When we are asked to give a talk or a presentation we often spend very little time preparing and this can be our downfall. Did you know that the average presenter doing a TED talk spends approximately 200 hours preparing? Yes 200 hours! And the majority of the presenters sound casual, relaxed and spontaneous. So, how do you achieve that “planned spontaneity”? It’s very simple. Practise!
When asked to give a presentation start by brainstorming the topic. What is the key message that you want your audience to walk away with? Now, what stories, examples and points are you going to use to make that key message sink in? Once you have this, start thinking about the structure of your talk. What will be your engaging opening story that draws your audience in and captures their attention? What points will you make to support your key message? Now that you have this sketched out, start rehearsing. Start talking out loud to get the feel for how your introduction, main points and conclusion sound. Now, reflect and revise. This is a cycle that needs to be repeated many, many times- Run, Revise. Reflect. Keep doing this until you feel comfortable with the flow, the transitions and ensuring that your key message is getting though.
Now, practise in front of someone you trust, you feel comfortable in front of and who you know will give you honest feedback. Often we can get so caught up in our own topic and our own knowledge of the topic that we forget that our audience may not grasp certain points or that our message is not clear. This is the job of our “test” audience. They can help us make sure we’ve got the message right and that it comes across clearly and concisely.This also gives you the opportunity to practise your eye contact, rate, volume, pitch and prosody – all the important features that will assist in making your presentation interesting to listen to.
If you’re nervous, then practise is the key. It is only through practise that you feel more comfortable, confident and know that you know your material. If you believe in yourself, so will your audience.