5 Powerful Hacks to Immediately Improve Your Presentations
“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time.”
- Wayne Burgraff
Note: This guest post was written by personal development blogger Scott Young. You can check out his website here.
Communication is a skill. That means if you want to blow the interviewer away, knock them out with your slide show or have them cheering after your speech you need to practice. Unfortunately since formal presentations, interviews and speeches are often an infrequent occurrence, you can’t become a master overnight.
But even in my own limited speaking I’ve discovered a couple hacks that can be used to improve your communication right away. They can work immediately to give you an edge in an upcoming event.
Hack #1: Rephrase Questions
When you get asked a question, spend a few seconds to rephrase the question. If you are giving a speech to an audience this has the first benefit of clearly stating the audience members question for everyone to hear. But the hidden benefit of doing this is that it gives you a few extra seconds to prepare a response.
Polished professional speakers and interview veterans can prepare for common questions in advance with a great reply. But if you don’t have the experience or a question throws you off balance, you can maintain composure by rephrasing the question. To everyone it looks as if you immediately knew an eloquent response, but in reality you were given a few seconds to process a response.
Hack #2: Pause, Don’t Trip
When you are nervous, everything gets magnified. During an interview, speech or presentation forgetting what you intended to say or losing your flow of speech can be terrifying. When this happens remember to stop and take a deep breath. This pause feels incredibly unnatural for the speaker, but it is usually barely noticed by the audience.
Pausing is far better than tripping over your words and making incoherent sentences. Most people end up speaking too fast when they feel nervous, so intentionally slowing down and taking time to pause can prevent tripping over your words which is a lot more noticeable.
Hack #3: Write Out the Tricky Parts
If you have to talk for over five or ten minutes, it can be difficult and incredibly time-consuming to prepare every single word of your speech and memorize it. Many professional speakers instead choose to just write major topic headings so they understand the structure but can deliver the speech naturally.
When you get a chance to practice your presentation, notice points where you trip up. These are usually the same points you will have trouble with when presenting. Write out those few sentences word for word before presenting. The easy parts of your speech will continue to flow and you can be thoroughly prepared to handle the harder parts.
Hack #4: Watch Your Apologies
Never apologize when the goal of that apology is to soften the criticism of the audience. Some speakers apologize for appearing nervous when giving a speech. The truth is most the people in the audience wouldn’t have realized the speaker was nervous until he apologized for it. Apologizing from where you lack confidence only draws more attention to your weaknesses and detracts from your performance.
Apologies for legitimate errors are acceptable, but apologies designed to elicit sympathy won’t help your performance.
Hack #5: Don’t Distract With Powerpoint
Powerpoint presentations are very popular among presenters. But remember that as a speaker you want the focus to be on you. Slides should enhance your presentation, not form a backup. If I can get all the information I need out of your slides, why should I pay attention to you?
If you watch any presentations done by hugely successful speaker and marketer Seth Godin, you quickly notice how many of his slides are nothing more than a single image or word. These slides enhance the message he is trying to convey but they don’t steal the spotlight since they don’t contain enough information to distract.
If you are going to be doing a lot of presentations, interviews or formal communications in your work or life, I’d suggest joining Toastmasters. A non-profit organization dedicated to improving communication skills they can give you practice. But if you are concerned about an approaching presentation you’ll just have to hack it.
About Scott Young:
Scott Young is a productivity and improvement blogger. You can check out his blog here, and you can subscribe to his feed (updated 5-7x per week with posts similar to this one). Some of his most popular articles include Habitual Mastery, Double Your Reading Rate and How to Ace Your Finals Without Studying.
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