As demonstrated during our lecture this week by a number of us standing at the front of the room, giving a presentation and even just standing in front of an audience can be a pretty daunting experience. However, we were given some advice on how to tackle those nerves.
The first bit of advice was to get familiar with the space before doing the presentation. This means coming in at some point before the presentation and standing up in the room where you will be standing just to get a sense of the space. Another useful thing to do might be practising speaking and standing up in from of people in general as the more we exposed ourselves to situations that make us anxious the better we are at dealing with them in future as used in exposure therapy, a psychological treatment that was developed to help people confront their fears.
Make Eye Contact
Another important aspect to consider when giving a presentation is the importance of eye contact. An article in Inc. on the topic highlights these additional benefits:
- Focusing your eyes helps you to concentrate.
- It displays confidence to the audience which helps you to appear more authoritative
- If you don’t look people in the eye they are less likely to look at you which will raise the likelihood that they will start thinking about other things and stop listening to what you’re saying.
- Eye contact encourages listeners to engage with you by nodding etc.
- When you look someone in the eye for three to five seconds, you will naturally slow down your speech.
All of these reasons are very good points to consider when it comes to making eye contact and highlight the very real importance of making eye contact when giving a pitch or presentation.
This can be made difficult if everyone is scattered in small groups around the room. The problem is when you are addressing one group the other groups will be excluded and as stated above will be more likely to disengage with what you’re saying. The best way to deal with this is to encourage everyone to come closer to where you are speaking from and sit together at the start of the presentation.
Stick to your time
When delivering a presentation stick to your time. The main way to achieve this I have found is through practice. Another important consideration is the size of your slide deck. If you are giving a 10-minute presentation this means you should roughly have about 10 slides (a slide a minute). This may vary based on your presentation style. You may have only 5 slides as you don’t require very many visual aids. You may have 20 because you’re using slides to emphasise points that will only remain on screen for a few seconds. However, if you know you’re going to require at least a minute to deliver each slide this is a good rule to stick to. In instances like pitches, it’s generally ok to be under time but not ok to be over time.
Pictures over words
Always use pictures over words. Pictures grab the audience’s attention and provide context on what you’re saying without you having to say it. As shown in the images above Bill Gates presentation looks a lot less appealing based on his text-filled slide than Steve Job’s presentation consisting only of an image (there is animation happening here but the general point remains). A screen full of text distracts the audience from listening to what you are saying because they’re too busy reading the text.
An image or even just a few words however provides a backdrop. When there is no text the audience isn’t reading their listening. It also provides a point of focus which mean their not staring at the person presenting which can be a real plus and as stated above having somewhere to focus improves concentration so they are actually listening better than if there were nothing at all.
Keep it Simple
There are of course times when you will need to incorporate text on a slide. In these instances use plain English, this also applies to what you’re saying. It is the best way to speak to your audience as they might not understand specific terminology related to the topic. Speaking in plain English and using shorter words will help the audience to understand what your saying more quickly. We were given an example of this during this weeks lecture and the difference is incredible see image below.
The key takeaway here is to be succinct. If you don’t need extra words don’t use them.
Creating a Slides Deck
Some of the most important factors to consider when it comes to putting together presentation slides are as follows:
- Stick to one typeface and stay away from any crazy fonts
- Transactions can be effective when used appropriately but as a general rule keep them subtle.
- Use GIFs and short videos sparkingly. My preference here is to put them on a separate slide so that they’re not playing while you’re talking as this can be distracting or even annoying for the audience.
- Keep text to a minimum and use bullet points
- Don’t have too many slides (judge this on the amount of time you have)
- Check your spelling and proof slides in general for any missing quotes or images etc.
- Be prepared, come with backups e.g. prints or a pdf file, your own clicker etc.
When designing a slide deck or selecting a slide size use the ratio of 16:9. Keep visuals inline particularly of your displaying a number of images, place them in a grid. It can also be helpful to create a screen aspect ratio slide, see the below image.
This is used to ensure the projector or screen you using isn’t misaligned and that the colour quality is correct. If the white, dot isn’t in the centre of the screen, the coloured dots are missing or their not the right colour you know that adjustments need to be made before your presentation begins.
There are two ways you can structure your slides. The first is laying out what you’re going to cover and then covering it and the second is jumping straight in. There is also the option to use supporting materials such as handouts, though it is advisable to hold off on giving these out until the end as they may prove distracting. As you want your content to be engaging and to hold the audience’s attention you might also want to consider adding in some persuasive techniques such as including rhetoric in your presentation to make it more memorable and to emphasize points.
16 Rhetorical Devices Steve Jobs Used in the Macworld 2007 iPhone Launch
An article on Rhetorical devices points out 16 rhetorical devices used by Steve Jobs in the Macworld 2007 iPhone Launch. I thought the sheer amount of different rhetorical devices used in the launch presentation was quite impressive so I have organised them above along with an image of Steve Jobs into a quick infographic.
The presentation given by Jobs is very impressive, it’s humorous and it engages and excites the audience and is all-around quite entertaining. While in an investor pitch you might not want to go just as bold as Steve Jobs there are some forms of rhetoric that might be worth considering. These include repetition (which features in most of the devices above), simile and climax. All of which I feel could be used appropriately in an investor pitch.
The important thing to remember in my opinion is to end strong. I think it’s good if possible to end a presentation with something memorable. A quote, a bold statement or a story are a few approaches that appear to be quite popular. The idea here is that it helps your presentation to stay with the audience and ends on a high.
The areas covered in this week have been so helpful and something I intend to refer to in future when giving presentations in general. Public speaking is an area I definitely shy away from. However, hopefully, with practice and by trying to maintain eye contact, creating a great slide deck with plenty of visuals and employing lots of rhetorical devices I can overcome this fair slightly and improve my presentation skills.