Published 09 November 2016 Category: Compass Tips, Workplace

How to give a great presentation: 5 public speaking tips to turn you pro

Is the thought of the next public presentation giving you heart palpitations? If you’re shy and not used to the spotlight, the thought of giving a presentation – whether to an audience of 2 or 200 – can be terrifying.

As Compass regularly hosts speakers and events, we’ve taken notes on what the most effective presentations have in common. Here are some public speaking tips to turn anyone into a pro at public speaking:

  1. Don’t depend on your PowerPoint for everything.

We’ve all sat in on these kinds of presentations: Projector comes down, slides go up, speaker then proceeds to read off the slides. Every. Single. Word.
Reading off of a PowerPoint is a sure way to guarantee a snoozing audience, no matter how interesting the information is. Don’t treat your PowerPoint as a teleprompter! Your slides are not a safety blanket, they should be supplementary not rudimentary. Include less text in your PowerPoint and more visuals. And if you are using PowerPoint, make a backup plan or file in case technology falters. We’ve often seen people panic when their PowerPoint stops loading. Not relying on it in the first place – but having it saved elsewhere in case – is the best way to guarantee smooth sailing throughout.

  1. Make eye contact with as many people as possible.

Now that you have the audience looking at you and not just a massive amount of notes on your PowerPoint, make eye contact. Not only will eye contact draw audience members in (and shame them from looking at their phone), but eye contact also produces a powerful and emotional connection with the people you’re speaking to. It’ll turn the presentation from impersonal to personal, disengaging to engaging.

  1. Use positive and confident body language.

All eyes will be on you on presentation day. Use this to your advantage by letting body language take care of 50% of the job. The audience will be observing your facial expressions, your posture and your voice. Thus, research power poses and practice authoritative positioning. Do not slouch, twiddle your fingers, or fix your hair or outfit while giving a presentation. By acting confident through your body language, you’ll gain confidence.  

  1. Include the audience in the presentation.  

Even though you’re doing the speaking, the audience shouldn’t be passive. A good presentation includes the audience in the process, turning them from quiet listeners to
active participants. How can you do this? Start by asking audience a few questions, or poll them for their experiences and opinions. They’ll be less likely to fall asleep or daydream.

  1. Practice with a friend (or make a recording).

One of the best ways to improve your public speaking is to watch a recording of yourself. You’ll be able to see recurring nervous habits and notice the use of repetitious filler words. Often, we don’t notice our mannerisms until it’s glaring us in the face. If the thought of watching yourself is too painful, ask a friend or trusted colleague to do a test run with you, and ask for honest tips after the presentation is over.