what makes a good presenter

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

1. Know Your Stuff

Your comfort level with presenting will be high if you know everything about your topic. After all, the audience is looking to you to be the expert. However, don't overload the audience with your complete toolkit of knowledge about your topic. Three key points is just about right to keep them interested, allowing them to ask questions if they want more.

2. Make it Clear What You are There to Share With Them

Use the tried and true method that skilled presenters have used for eons.
  1. Tell them what you are going to tell them.
    • Outline briefly the key points you will talk about.
  2. Tell them.
    • Cover the topic in depth.
  3. Tell them what you told them.
    • Summarize your presentation in a few short sentences.

3. A Picture Tells the Story

Keep the audience's attention with pictures rather than endless bulleted slides. Often one effective picture says it all. There is a reason for that old cliché - "a picture is worth a thousand words".

4. You Can't Have Too Many Rehearsals

If you were an actor, you would not be performing without first rehearsing your part. Your presentation should be no different. It is a show too, so take time to rehearse -- and preferably in front of people -- so that you can see what works and what doesn't. An added bonus of rehearsing is that you will become more comfortable with your material and the live show will not come off as a recitation of facts.

5. Practice in the Room

What works while rehearsing at home or the office, may not come off the same in the actual room where you will present. If at all possible, arrive early enough so that you can become familiar with the room setup. Sit in the seats as if you were an audience member. This will make it easier for you to judge where to walk about and stand during your time in the spotlight. And -- don't forget to test out your equipment in this room long before it's show time. Electrical outlets may be scarce, so you may need to bring extra extension cords. And -- you brought an extra projector light bulb, right?

6. Podiums are Not for Professionals

Podiums are "crutches" for novice presenters. To be engaging with your audience you have to be free to walk among them if you can, or at least vary your position on stage, so that you will appear to be approachable to everyone in the room. Use a remote device so that you can change slides easily on the screen without having to be stuck behind a computer.

7. Speak to the Audience

How many presentations have you witnessed where the presenter either read from his notes or worse -- read the slides to you? The audience doesn't need you to read to them. They came to see and hear you speak to them. Your slide show is just a visual aid.

8. Pace the Presentation

A good presenter will know how to pace his presentation, so that it flows smoothly, while at the same time he is prepared for questions at any time -- and -- going back to Item 1, of course, he knows all the answers. Make sure to allow for audience participation at the end. If no one asks a questions, have a few quick questions of your own ready to ask them. This is another way to engage the audience.

9. Learn to Navigate

If you are using PowerPoint as a visual aid to your presentation, get to know the many keyboard shortcuts that allow you to quickly navigate to different slides in your presentation if the audience asks for clarity. For example, you may wish to revisit slide 6, which contains a wonderful picture illustrating your point.

10. Always Have a Plan B

Unexpected things happen. Be prepared to any disaster. What if your projector blew a light bulb (and you forgot to bring a spare) or your briefcase was lost at the airport? Your Plan B should be that the show must go on, no matter what. Going back to Item 1 once again -- you should know your topic so well that you can make your presentation "off the cuff" if need be, and the audience will leave feeling that they got what they came for.