1. Be entertaining
Every speech or presentation ought to be entertaining as well as informative. Now, I’m not saying you need to show up dressed as Batman. However, unlike written forms of communication, people expect some emotional connection. Even if your material is fascinating to you, it might need some help to captivate your audience.
2. Slow down
Presenters who talk fast are often seen as nervous or inexperienced, never mind the fact that talking too fast will make you hard to understand, leaving your audience annoyed rather than engaged.
3. The 10-20-30 Rule
Guy Kawasaki has proposed that a powerpoint presentation should never have more than 10 slides, that it ought to be no longer than 20 minutes, and have a minimum font size of 30 pt. Even if you have an earth-shattering idea, it needs to be spelled out succinctly and clearly.
4. The 20-20 Rule
Another take on slideshows, this one proposes that the optimim is 20 slides, lasting 20 seconds each. While not an absolute, it can definitely help you to keep from boring your audience. Pacing is the key.
5. Eye Contact
Make eye contact with more than one member of your audience. This is important for engaging the crowd, but also vital when you need to connect with non-decision makers who may hold influence over the boss.
6. NEVER Read
Sometimes speakers will think that if they have a projector and a slideshow, they can just read their slides. This will make you look like you don’t know your material, and it will erode your audience’s confidence in you AND your message or product.
7. 15 Word Summary
If you can’t summarize your idea in 15 words, write it down and try again. You want to have a concise sentence you can use repeatedly, so that you can reinforce your message without having to rehash the whole thing.
8. Project your voice
You’re speaking, so let yourself be heard. Even with microphones, it’s best to let your voice resonate from your diaphragm than from your throat. No audience likes a speaker they can’t hear clearly.
9. Tell Stories
If you have a long presentation, it’s best to make your points through stories and anecdotes. A great speaker will use stories to create emotional connections with his audience.
10. Come EARLY
Come REALLY early. Don’t let your audience watch you fiddle around with powerpoint or your equipment if you can help it. This will only make you look like you aren’t well-prepared. Show up early enough to go through your slideshow, plan out how you’ll carry yourself in the space provided, and so on. This alone can make a huge difference in how your audience perceives you.
11. Breathe in, not out
Replace every ‘ah,’ ‘um,’ and ‘well,’ with a quiet breath inward. These little pauses can lend gravity to your words instead of killing your presentation with words and phrases that make you seem uncertain.
12. Natural Gestures
Never plan your gestures, it can easily make you look like you’re trying too hard, and it won’t come across as natural. You’re better off leaving your arms at your sides than gesturing in a way that doesn’t flow with your words.
13. That’s a good question
You can use this and similar phrases to buy yourself some time before responding to a question, but its best to say something more thoughtful and directly connected to the question itself. Be so prepared that no question can throw you off.
Join a group like Toastmaster and practice your presentation skills regularly. You’ll have fun, and you’ll develop confidence for when you have to speak in a business setting.
15. Become your audience
Put yourself in their place. What are some parts of your message they might not understand? What might they find dull?
16. Don’t apologize
Apologies are appropriate when you’ve actually done something wrong. Never use an apology to excuse incompetence, and never apologize for being nervous or ill-prepared. In the first case, most of your audience may not even notice, and in the latter, an admission that you’re not prepared will only undermine your efforts to be credible.
17. DO apologize if you’re wrong
When you Do mess up, genuine humility is usually appreciated by most people.
18. Wear comfortable shoes
While your footwear should look professional and well-kept, it should above all things be comfortable! Especially for long presentations, the wrong footwear can cause foot and back pain, and that in turn can leave you grimacing or moving awkwardly which won’t help your message. Even if you DO maintain your composure in uncomfortable shoes, the unnecessary discomfort can distract you and throw off the rhythm of your presentation.
19. Have fun
Remember that your audience is comprised of people. Engage them, know your subject thoroughly, and with practice, you can actually enjoy almost any kind of presentation you’re called on to do.