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Making a Wow! presentation PDF Print E-mail

Avoid boring your audienceDON’T worry if you dread making a presentation to your class. Together with arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and acrophobia (fear of heights), the fear of public speaking ranks as one of the greatest phobias.

The following five guidelines will assist you to overcome this fear and put together a great presentation that will wow your class mates and lecturers.

1. The drawing board
A key part of your planning is to research your audience. See your presentation from the audience’s perspective.

Ask yourself questions like, “What will capture and retain their attention?” or “What will bore them?” Use the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) guideline to assist you.

You will also need to define the purpose of the presentation so that you are very clear about what you are trying to achieve from it.

Thereafter you can brainstorm about what you’re actually going to say and then structure this into “digestible” chunks, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

Typically your beginning should capture the audience attention and introduce the topic. The middle should contain your main points and supporting information, while the end should summarise the whole presentation.

2. The Rule of Three
Remember as a kid when your mum sent you to the shops with a grocery list, but when you got to the shop all you could remember were three things? This is the rule of three.

People tend to remember lists of three things easily, so before you start writing your presentation, plan what your three key messages will be.

For example if you are making a presentation on “Improving Studying Skills” you can reduce the process to three key skills such “Read” “Write” and “Recite”.

Once you have these messages, structure the main part of your presentation around them.

3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
You would be appalled if you went to a play only to find that the actors haven’t properly learnt their lines.

Similarly you’d not be amused to go watch your favourite musician perform, only to realise that the band is playing out of tune because they haven’t rehearsed properly.

Yet in presentations the most common mistake is that people fail to prepare adequately.

It is advisable to rehearse at least four times prior to your presentation. It’s even better if you can memorise your script.

Rehearse at least once in front of an audience such as family, friends or classmates. Such an audience will help point out where you are going wrong as well as provide moral support.

For presentations with a specified time, rehearse with a watch and allow extra time in your presentation for questions.

A very simple trick that could also improve your presentation is to video or tape record yourself. This will give you some immediate feedback and enable you to fine-tune your performance.

4. Don’t just tell them, show them
Research shows that if you use visual aids (pictures, graphs, tables, props etc) you are twice as likely to achieve your objectives.

Ditch bulleted PowerPoint lists in favour of expressive and colourful pictures and visuals.

In the same manner, avoid reading to the audience. Use your speaker notes only as a reference point. This allows you to interact with the audience better through your gestures and eye contact.

Great speakers know how to use a story to create an emotional connection with the audience, so for longer presentations include stories and anecdotes to explain your points.

5. Overcoming nerves
Being nervous in front off an audience is a perfectly normal reaction but this should never hinder your performance.

Adequate preparation will remove quite a bit of your speaking anxiety, so arrive at the venue early, scope out the room and do a dry-run of your presentation.

Set aside time to visualise all of the positives about your presentation.

One effective technique is to imagine that the presentation has just taken place and to start imagining all the things that made it a success.

Think of the round of applause that will raise the roof when you’ve completed your presentation. Think of the wonderful feeling you have as your classmates congratulate you on your performance.

To improve your presentation skills continually, join groups like Toastmasters that provide a platform for you to practise your speaking skills regularly in front of an audience.

Above all make it a point to have fun before and during your presentation, because when you enjoy yourself, your audience will also enjoy themselves.

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