Talk to your audience, don’t read to them! A presentation is not the same as an essay. If you read out your presentation as if it were an essay, your audience will probably understand very little and will lose concentration quickly. So use notes, cue cards or overheads as prompts, and speak to the audience. Include everyone by looking at them and maintaining eye-contact (but don’t stare or glare at people).
Watch your language!
- Keep it simple. The aim is to communicate, not to show off your vocabulary.
- Emphasize the key points—and make sure people realize which are the key points. Repeat them using different phrasing.
- Check the pronunciation of difficult, unusual, or foreign words beforehand.
Use your voice to communicate clearly
- Speak loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear you.
This may feel uncomfortably loud at first, but if people can’t hear you, they won’t listen.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
Don’t rush! Speaking fast doesn’t make you seem smarter, it will only make it harder for other people to understand you.
- Key words are important. Speak them out slowly and loudly.
- Vary your voice quality. If you always use the same volume and pitch (for example, all loud, or all soft, or in a monotone) your audience will switch off.
- When you begin a new point, use a higher pitch and volume.
- Slow down for key points.
- Use pauses—don’t be afraid of short periods of silence. (They give you a chance to gather your thoughts, and your audience a chance to think.)
Use your body to communicate, too!
- Stand straight and comfortably. Do not slouch or shuffle about.
- Hold your head up. Look around and make eye-contact with people in the audience. Do not just address the lecturer! Do not stare at a point on the carpet or the wall. If you don’t include the audience, they won’t listen to you.
- When you are talking to your friends, you naturally use your hands, your facial expression, and your body to add to your communication. Do it in your presentation as well. It will make things far more interesting for the audience.
- Don’t turn your back on the audience!
Interact with the audience
- Be aware of how your audience is reacting.
Are they interested or bored? If they look confused, ask them why.
Stop if necessary and explain a point again.
- Check if the audience is still with you.
‘Does that make sense?’
‘Is that clear?’
- Be open to questions.
If someone raises a hand, or asks a question in the middle of your talk, answer it. If you can’t answer it, turn the question back out to the audience and let someone else answer it!
Questions are good. They show that the audience is listening with interest. They should not be regarded as an attack on you, but as a collaborative search for deeper understanding.
- Be ready to get the discussion going after your presentation. Just in case nobody has anything to say, have some provocative questions or points for discussion ready to ask the group.
It is very helpful to use visual aids in your presentation, as it helps people to understand. People learn visually as well as orally. Particularly if your accent is different from your audience’s accent, it can be very helpful to let them see your keywords.
Overheads are the easiest and most reliable form of visual aids. You can use them as a prompt for your talk, so that you may not need cards. [But don’t read word-for-word from your overheads!]