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Presenting in Public: Ten Golden Rules

Oct 12, 2007
"The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public."

When Sir George Jessel uttered these words, he touched not only on a great truth, but on why so many of us fear presentations. The ability to present and speak in public is not always inherent but presentation skills can be learnt.

Below are ten useful pointers to put into practice to ensure you speak with confidence, clarity and impact the next time you present.

Dealing with Nerves

Nerves are good. Without nerves, you have no chance of performing to your potential. Yet as we all know, uncontrolled nerves can make the difference between polished fluency and scratchy inadequacy.

The key lies in control. Nerves need to be replaced by confidence - this can mean visualising your goal. Motivate yourself with the image of a confident and competent performer. "It's all in the mind" is truer than we imagine. Persuade yourself that you are a good speaker and your presentation skills will improve.

Put Yourself in the Audience's Shoes

It's important to resist the temptation to convey all you know about a subject. Enhance your presentation skills by approaching your subject from your audience's point of view and what they want to hear. Refer to their concerns and give examples pertinent to their lives. Don't run through a series of features - explain the benefits which they can derive from a course of action. Talk in the audience's language, avoiding the barriers created by jargon.

Keep it Simple

The purpose of a presentation is to put across key messages, convince your audience of your competence and generate enthusiasm to take the next step. Garnish your presentation with examples, anecdotes, repetition and references to the audience's own experiences so that facts have sufficient time and supporting evidence to be remembered.


You know where you are in your presentation. But unless you clarify your position and progress to your audience, they will have no idea. You will lose them. Competent presenters will always explain what they are going to cover - and how. Then they cover it, reminding you regularly of where they are in the narrative. If you lose the thread, they weave you back into the story at regular points. And finally, they reiterate what has been said, so that key messages reverberate as you leave.

Words That Win Support

Persuasion is the object of every presentation. Your choice of words is crucial in achieving this. One of the most powerful words at your disposal is 'you'. It's astonishing the difference that arises between a passive statement of fact and its active personalisation. Peppering your presentation with 'you' and 'we' is inclusive and empathetic.

Visual Aids that Add Value

Visual aids should do just that: help the audience visually. They are there to reinforce your message, provide cues for your presentation and in some instances make points with greater impact than words could achieve. What they must not do is take over.

Visual Impact

You can enhance your presentation skills by improving some of the fundamentals of presenting - good eye contact, natural hand gestures, a relaxed stance and an open manner. By doing this you will stand a much better chance of impressing and grabbing the attention of your audience.

Vocal Impression

Making the best use of your voice is as important as visual impact. In a good speaker you will hear modulation and control. They use pauses effectively as a means to bring the audience's attention level back. The voice is a flexible and powerful tool. Try to vary your tone as often as possible to add emphasis to what
you say.

How To Answer Questions

Perhaps second only to the fear of drying up in a presentation is the fear of questions. Yet there are no impossible questions. If you know your subject, you will be able to respond to all sensible queries.

If you don't know the answer, admit it candidly and calmly. Never guess, never waffle.

Practise, then Practise More

The more time you spend on preparation, practice and developing your presentation skills, the more likely you are to give visual impact and vocal impression their due.

You can never prepare too much and the effects of doing too little will always be evident to your audience. The more effort you put into the preparation stage the more confident you will be in the delivery.
About the Author
Shaun Parker teaches his clients to give sparkling presentations. To find out how to enhance your presentation skills, contact Speak First on 020 7253 2117 or click on the link: Presentation Skills
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