- Identify techniques to avoid common pitfalls and reduce anxiety to deliver an effective presentation
Think About Audience
Now that you’ve learned a bit about the various types of presentations, it’s helpful to turn to another important part of presenting: the audience. Like reading and writing, presenting is a form of communication. Whether you’re presenting information, giving a demonstration, creating a poster, or trying to change people’s minds, your goal is to get your message across to your audience. For that reason, it’s important to remember that they may not interpret the information you are presenting exactly as you have. It’s your job as a presenter to explain your ideas using specific details, succinct and clear wording (avoid jargon), vivid descriptions, and meaningful images. As you organize your presentation, keeping this imaginary audience in mind can help you gauge how much background information and context to provide.
Choosing Media and Format for Visual Aids
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “Death by PowerPoint” to explain that all-too-familiar feeling of being slowly bored to death by a thoughtless presenter who’s droning on and on about boring slide after boring slide. If you’d like to know what the experience is about, and you have time for a laugh, watch the following video, starring stand-up comedian Don McMillan. McMillan pokes fun at bad presentations, but he has some very sound advice about what not to do.
You may consider using PowerPoint for your presentation, and that’s perfectly fine. PowerPoint can be a very effective tool with the right organization, layout, and design. Below is a list of five common pitfalls that you can and should avoid, and doing so will go a long way toward making your PowerPoint presentation successful:
- Choosing a font that is too small. The person in the very back of the room should be able to see the same thing as the person in the front of the room.
- Putting too many words on a slide. Remember it’s called PowerPoint, not PowerParagraph! Keep your bullet points clear and succinct.
- Having spelling errors. Have somebody proofread your slides. Any typos will detract from your presentation.
- Choosing distracting colors that make it hard to read the information. PowerPoint gives you a lot of color choices in their design templates. The ideas in your brilliant presentation will be lost if your audience is struggling to read the content.
- Selecting images or visuals that do not clearly align with the content. For instance, a cute photo of your cat may look lovely up on the screen, but if it doesn’t connect to your topic, it’s just fluff that detracts from your message. Every slide counts, so make sure the visuals support your message.
Practicing for the Presentation
Once you’ve put together your presentation and have an idea of the audience that will hear and see it, it’s time to deal with the “nerves” that can accompany the performance part of the presentation. Standing and delivering before a live audience (even if it’s just your cat) will help you anticipate issues with timing, where you might stumble, and where elements might need rewording for clarity.
You’ve worked hard as the owner of this presentation, so have confidence in your work. It’s tough to remember this when you’re nervous, but you’re the person who knows the most about your presentations. Use your strengths.
Practicing your presentation will help you build confidence and reduce anxiety prior to and during your presentation. Remember the sage advice of Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Good luck!