Over the course of your studies there tend to be countless public speaking opportunities, whether it be in assemblies, presentations, acting or accepting awards. Mastering being heard, listened to and informative is a skill which will not only get you through school, college and university with good grades, but also through your career and social life, too.
Being a great public speaker is a gift very few people have innately. The poise, the charisma and the connection with the audience are things that can be learnt and honed. Whether presenting a finding from your BTEC or A Level to your teachers, in a job interview, speaking at a friend’s wedding or reporting to your boss, here are five ways to improve your presentation skills that will see you through your life…
Whether your audience is 2 people or 2 hundred, connecting with them is vitally important. It’s essential to connect through body language and eye contact and using open, friendly gestures with your arms and hands. Likewise, moving (if you’re not sitting) confidently and freely, keeps the audience’s attention on you. Also, the use of eye contact, and frequent questions (and listening to the answers, of course) maintains engagement. Feed off your audience – involve them if you can.
It’s never a bad idea to have notes to give you guidance, but by the same token it’s important not to try to not read from them. While preparation is key, too many notes can be a hindrance, particularly when used as a crutch. This goes for interviews, award ceremonies and exam presentations.
As your own worst critic, practising in front of a mirror can help enormously to hone your presentation skills. Practice does make perfect – and timing yourself and owning the information you are going to portray is crucial. Practising in different environments is also important – that way you are more likely to be prepared for any eventuality. You are there to deliver something: make sure you really get through to your audience, think about how you are going to do that and practise that method.
Message is everything. Ensure what you are saying is actually relevant, interesting and concise. If humour is appropriate, add it. What do you want people to take away from your presentation? Identify it and ensure it comes across clearly in your speech. If you are presenting at the end of your course or part of an interview, ensure your conclusion or your findings form the focus of the presentation.
Using aids or props such as PowerPoint, PDF presentations or music adds interest and can make the presentation more memorable to your audience. If you want audience participation and are worried about them not coming forward, have sweets or things to throw to get them to lighten up, relax and realise it’s a bit of fun for them.
Sarah Spencer is a teacher and guest blogger who is passionate about education.