By Jeff Herrington
Your industry has asked you to present on your field of expertise. But the thought of presenting makes your palms sweat.
Calm your nerves. Follow these seven tips and you’ll likely get applause from your audience, not rotten tomatoes.
- Remind yourself nobody’s going to throw rotten tomatoes at you – Your audience is rooting for you. Still, establishing rapport up front helps. Ask about someone’s lapel pin or laptop case. Don’t glad-hand everyone – that comes across needy. Be friendly but be authentic.
- Don’t let a slip break your stride – Correct your malapropism (or excuse your cough) and keep on presenting. People care more about how a presenter reacts to a snafu than the fact they made one. Just smile, say “oops,” and offer your next key point. Your audience will be impressed you withstood a faux pas far better than they would have.
- Move around. But don’t make people seasick – When you start, anchor in a location and remain there for several minutes. Once you’re into your presentation, however, feel free to gently roam. Audiences like to know their presenter isn’t some remote-controlled robot. But you’re not a thoroughbred vying for the Triple Crown, either. Glide. Stop. Present for a while. Glide again.
- Dialogue more, monologue less – Engagement is the goal. People learn more through conversation (and are less likely to doze off). Pitch questions: ‘Who has encountered this challenge and how did YOU solve it?’ Even let your audience answer one another’s questions. But control the room. This is YOUR presentation, not The Jerry Springer Show.
- One point per slide – I’m stunned some presenters still put six bullet points on one slide. Like there’s a dearth of PowerPoint slides out there and we need to conserve them. Deliver your points one at a time, visually as well as orally. You’ll more easily recall what you have to say and your audience will more easily recall what you said.
- Expect pushback. Know how to manage it – Challenging authority has replaced baseball as our national pastime. Expect someone to dispute some point you’re making. Here’s where “getting along” must transcend “proving you’re right.” Ask challengers how they derived their view (you may find some truth in their perspective, allowing you to then show how nuanced your topic is). If their view’s incorrect, or outdated, don’t say that. Focus on what the evidence reveals (“We used to think the world was flat, but explorers have disproven that by sailing around the world.”) That moves the dispute from one of opinions to facts.
- Conclude by asking for questions. And, for enlightenment – In wrapping up, I ask what surprised the group most about what they heard. What they learned that they hadn’t expected to. What they’ll do differently as a result of my talk or continue to do with greater passion. Their answers should convince your hosts that you got your points across well. And, that they should invite you back to present on another topic.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER
Jeff Herrington has conducted hundreds of writing workshops in the U. S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., and Germany. Companies that have been brought Jeff’s workshops on-site include JPMorgan Chase, American Century Investments, Arizona Public Service, IBM, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Jeff also has provided consulting expertise for such companies as Coca-Cola France, Whirlpool, John Deere and Wausau Insurance.
In addition to his consulting, coaching and workshops, Jeff also has composed several crossword puzzles that have been published in The New York Times, and he writes under the name of Jeffrey Eaton as a murder mystery author.