I speak in front of people for a living, and often as a volunteer. I train individuals and groups in technology (and sometimes nutrition). I love what I do.
When I started, I was awful (and I still have bad presentations from time to time) but what I’ve learned is that presentations are typically better when the following is true:
1. Know your topic thoroughly. Don’t try to fly blind – know as much as you can about what you’re talking about, and you’ll be able to talk about it naturally.
2. Get enough rest. If you’re tired, it’s going to show in your performance. Make sure that the night before you speak is a calm quiet one, with plenty of rest.
3. Don’t be hungry or preoccupied. If you are thinking about food or your bills or your mate, you won’t be thinking about your audience.
4. Don’t do a speech. Speak naturally – have prompts, like in a PowerPoint or index cards if you must, but try not to memorize or ‘report’ your presentation. The fluidity of your presentation can go a long way to making it successful.
5. Practice. Practice makes you comfortable – do it always.
6. Have great prompts. I love the way Steve Jobs and Seth Godin present – they use innovative and powerful text and image reinforcement of what they’re presenting. They don’t read off slides. They know what they’re saying and could do it without prompts, but the prompts are great.
7. Attend to your audience. Encourage interruptions and questions – it will allow you to break from the path of your presentation and develop audience participation.
8. Know your audience. Don’t present a movie review to a book club. Don’t present a technical presentation to a end-user audience. Don’t present a prime rib to vegans.
9. Change it up. Every few minutes you should be doing something slightly different. Introduce a game in the middle of your talk. Have a contest mid stream. Throw in a funny, unexpected picture.
10. Do it again. and again. and again. Every time you do it, you’ll get a little better.