When it comes to giving a presentation, few people can compare to the late Steve Jobs. Apple's iconic co-founder would walk on stage to deliver keynote presentations in front of thousands of media members and fans lucky enough to gain entry. Jobs, the wiry creator of such gadgets as the iPad, iPhone and iMac was known for his penchant for delivering captivating product demos. He was aided by some of the most technologically advanced visual aids in the business. Clad in his patented black mock turtleneck and jeans, Jobs mastered the art of the presentation. Even when he was unable to connect a brand new iPhone 4 to WiFi while debuting the device in 2010, he never missed a beat.
Jobs had plenty of practice at giving presentations. Someone in his position usually does. But he had to start somewhere. We all do. And for many of us, it's not as easy as people like Jobs make it look.
When you give presentations in school or at a familiar place like a church, you do so in front of peers, not colleagues. While many people get nervous, there's a familiarity here and you may feel a bit more at ease. But when you go up in front of a board of directors or potential client, it's a whole new ballgame. Chances are they know some, if not a lot of what you are going to talk about. Plus, it's for money. So the pressure can be intense.
The key to a good presentation is confidence. While some people have a knack for public speaking and giving presentations, it doesn't come so naturally to others. This article will prepare you for the next time you give a presentation so you'll look confident. The more success you have, the more confidence you'll gain. In the next section, we'll begin with a few tips on staying calm.
How to Stay Calm During a Presentation
One way to calm your nerves during a presentation is to know you have a good one going into it. It's much easier to feel confident when you have some substance to present. As with most things, preparation is crucial.
The average adult's attention span can vary depending on the individual. To be safe, aim for a shorter rather than longer speech. Find out your time limit. Then, write down all the points you need to cover. Think about it like a movie script. Edit out the least important aspects in order to keep it concise yet detailed.
Once you've put it together, rehearse your presentation until it feels natural. Insert breaks if you feel the presentation is too long. This will also allow you to segment your speech and keep you more focused on smaller bits instead of one drawn-out talk. Rehearse in front of a small, intimate audience, such as a family member. Or practice in front of a mirror. You've probably heard that before. The thought is that by rehearsing in front of a mirror, you'll see what your audience sees and can improve your delivery.
Come up with a method to keep your mind on task. For instance, picture your presentation as a story with a beginning, middle chapters and an end. If you have 10 points to your presentation, you have 10 chapters. Wrap up each chapter before moving on to the next. This will ensure your presentation is smooth.
Slow down when you're talking but not to the point of boring your audience to sleep. You want to keep them engaged. Visual aids are great for that because they serve two purposes. One, they keep the audience's eyes off you but still focused on your topic. They also serve as check points for you to work toward. This is a great way to keep your mind on task and avoid shooting from the hip.
Wandering off-topic is a surefire way to lose your audience. We'll look into how you can avoid that by polishing your presentation skills in the next section.
It's hard to stress too much the importance of preparation. When you are rehearsing your presentation, you want to prepare everything down to your mannerisms. If you've ever seen magicians/comedians Penn and Teller perform, you'll notice how much hand movement Penn uses. Perhaps originally a nervous habit, he's worked it in as part of his act. This is just one thing to consider when executing a presentation.
Where you stand is important, too. When using slides or visual aids, keep out of your audience's line of sight. You want eyes focused on the visual aid while you continue to talk. Don't read what's on your slides or screen -- explain what they mean. When you want the audience to focus on you, stand tall. Don't slouch. If you're in front of a podium, don't fold you arms and lean forward like you're watching a game on TV at a bar. Eye contact is fine in short bursts but not necessary.
When putting together your presentation, avoid using colors without purpose. The brain is wired to notice changes of colors, so adding some colorful words here and there is a good way to make something stick out [source: Wired Science]. But using them throughout the presentation will render them ineffective. Some colors can even trigger emotions -- red is often synonymous with danger, while blue may trigger feelings of safety.
As we said earlier, rambling can kill a presentation. And it's often spawned by nervousness or random questions. It's OK to ask your audience to reserve questions until after the presentation. If you feel nervous or begin to get hot, avoid apologizing when you feel like your anxiety is showing. Chances are your audience doesn't even notice. Have a glass of water nearby to sip when you need a second to collect yourself. Above all, stay on task.
Remember, your audience wants you to be successful. You're taking up your associates' and customers' valuable time, so no one wants to see you fail. Trust what you've prepared, and trust in your execution. Once you've seen that trust pay off, you'll become even more confident.
More Great Links
- Alexander, Sharon. Home Office Weekly. "How to beat nerves before a presentation." (Sept. 17, 2010)http://www.homeofficeweekly.com/yourself/presentations.html
- Hinton, Anna; Casey, Marion. Oxford Brookes University. "Overcoming presentation anxiety a guide for students." (Sept. 17, 2010) http://www.brookes.ac.uk/student/services/health/presentation.html
- Ihnatko, Andy. Chicago Sun Times. "Apple keynote fail. Google keynote fail. It's all good." June 8, 2010. (Sept. 19, 2010) http://www.suntimes.com/technology/ihnatko/2367808,ihnatko-apple-iphone-google-keynote-060810.article
- Keim, Brandon. Wired Science. "Seeing red: tweak your brain with colors." Feb. 5, 2009. (Sept. 18, 2010)http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/02/coloreffects/
- Lieberman, Martin. "Overcoming presentation anxiety." (Sept. 17, 2010) http://www.experience.com/alumnus/article?channel_id=Interviews&source_page=editor_picks&article_id=article_1126286322577
- Science Daily. "Color plays musical chairs on the brain."Oct. 2, 2009. (Sept. 18, 2010)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091001164231.htm
- The Total Communicator. "The pre=presentation jitters - still headlining the list."(Sept. 17, 2010) http://totalcommunicator.com/jitters_article.html
- Topolsky, Joshua. Engadget. "Steve Jobs live from WWDC 2010." June 7, 2010.(Sept. 18, 2010) http://www.engadget.com/2010/06/07/steve-jobs-live-from-wwdc-2010/
- WebMD. "Anxiety: Using positive thinking." (Sept. 15, 2010) http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/anxiety-using-positive-thinking