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The key to a good presentation

There are many great articles written about how to give a really good presentation to a live audience, but a lot of what they boil down to is having confidence. Having just sat through a particularly nervous talk, I thought it might be worth expanding on this.

The most practical advice I was ever given in this respect was to practice my presentation as if the tech had failed and I had no slides or other visual aids. Why? Because most presenters lacking in confidence switch the focus from themselves and their audience to their slides, and that’s an immediate turn-off. If we can do the presentation without any ‘help’, then we won’t be tempted to keep switching the focus to the technology when it is available.

Also – and this is a hard one – we shouldn’t apologise. There are all sorts of reasons why we might want to do so, and an apology of one sort or another must be one of the most common ways to start a presentation. But it puts us on the back foot.

Finally, it’s easier to sound confident if we’re not scared of the audience. This isn’t an issue if we’re just presenting to colleagues, but if strangers are involved, we shouldn’t pass on any opportunity to meet them beforehand. I’ve often recounted the time when the chap I was casually chatting to in the audience before one presentation, as people came in, suddenly bounded up to the stage to give the talk. Having met me, he then proceeded to use me as the focus in the audience (which is another good idea). Such a clever idea.