providing guidance on how to deliver a good presentation. Part 1 explained how to develop your content. This part focuses on the actual delivery of the presentation.

Delivery style

There are many different styles adopted by presenters –you should try to find the style that works best for you. This will allow you to deliver a natural presentation where you are in control. Points to consider:

  • Some presenters are very active moving around the stage (and sometimes around the audience), other presenters prefer to be relatively static at the front of the session, some will even sit on a stool and deliver the presentation while seated. The use of body language is a very personal choice – some presenters will use lots of body language (arm waving, gesticulation, punching out points etc.) others will prefer to use a more restrained approach
  • Don’t assume that you have to copy the presentation style of someone else, as it is likely that you will not be comfortable with this, and your audience will quickly spot this. Find the style that works for you
  • Rehearsal is essential – you need to be comfortable with the material you are presenting, the order of slides and how to ‘bridge’ between different slides and topic areas. If possible, deliver the presentation to a friend or colleague and ask for constructive feedback. Even if you cannot get a suitable audience to rehearse to, giving the presentation to an empty room will still be of value in familiarising yourself with your material
  • Make sure you have rehearsed your opening sentence – if you deliver this effectively, then it is more likely that you will relax and deliver a good presentation
  • Allow for the fact that you will possibly expand your narrative when delivering the real presentation, so don’t worry if your rehearsal is completed well within the allowed time
  • You should be aiming to have a conversation with your audience, so you should be talking to the audience and not the projection screen
  • Make eye contact with a range of the audience and not just the front row or the most senior person present
  • If you know some of the audience, refer to them by name and pose questions or observations directly to them
  • If you have adopted the “less is more” approach, then you will find it easier to give the presentation, as you will not be tempted to read the slides out loud (the audience are able to read them as well as you). The slides will be your prompts for the topics to cover
  • If you forget to mention a key point, don’t worry, the audience will not know you have missed something, so refer to it later if appropriate
  • Make sure that all the audience can hear you – in a small room this should not be a problem, but in a larger room you will either need to ‘project’ your voice to the back row of the audience, or you should use a microphone
  • If you know you will need to use a microphone, ensure you have enough time with the technicians before the start of the presentation to know how the microphone works and to check the volume

Timing

Most presentations have a target or maximum time allowed – it is wise not to over-run as the audience and following presenters will not thank you. Make sure you can see a clock, or use “Presenter View” in PowerPoint to see the current time and elapsed time for your presentation. As mentioned before you should allow an average of 2 minutes per slide to avoid trying to fit too much material into your presentation.

Another good reason for following the “less is more” approach of having fewer words on your slides, is that it increases your flexibility on timing – if you are starting to over-run, you can skip some of the less important material to finish on time, similarly, if you are ahead of schedule feel free to add in more comments and anecdotes. Your audience will be unlikely to spot this, but will be grateful to you for finishing on time.

Know your audience (2)

In the first part of this post, we suggested that you should spend time adapting your content to the needs of your audience. Similarly, you should adapt your delivery to the needs of the audience. Points to consider include:

  • Make sure that the level of explanation you provide for technical topics is suitable for your audience
  • Emphasise current challenges and issues
  • Make reference to any previous presentations that day to show you have been paying attention
  • Refer to anecdotes you may have picked up in conversations with your audience in breaks or before the start of the session

Part 3 of this three part blog post explains how to handle questions and how to avoid common problems when presenting.

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