Presentations are terrifying. Just the thought of standing up in a room full of people is enough to get even the most confident of public speakers a little clammy. If you knew taking out a student loan would result in this, you might not have even thought about pursuing the university dream! But there is good news – it’s here at university where you can learn to make mistakes in a friendly, safe environment. This is where you work out your own style (and you do have style) and experiment with a subject matter you love. So crack open power point and get ready to present!
Ever walk out of a lecture or a movie, or read a book, and think, “I’m not sure why, but I really liked that”. Often that has to do with a thing we call – ‘the hook’. Our brains are programmed in such a way that in order to maintain attention we have to be mentally stimulated in the first 30-60 seconds. The hook is a simple way of doing this – it’s a short, snappy sentence that instantly grabs your audience’s attention. A joke is a good way of successfully landing a hook, but if you don’t want to take the risk with humour then some amazing statistic will usually do the trick.
Speak in your own voice
You’ve talked to people before, right? That’s all this is, just a conversation with more than one person. If you talk in a certain way then stick with it. Avoid words that you don’t usually use (don’t suddenly start saying “the juxtaposition of colours was phantasmagoric”) it will sound unnatural and will give you one more thing to have to worry about. The people you are speaking with are your peers. They most likely talk the same way you do. Your voice has had years of practice and most importantly, it’s yours.
What the hell do I do with my hands?
It’s estimated that up to 55% of communication is made through body language and as little as 7% is attributed to words. That’s not to say that the words are unimportant but focusing on body language is as important as the dialogue you are working on. One thing people struggle with is their hands. Here’s what to do:
- Hand movement is a good thing, it adds charisma and portrays passion. Always show your audience open palms. This gives them understanding.
- Only use exaggerated hand gestures when you are making exaggerated points otherwise try to keep them to within the natural width of your body.
- Don’t ever point! Just don’t do it!
Make a move
This might be a bit much to take on for your first presentation but if you are feeling more comfortable with the basics a bit of on-stage movement can make a world of difference. The brain is always looking for opportunities to zone out. A simple walk from the pedestal can really help to re-engage.
Preparation is essential
Last but not least, you’ve got to practice. There are very few people in this world that are able to wing public speaking. Some people like to write out their complete speech but resist trying to learn it verbatim, your tone of voice on page is very different to your actual tone of voice. The best thing to do is make bullet points per slide and learn those points. The best presentations are the ones where the presenter isn’t just reading from the slides. And remember to enjoy yourself, the feeling after finishing a successful presentation is hard to beat.
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