10 Tips to Deliver a Successful Presentation
Up until this point my content has primarily focused on my passions style and travel, but my day job working in tech is a huge part of who I am too. From time to time, I’ll be incorporating posts that hopefully inspire my fellow lovely tech #bossbabes to feel empowered in their careers. I know I can definitely learn from the challenges and achievements from those in similar career tracks!
Working in tech, there are fewer women than men in the industry but slowly but surely we’re starting to see more women in leading roles and taking the stage. This week I presented in the keynote at our customer event in Minneapolis. When this opportunity first came to me, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is going to be huge for my career and personal growth!”. And now that I’ve accomplished this goal, why not share this on my blog platform in the hopes that it inspires other women in tech to pursue this kind of opportunity.
This was the first time I had ever presented in a keynote. I specifically presented two product demos, which is no easy feat. One person drives the demo while the other person speaks and presents it to the audience, so you have to be crisp and in sync. Personally, I love giving demos of our products. Seeing is believing and the demo really helps bring the vision to life. Therefore I was really excited for this opportunity.
Time was limited and I ended up preparing for my presentation in a pinch and still nailing it, which I think ends up being more realistic and valuable to learn from. Of course, I recommend starting to prepare as early as possible if you can, especially if it’s your first time. But let’s say life gets in the way (as it always does) and you have only a week or a few ways to prepare… don’t fret! Here are my tips to prepare and deliver a successful presentation that will leave a meaningful and lasting impression with your audience.
1) Develop a talk track first before you begin preparing slides. Write an outline of the important points you want to hit during your presentation and then add the color commentary in between. Writing it all out will help you to internalize the content and flow. But DON’T try to memorize your talk track word-for-word otherwise you’ll sound like a talking robot and you’ll find yourself freezing up if you can’t remember the word that comes next.
2) If you need slides, leverage visuals and keep text to a minimum. You want the audience focusing on you and digesting what you say, not reading your slides. Keep your slide count to a minimum too. No one likes “death by PowerPoint”!
3) Practice makes perfect! I used to hate practicing because I didn’t want to hear myself mess up. The truth is you’re going to mess up a few times anyway, so better to laugh about it behind closed doors than to find yourself getting all flustered on stage. Practice a few times on your own and then with friends and get their feedback. Even if you make a mistake during rehearsals, just keep going. I spent a total of 5-6 hours practicing, spread out over 5 days. Practice will help you learn and internalize your content faster so that by the time you get up there, you’re less worried about the content and can focus more on captivating the audience. At the end of the day, people mostly remember how you engaged them more often than what you actually said.
4) Prepare a set of questions and answers for a Q&A. I like to think of at least 5 questions I may get asked and answers I’d give. This is particularly helpful if you get to a Q&A and no one raises their hand. You can break the silence by saying “A couple of questions I typically get asked are…”. This helps alleviate pressure and may answer a question the audience didn’t know they had.
5) Remind yourself the audience is not judging you. They are there to learn from you - after all, you know more about your presentation than the audience does!
6) Slow down, take pauses, and project your voice. Ever heard someone talk at a hundred miles a minute? It’s hard to follow them, right? Yet, this person likely thinks they’re going at a normal pace. The pace we hear in our heads is different than what the audience perceives. This is something I learned from a speaking coach. It’s a blessing to know this though! Talk slowly and the audience will perceive it as normal. By taking your time and by taking pauses, you’ll give your mind a chance to gather your thoughts and therefore you’re less likely to panic. Strategically take pauses at times you really want the audience to think about what you just said. It really helps to engage make an impact!
Again, what we hear in our heads is different than what the audience perceives. My speaking coach told me I was speaking at a volume level 2 out of a 10, so I had to train myself to really project my voice. As a matter of fact, the other day a woman asked me to lower my voice… and we were in a loud bar! I knew my coach would be proud, haha. Friends can provide you great feedback on that as well when you practice.
7) Ask questions to keep your audience engaged. You can even crack a good joke if it’s appropriate. That laughter is encouraging and will help ease any inner tension you’re feeling.
8) If you forget to mention something or make a mistake, don’t stop - just keep going! If the important point needs to be addressed, bring it up later in your presentation whenever it feels appropriate. Just don’t say things like “I forgot to mention earlier…” It will only make the mistake more pronounced and you’ll lose credibility. Remember, you know your presentation better than they do. Your audience won’t be the wiser!
9) Leverage your slides as cues for your content. Sometimes our presentations are quite long so it’s helpful to mark subtle clues so you that you’re focus isn’t concentrated on remembering content. During rehearsals and the day of, pick elements of your slides as reference points to remind yourself of what to say next - but DON’T read off the slides.
10) If you get stumped on a question, that’s ok! Tell your audience member that you’d like to learn more about their situation and connect with them after the presentation. It will give you an opportunity to learn from them and they will feel extra special that you gave them additional attention. We can’t all know the answers to everything, we’re only human! However, knowing how to find the answer and following up with them is key.
I hope you found these tips helpful! We all present at some point in our lives, whether it’s at school, at work, at a Meetup, or at a TED talk. We present via a variety of platforms too - on a stage, on a webinar, on a Google Hangout, or even Instastory! While these tips have worked for me, I’m sure there are more out there. Do you have tips or techniques that have worked for you? I’d love to hear them, and I’m sure others would too. Share them in the comments below! #sharingiscaring