Strategies to use DURING a presentation
"Your success as a presenter will be judged by how you project your passion for your topic, your compassion for the audience and your over-all enthusiasm."
George Stewart, Quintilain Executive Communication, 2005
You are usually the most nervous during the first few minutes of a presentation.
- Use an attention grabber: Start by grabbing the audience's attention, rather than the traditional "Good afternoon. My name izzzzzzzz". Stand up, look at the audience for a pause, and then hit them with the grabber. For example grabbers see:
You got my Attention! Attention Grabbers for Presentations (49 KB)
- Memorize the first 2 minutes: Go ahead and memorize the first 2 minutes BUT ONLY THAT! You don't want to sound scripted.
Using your BODY to help you relax
- Be enthusiastic is the number one strategy. When you project enthusiasm and passion (through gestures, eye contact and vocal energy), the audience responds positively and your fears and worries dissolve. When you are in the moment full of enthusiasm, it is rare that you forget or stumble over your words.
- Keep breathing: Breathing high in the chest or shallow breathing is an indication of stress. If you notice that you have shortness of breath during the presentation, take a pause to breathe. You might wish to do this covertly by picking up your water, taking a deep breath and then a sip of water. Standing up straight will also help with oxygen flow.
- Vocal control: Breathe naturally and drop your shoulders to relax your throat. Slightly lower the tone/pitch of your voice. Project beyond the back row of the audience. Speak slowly so the audience can follow your talk.
- Eye contact: Having eye contact not only helps control your audience's attention, it can increase their interest in your talk. When you see that the audience is interested, you gain confidence and begin to relax.
- If your body wants to move, then do so: walk around (but don't pace) and get as close as possible to the audience.
- Smile: the more you are engaged with the audience, the more you will naturally relax.
- Hide stress in a muscle: Take what could be shaking hands or voice and move the energy to an area of the body invisible to the audience e.g. tense your toe or calf muscle.
Allies not Foes
Especially at the beginning of the presentation, look for at last one ally in the audience-someone who looks open and interested in you and your ideas. Looking at audience members with closed or negative body language too early may lead to increased worry and negative thoughts. It is alright to avoid direct eye contact with hostile looking audience members but you should make an effort at least gloss over them with your eyes so you appear assertive and confident.
Tell a story
All people love a good story so if appropriate, engage your audience by telling them Your Story (i.e. your methods and results). Adding a human element with direct, 1st person speech gives your talk a friendly, personal tone rather than a stilted, text-book one, e.g. "I did this and then I did that, but that didn't work so I did something else".