1. Know your purpose
Every presentation has a purpose. Are you speaking today to persuade your supervisor to give you more responsibility? Are you educating your board on the latest prospect research results? Or, are you orienting new volunteers with Raiser’s Edge™ data entry policies and procedures for your organization? Each of these presentations demands a certain formality, pace, and research. Taking the wrong tone can make you appear stiff and nervous, or worse, unprepared and unprofessional.
2. Let your audience decide
One of the greatest lessons I learned from my public speaking professor was to never pre-apologize for my presentation. Starting out with “I haven’t had much time to prepare…” or “This is my opinion, so I’m sorry, but…” immediately gives cues to your audience that you think your own words and thoughts lack merit. Don’t sell yourself short! Let your audience form their own opinions of what you’re saying, and then respond accordingly to their critiques or questions.
3. Predict the future
Speaking of questions, think ahead to what the most likely questions might be, and how you’d respond. This exercise isn’t for the purpose of having canned responses, rather it’s to ensure there are no holes in your presentation. Is there a way you can smoothly incorporate that topic into the conversation proactively? Thinking ahead to questions people may ask also gives you a chance to review the question from all angles and research further.
4. Provide resources
I never present information I want people to use again in the future without giving them resources to fall back on. Whether it be a handout in a meeting, a link to your organization’s website, or a go-to person in the office, you should be letting your audience know where they can learn more. The provision of resources will empower you audience to answer their own questions.
5. Expect homework
There always seems to be a bit of homework after presenting information to a group. There could be questions you weren’t able to answer, people you need to follow up with, or adjustments to be made before presenting the information again. Regardless, I always set aside at least 15 minutes after a presentation to jot these points down while they’re fresh on my mind. If possible, I like to have someone on my team keep track for me, so that I don’t lose my rhythm.
Next time you’re putting together a presentation, think back to the five tips above. You’ll feel better-prepared and your confidence will shine!
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