Presentations can be nerve-wracking for anyone. Even with relative experience, you’ll never be able to predict how things will turn out. You can’t ever be a hundred percent sure about how the audience will react. If you want to be ready for anything, you need to practice and perfect your presentation skills.
These techniques are based on activities outlined by Gabrielle Jones, an ESP teacher who writes for The Business English Experience. Jones uses these activities to teach her class about presentation delivery. To do it at home or during your free time, start by setting up a camera and record yourself while practicing. You can use the footage to review what you said, noting all the areas that need improvement.
1. Practice structure and brevity
We’ve written about the importance of structure and brevity in presentations. Practice your ability to logically structure ideas by telling a story that you’re completely familiar with and do this within 10 minutes. In Jones’ class, she asked her students to introduce themselves one by one.
In your presentation, you can do the same thing by picking out the most important details about yourself and ordering them in a way that would be easy to follow.
For a real challenge, you can also try to recall your favorite book or movie. To relay the story in 10 minutes, you have to choose the details that are most crucial to the narrative—keep your story linear and avoid segues.
2. Practice transitioning from one idea to the next without losing sight of your main goal
When tackling a variety of topics, you need to know how to properly transition from one idea to the next. Practice your ability to sequence various ideas while keeping in line with your main goal. To do this, Jones asked her students to relay instructions describing a certain process.
A few of them described how to use gadgets like Google Glass while some talked about studying at university and filling up your car with gas. Choose a process you know well and try to describe it step by step. Use words like “first of all,” “then” and “finally” to help audiences keep track of the progression of your ideas.
3. Practice making an impact through rhythm and intonation
Adding variety to your speech allow audiences to distinguish the emotions and attitudes in your presentation. Avoid a monotone and deadpan delivery by practicing your rhythm and intonation. This is best done if you already have a presentation prepared.
You can also use a presentation you’ve delivered in the past or something you commonly give every now and then (like a sales pitch or a quick introductory seminar for new hires). Deliver your speech as you would in front of an audience. Give yourself time to pause in places that need a more dramatic effect.
Add feelings to your voice by changing up your intonation. Be mindful of what mood you’d like to express and experiment by reading your speech in several different ways.
4. Practice improvisation and responding to difficult questions
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no way of knowing how your presentation will turn out. Practice your ability to think on your feet by doing some improv exercises. Try some of the common techniques comedians and actors use.
Aside from improvisation, you should also practice how to navigate through difficult (and perhaps aggressive) questions. Do a quick Google search for an article on any topic that interests you.
After reading it, scroll down to the comments section and browse for one that you disagree with. Imagine that this was a comment in your own presentation. How would you answer it? To make things more challenging, look for comments posted by “trolls” and think of a way to handle the situation.
You can do these activities at once, or focus on the ones where you think you need the most help with.
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Featured Image: Glen Wright via Flickr