Source: Russell davies via flickr.
Advice

Giving presentations

By Lorena Stancu

Giving presentations: how to think about it differently

Why such a big deal?

We can all recognise a good presentation, but when it is you the one on the stage, things are different. From a slight discomfort to anxiety towards public speaking, most people experience a feeling of hesitation when giving presentations. Why?

Psychological barriers

Although daily life involves public speaking, this is normally a two-way conversation in which attention shifts from one speaker to the other, and we rely on mutual feedback which is reassuring. During presentations on the other hand, the attention falls on a singular speaker, who is expected to be convincing, confident and even entertaining; the self-awareness and desire for impression management increases as the speaker is not simply expected to present a material in front of a crowd, but to present him/herself, subjecting to the scrutiny of others.

Public speaking is therefore uncomfortable for most people, yet getting your head around it can make the performance in front of a public enjoyable both for the presenter and the spectators.

You and the rest of the world

The typical advice on how to deliver great presentations focuses particularly on prescriptive methods of what makes a good presentation and how to make yourself as a presenter fit that model. However, when you are given all the control, that is the moment when you feel least in control; while imagining your audience naked sounds like a plausible method, it is very hard to actually implement it when their staggering looks arch into you making You feel naked rather than the reverse.

The “be yourself” cliché re-written

My advice is not to comply to a formula of giving presentations, but focus mainly on your individuality: for example, if you are more of a private and shy person, translate that to the audience rather than trying to push yourself to be different. Since presentations involve playing a role to some extent, I suggest you play your role. Give your presentation an angle which is unique. Focus on yourself as a central character enabled to express a voice to the world. Some people find it useful to rehearse in the mirror, maybe record themselves, but use that only to know and appreciate the sound of your voice, or the sparkle in your eyes when speaking about something that you are passionate about. Pour a bit of yourself into the presentation, be transparent, honest and confident.

The knowledge is power paradigm

To be confident, you should become an expert of the subject area, which will help you anticipate questions that won’t catch you off guard. Make you audience curious and captivated. The content should flow naturally, like the slides have written themselves to accompany your voice. Also, make sure you know your audience to calibrate your your tone, register, and content accordingly.

Remember

Always think of presentations as a personal project. That way you will engage fully with the presentation and it won’t seem like a separated part from you, something that you “have to do”, but something you are proud of, something that is you. Presentations are fun, they are ways to explore themes never fully looked in depth into, ways of getting to grips with your own knowledge and validate it in front of others, and once you’re done with it, it will boost your confidence, and make a great example of work to add to your personal portfolio.

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