Even if the content is good, presentations can break down quickly with a bad presenter. As a toastmaster and a presenter, I have learned a lot of tricks on how to bring a presentation from good to great. I focus on a Presentation Skills Checklist (please download for your own use) to ensure I am executing great presentation skills. The points I check on that list are room presence, eye contact, filler word elimination, vocal variety, and, time management.
Presentation Skills Checklist Overview (Part 1)
Over the next couple of posts, I will go over how to execute each of the points from the Presentation Skills Checklist so that you can become a great presenter every time you get in front of a room. This week we will focus on the first three.
Not to intimidate you, but the whole room is looking at you – at least they should be. They don’t want you to fail, in fact, they are rooting for you. They do, however, have some expectations of your physical presence to keep them engaged during your presentation. A few things to be aware of are:
- Posture – Your posture should be confident and open. Keep your arms at your side, your legs shoulder width apart, and your chin up. Amy Curry does a great Ted Talk on the power pose I would suggest everyone practice before a presentation.
- Position – You should be where everyone can see you and your hand movements. If there is a lectern, get away from it! Many new speakers hold onto the lectern as though it will float away if they let go. Don’t let the lectern become a safety blanket; use it for notes, handouts, or other materials. Do not hide behind it.
Eye contact varies by culture and you should be aware of any cultural norms of your participants. There are a few fairly universal standards for eye contact, but please make sure to do your research if you are training participants of other cultures. Here are a few things to be aware of as you make eye contact.
- Duration – Eye contact is valuable to your participants as you engage them. Many speakers make great eye contact, but they shift focus too quickly. Each time you make eye contact with participants, it should last 3 to 4 seconds. The first few times it may seem like too long, but your participants will not share that sentiment. Practice with your peers, around the dinner table, or by hanging pictures of people around your office as you practice.
- Maintenance – Your eyes should be forward the entire time you present. This means you should not look back at your projected slide deck. People are not there to see your back. A glance at notes or a computer screen in front of you is fine and much better than turning your back and losing all that good eye contact engagement you just built. Ask a friend or colleague to give you feedback then next time you present and note if you turn your back to them.
Filler Word Elimination
Uh, um, but, and, so, like, and mouth sounds are hard to drop because we are often not aware we do it in the first place. To eliminate filler words, you need feedback and there is a variety of ways to accomplish that. Here are a few tips to drop your filler words.
- Record yourself – Most people have a smartphone, webcam, or personal video recorder. Record yourself practicing your presentation and mark down how many times you use a filler. Don’t be horrified, it will be more than you think. Practice often and take note as you reduce your filler words simply by being more aware.
- Ask for feedback – Ask someone to watch as you practice and have them write down each time they hear a filler word. Better yet, have them ring a bell or shine a light every time it happens for more immediate feedback. This sounds somewhat daunting, but it will get you to drop filler words quickly.
As you work to rid your presentation of filler words, try using more pauses to collect your thoughts. In next week’s post, I will go into more detail on pauses and other forms of vocal variety as well as time management.
What is your presentation skills checklist? Do you use a presenation skills checklist or some other form of tool to help you validate that you’re giving your best presentation? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!