Public speaking is an art that we all wish we could master. But even the most experienced public speaker can stumble at the hurdle of a difficult topic. Not many people enjoy a PowerPoint presentation – it’s just a fact of life – but whether you’re presenting to a small group of colleagues from your own company or a room full of strangers at an industry conference, long slideshows and dim lights can put anyone to sleep.
No matter what you’re talking about, here are five top tips on how to make any (yes, any) presentation interesting.
1. Have a good opening ice breaker
Being up in front of strangers is daunting, but you want to win them over as soon as you can. These are people you’ve had no conversations or rapport with, and there’s no trust. But fortunately you’re already on a neutral and level playing field which is a fantastic place to start.
We’ve all heard of ‘breaking the ice’, and this is exactly what you want to do here. The best way to break the ice is to try and encourage a warm, welcoming and friendly atmosphere as soon as you possibly can, and to do that you need to tap into their emotions. It doesn’t always matter which one; it’s all about connecting with your audience on a personal level. It could be…
The whole idea is to make sure they don’t feel indifferent to you. Here are some of the best ice-breaking tactics we’d recommend…
- Jokes – humour is one of the most effective methods
- Tug on their heart strings – is there anything that will make them go “aww”?
- Drop a shock statement
- Use a metaphor
- Tell an interesting anecdote that your audience can relate to
2. Tell your audience a story
No one likes to be talked at, or at the very worse, ranted at. You can be the very best and most confident public speaker, but you can still deliver a presentation that looks like a chaotic mess of information bursting at the seams with numbers and statistics. Not really interesting for anyone.
Make it your goal to avoid your presentation looking like information and details have just been mixed together haphazardly. You also want to avoid rambling, and the way to do this is to have a strong structure in place when it comes to creating your presentation. Here’s something for you to work to…
- Break the ice
- Introduce your main concepts
- Talk about your goals
- Give a little more detail about each of these
- Show your conclusions in a logical way
- End with a strong takeaway message
The previous section should flow naturally and smoothly into the next one. It should be almost like a verbal story that moves seamlessly from chapter to chapter.
3. Keep things simple
Once you’ve warmed up your audience, it’s time to keep them engaged in what you’re saying. Don’t let them lose interest in your topic. Here’s a few top tips…
- Keep the tone the same – if you started off humorous and witty, keep it that way. Throw in a few jokes and keep the crowd’s attention
- Stay positive and energetic
- Don’t deviate from your structure too much. It’s ok to throw in new anecdotes but avoid
going off on a tangent
- Avoid using jargon if at all possible – too much is an immediate turn-off
4. Practice makes perfect
If you’re tired of hearing of the age-old practice of standing in front of a mirror before a big speech or presentation, then get ready because we’re going to tell you again. There’s a reason it gets repeated over and over again, and that’s because it works.
The theory itself is so simple that so many of us dismiss it immediately. The real problem we have with it is putting the real effort in to actually make it a reality. It’s hard work, sure, but it’s going to make a world of difference.
Work on your posture; you should be standing tall with your shoulders rolled back and down with your chest forwards. This will help you look confident, comfortable and in-control. Look at your facial expressions and make sure you’re not showing anything too negative. Finally listen to your own voice; make sure you are speaking slowly and clearly, and that you know how to pronounce any particularly difficult words. How your audience hears you is the most important thing of all.
5. Don’t stay still
There’s a fine balance to strike when it comes to moving around during a presentation. While you don’t want to look jittery and erratic – which won’t exactly fill your audience with confidence in what you’re talking about – standing dead still is just as bad.
Don’t be afraid to gesture with your hands and use your arms to emphasise the points you are making. These kinds of gentle and carefully positioned movements will make you seem more confident and passionate. Also don’t be afraid to walk around the stage or space and move around, but make sure these are slower and more deliberate movements rather than charging backwards and forwards. Your movements should seem effortless but powerful.