So you’ve got to give a presentation. Whether you’re a longtime speaker or are preparing one for the first time, you’ve got some work ahead of you to make sure that your presentation is informative, engaging, and relevant to your audience.
Naturally, you start by doing your research on the topic and the audience to which you’ll be speaking. You then create compelling content, practice extensively, and pick out your best power outfit for the day of the presentation. Finally, you go through your mental checklist: Body language? Check. Remember eye contact? Check. Breathing exercises? Check. An extra battery for your laptop? Check. Great – you’re halfway there!
However, there are some rules of public speaking that are often overlooked – or even forgotten – that you must implement in order to create and deliver a presentation that gets your point across, makes you look like an expert, and is valued by your audience. These rules are not often part of the generic “how to give a good presentation” tip sheets. However, NOT doing them makes the difference between a presentation that’s simply passable, and a presentation that is professional, memorable, and downright impressive.
The next time you have to make a presentation, make sure that you come across as an expert by following these four forgotten rules of public speaking:
Forgotten Rule #1: Show Up At Least One Hour Early
A speaker should be ready and waiting for his or her audience – never the other way around. There are a multitude of reasons to show up at least one hour early. You’ll have a chance to set up all your equipment; get technical help if required; and get a feel for the area in which you’ll be walking around and clear out any obstacles that may distract your audience and obstruct your space, like tables, chairs, extension cords or anything else that you might trip on.
Traffic, parking, snowstorms, or subway delays will all conspire to stress you out – and you certainly don’t want to appear stressed. Once you arrive and your equipment is set up, you’ll be able to relax and review your presentation. And if you can, greet members of your audience as they arrive. Once you meet them, they’re not strangers anymore and it’s certainly easier to present to friends than a room full of strangers.
Bottom line is, be prepared by being early.
Forgotten Rule #2: Murphy’s Law is waiting for you
Murphy’s Law states that “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” And Murphy loves to sabotage unprepared speakers. Think carefully of all the things that can go wrong, and be ready for them. Arrive early. Bring an extra copy of your presentation on a memory key. Print out your slides to give as handouts in case you can’t connect with the projector. If you’re bringing a laptop, bring an extra battery. Be ready to give your presentation without the benefit of your slides in case of technical failure. Make sure there’s water nearby when you present in case your mouth gets dry. A backup plan is your best defense.
Forgotten Rule #3: Perception is everything
Your audience will be checking you out before you speak, throughout your presentation, and long after you’ve finished. Yet that doesn’t seem to stop some speakers from frowning or looking overly nervous before they speak. Even if you don’t feel relaxed, you must make the effort to look like you are. Your audience is expecting to get something out of your presentation, and it’s up to you to fulfill their expectations as best you can. Showing your anxiety on your face serves no purpose other than to show your audience that you’re not confident. When all else fails, ‘fake it ’til you make it.’ And you WILL make it.
Forgotten Rule #4: Why So Noisy?
Get rid of all accessories that make noise when you move. For men, this means taking all keys and loose change out of your pocket. Women must choose jewelry and other accessories carefully. If bracelets make noise when they touch each other, wear only one. Beware of large earrings that take emphasis away from your face. Bold colors or designs can potentially distract an audience as well.
The next time you have to make a presentation, keep these four forgotten rules in mind, and you’ll impress your audience every time.