It's easy to believe that the key skill in giving a presentation is making sure you say the right thing, but studies have shown that 55% of your message comes from non-verbal cues and people remember more if they see something than if they just hear it. This article looks at the eight areas you need to focus on to make the most of that 55%.
Your Natural Style
Making an objective assessment of your natural style will help you identify what's good and bad. For example, a tendency to be flippant will not help your credibility but enthusiasm will help you sell your ideas.
Maintaining eye contact with your audience helps build your relationship with them. Be inclusive, vary the people you look at and look at someone when they ask questions. Don't save your eye contact for your notes; make sure you know your topic well enough that you only need them as a quick guide.
Everyone fidgets when they're nervous, often without realising it. Keep your hands out of your pockets and remove coins or other noisy items. Don't hold a pen if you have a tendency to click it on and off. Hold on to something relevant to your presentation, like your notes, if you need to keep your hands occupied.
Don't wear anything too distracting or uncomfortable. Think about where your audience's eyeline will be: if you're on a podium they could be looking straight at your hemline or socks. Don't forget your hair, especially if you have a fringe; you'll appear more credible and trustworthy if they can see your eyes.
The way you stand can reveal a surprising amount about your emotions. Do you look scared, aggressive or bored? You need to appear confident and engaged.
Many people 'talk with their hands', using them to emphasise a point or illustrate size. Gestures can also reveal your state of mind, whether you want them to or not. If you're prone to arm waving then make sure you have something to hold on to. Practising in front of a mirror can show you if this is something you need to address.
Sitting Or Standing
Most presentations are given standing: it gives you more authority and confidence, allows you to maintain better eye contact with your audience and is more formal. Sitting may be appropriate for smaller or more informal groups such as meetings. Whichever you choose, make sure you can be seen by your audience.
The audience has come for your presentation, so you need to be where they can see you clearly, not hiding behind the audio-visual equipment. Take care not to wander too much or the audience will start to get tired or distracted watching you.
Improving the Good and Reducing the Bad
Practising in front of a mirror will help you identify the good habits you want to nurture and the bad ones you want to eliminate. It will also give you confidence that will help you overcome the worst of them. Delivering a presentation can be nerve-wracking, no matter how much experience you have, but if you look confident, remember your presentation starts from the moment they see you and let your natural self show through, you can't go far wrong.