Conference presentations can be overwhelming. Learn these six tricks to help you connect with your audience and make your point last.
Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, affects over 75% of the population. It certainly tried to beat me. My first big speech was delivering the commencement address at my junior college. I won a major award through USA Today and the school administration gave me the opportunity to be the first student to ever speak at graduation.
No pressure, right?
As a writer, getting my thoughts on paper was easy. But, once I walked up on that stage and saw an entire gymnasium staring back at me ready to celebrate their own big day, I realized I was the only one standing between them and being out of this packed arena.
My palms began to sweat. My lips physically quivered and I felt nauseous. The voice inside of my head kept reminding me of how unqualified I was to be there. Imposter syndrome wrapped its fingers around my neck as I went into autopilot.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how long I talked or how fast I talked. I literally read the speech word for word from the paper. A smile was forced at the end of my speech. I knew one day I’d look back on that moment with either amazing pride or complete humiliation.
It turned out to be a combination of both.
I’ve come a long way from being that scared 19-year-old girl. In fact, speaking is now almost as fun to me as writing is. If you’re nervous about an upcoming presentation, I’m living proof that there is hope.
Here are some tips to make the process easier.
How to Start Crafting a Presentation
“How to Make an Impactful Presentation” goes through the initial details of how to make a presentation. Between outlining, defining your purpose, and practicing, this is an essential starting point for new presenters.
Once you work through the basics, it’s time to jump into what makes your presentation different from every other presentation: You. Your perspective is different from every other person in the room. As the presenter, your job is to connect people to your perspective.
1. Understand What Your Audience Wants
Inc.com went through the top TED talks to discover what they have in common. It wasn’t laughter or a feeling of motivation. What sets the top talks apart from the rest is that people came away feeling like they were better people for having listened. They felt enriched.
There is an art of changing people from bored onlookers to active listeners. The starting point is often a story.
2. Hook Listeners with a Story
People connect with people, not titles. No matter what your credentials are, your goal should be to connect with your audience on a personal level. For some people, humor is the answer. For others (like me), jokes can feel forced. Stories are key for those of us in the latter category.
Think back to the beginning of this article. Could you envision the frightened teenager behind the podium? Did you feel for her? That’s the goal. Find a story that unifies the room.
Make sure your story is:
- True: Don’t make up a story just to find a hook. People need to be able to trust the presenter. When you insert a lie, that trust is forfeited.
- Yours: Don’t tell someone else’s story. If you want your audience to connect with you, the story needs to be yours.
- Uniting: If your presentation makes some people love you and others hate you, you haven’t done your job. Your job is to find the piece of information that unites everyone in the room and focus on that.
When you think you have the story you’re going to use, run it by a few people. Sometimes a story is so personal, we can’t tell that it might offend someone. It could also simply not be culturally relevant for people who aren’t like you.
Business Minutia Podcast’s Presentation 101 is crammed full of information on presentation skills including the Rule of Three, the role of the slide deck, how to use stories, and the value of timing. It’s worth a listen as you prepare for your big day.
3. Learn Slide Deck Basics
A slide deck is a fancy term for a presentation that pops up on the big screen behind a presenter. They’re commonly built using programs such as PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Keynote. If you are presenting at a conference, it’s always a good idea to ask if a slide presentation is applicable.
When building the slide deck, make sure to keep the text enticing and readable. Your goal is to hit the highlights, so if someone only sees the slides without the benefit of the speech, they still understand the story you’re telling.
4. Liven Things up with Music
Think about your favorite show from childhood. Chances are good that you remember the theme song. Music sets the tone for everything, from movies, to athletic events, to commercials. It can do the same thing for your presentation.
For many larger conferences, it is considered a crucial part of the overall presentation. Check out “How to Add Music to Enhance Your Slideshow Presentation” for more details on how Shutterstock can help you engage your audience with available tunes and inspiring melodies.
Just like with photos, some music isn’t available for free use in presentations. The pros at Shutterstock can help keep you from an infringement you might not even know existed.
5. Include Graphs, Charts, and Images That Pop
Infographics add immediate impact to any presentation, but they don’t have to be boring. Just like with the presentation itself, creating effective infographics starts with organizing your research, creating an outline, and then deciding what information is most valuable.
To discover where infographics can be used in your presentation, go slide by slide with someone who knows little to nothing about what you’re presenting. Give them permission to ask questions. If there’s a question you can represent visually, rather than in written text, consider creating an infographic.
Check out 15 Types of Infographics for ideas to make your presentation memorable.
Your goal is to anticipate your audience’s needs. If you can picture them giving you a puzzled look and not fully understanding what you’re saying, you want them to get the “ah-ha” of a graphic representation.
6. Practice Your Presentation
Being a quality speaker is a skill that takes time to master. While these keys can accelerate your growth, they don’t remove the fear that can sometimes leave your palms sweaty. But, solid communication skills can set you apart from the competition, and presentations are a large part of that.
Good preparation goes far at alleviating fear. Practice takes you a step further still. However, the breakthrough really comes with repeated exposure to getting in front of a group of people over and over (and over) again.
Don’t let the podium win. With these six tricks, you can give a presentation that leaves a lasting impression.
License this cover image mockup via Vectorium and Chief Crow Daria.