As you may know, Minarets is building their system as what is being called a “Project Based School”. I can speak from experience that this is going to mean a HUGE amount of presentations in your time here. A presentation is a bit like a speech, and sometimes literally is a speech. Basically the presenter takes the topic or subject, makes a slideshow of it, then presents it in front of an audience. You will often be making educational presentations, where you will be teaching the audience of the topic using your knowledge. But sometimes you might do something different, like present an idea for instance. The main problem people have with presentations, is getting up in front of audience and publicly speaking. This is understandable for everyone, public speaking is one of the most common fears. Perhaps the reason some people fear it, is because they fear they don’t have the ability or talent to be a good presenter. And that is what this is for, I will give you some advice on how to make better presentations and be a better presenter. Making your future presentations easier to make and present, and making them more enjoyable and interesting to your audience.
I’m not going to pretend that from the start, I’ve always been a natural presenter who has always been able to knock it out of the park ever since I got here. I’ve only been able to build up my skill over time with experience and what has been taught to me. I highly doubt anyone is a natural presenter, and I was no different. In my freshman year I was really nervous, and quirks in my speech, and just wanted to get back to my seat as soon as possible. The way I learned, was by making presentation after presentation, having them critiqued over and over again by students and teachers alike, and by having healthy presenting techniques taught to me by other professionals. It’s amazing how good you can get when all that adds up, and I hope the same can happen for you.
Get over the fear of presenting
Of course it’s wrong to over simplify this, really this issue practically requires its own article. However this is the main thing that will keep you from presenting in a confident manner. This fear comes from the possibility of being embarrassed in front of a large group of people, which is more likely to happen if you’re not a good presenter. Because of this, people with this fear dread presenting and avoid it as much as possible.
Are you not confident in your ability to make presentations and present them? Then practice! Even just rehearsing your presentation before presenting it goes a long way. If you do that, you’ll have more of a plan when you’re in the spotlight, and you’ll feel more comfortable. Trust me, relying on improv when you’re presenting will often not keep you at ease when presenting, this goes double for people who aren’t good at improv. You try it that way, you’ll find yourself stumbling over your speech and forgetting where you were going on your current slide, then you’ll awkwardly progress to the next slide. Your ability in presenting doesn’t just have to be restricted to personal practice, there are articles like this one all over the internet to help you hone your skills as a presenter. So if you want to go the extra mile, then research! Learn from good presenters and apply them to your own presentations.
Maybe it’s not your own ability your worried about, but the audience. The more primary reason people are afraid of presenting, is because they’re afraid of being judged by the audience. Well let’s think about who your audience is. Let’s say you’re in the Science class for your grade, then who are you presenting to? A couple dozen students that are nearly the same age and are the same grade as you. As presenters none of you are that different. You are all a little afraid of presenting, afraid of being judged, and likely have average knowledge about the topic you want to present. They aren’t going to judge you as harshly as you think, especially if you do a good job, then they’ll be impressed. Just remember, they aren’t all Steve Jobs level presenters, they’re students just like you.
What to AVOID when presenting
There are common mistakes that almost every presenter has done at least once, it’s ok if you’ve done them yourself before, the important part is that you never do it again.
Do not use too much text per slide. You’re not making a novel, don’t make your audience read one. Your presentation is meant to be the visual aid to YOU, not the other way around. If you put an entire paragraph on a single slide, not only will it look silly, but your audience will likely refuse to read it and ignore the slide completely. If you have content on your slide you think is essential to your overall presentation, you don’t want that to happen. You want visuals on your slides, mainly images. If you use text, keep it short and to the point, you’re the one presenting, not the slideshow. One common tactic, is to have bullet points that goes on what your slide is about, and you go over each bullet point and expand on it. This gives your audience little to read, and more reason to give all their attention to you and what you have to say.
Do not talk too quietly or quickly. You will be usually be presenting to an average sized classroom, if someone is sitting at the back and they can’t hear you, then them watching your presentation is pointless. Also don’t speak so quickly that everyone can’t understand you, even if you’re nervous just focus. What you have to say is the most important part of your presentation, if that’s broken then your entire presentation is in jeopardy. Remember to raise your voice and speak at a good speed. If you need help raising your voice, pretend you’re talking to the person farthest away from you. Your instincts will naturally set your volume so they can hear you. And don’t worry about being disruptive, you have the stage, you’re all that matters when you’re presenting.
Do NOT read your slides word for word. This is the most common and most annoying offender. Your audience can easily read what’s up there, they don’t need you to interpret for them. Your audience will notice it immediately, and will likely become bored from your presentation as a result. This will make you look like you aren’t confident enough on your topic to simply speak about it, and it will make you look like an amateur. This is where rehearsing is important, know what you want to say on a slide before you present. Also make sure you know your topic enough that you can naturally talk about it. At this point you have had time to research your topic enough you could be an expert, prove it to your audience and blow them away with your knowledge!
Do not look away from your audience, this goes hand in hand with reading your slides. When you’re reading your slides, you’re probably going to be looking at the wall next to you and not your audience. Or even worse, turning your side to them. But if you know your topic enough that you don’t have to stare at the wall, where do your eyes go? Well why not towards the people you’re talking to? You don’t necessarily have to look them in the eye (but it will be better if you do), just look at them, it will go a long way.
How to present like a good presenter
Know your topic. You want to know it to the point you don’t need a slideshow, if you can know it to the point you can talk about it naturally, it can make your presentation into an excellent one. This will also keep you from reading off your slides, because why would you need to if you know your topic? An audience will always enjoy a presenter who knows what he’s talking about, and can convey his message to the audience well.
Bring your personality. it doesn’t matter if you know everything about your topic, and are completely confident up there. If you’re going to be a boring and monotone presenter, the audience will become bored. So smile, use hand gestures and be funny and interesting (but if you aren’t funny, I’d recommend you don’t TRY to be funny).
Engage your audience. This will happen by default if you are presenting well. If you know your topic and are conveying the message, staying interesting as you present, and keeping your eyes on the audience, they will always be more inclined to listen to you and what you have to say. And a presentation that the audience ends up enjoying, will make it far more memorable.
Use examples and be prepared for questions. One thing that helps the audience understand that confusing thing you’re talking about, is using an example. What’s better? To say canines typically have long muzzles, upright ears, teeth adapted for cracking bones and slicing flesh, long legs and bushy tails? Or to say that examples of canines are dogs, wolves, foxes and coyotes? And know your topic enough that you’re ready for questions. One thing that can even stump good presenters is when they’re asked a question they weren’t ready to answer. There’s no real way to rehearse for a question before hearing it, so the main thing to do, is know your topic enough, and consider what questions they might ask if they do
With all this you have a very good start to being a good presenter, at Minarets this will go a long way. How well you present is very important to your grade, and it shouldn’t be held back because you made some simple mistakes. So learn to never make those rookie mistakes, and always make a presentation that the audience will love.
By Jesse Weinert