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Top tips for presenting like a pro

by Natasha McGarrell

I’m yet to meet someone who loves giving presentations, but nonetheless, they’re often part of our professional lives. Here are my top tips to kicking that presentation’s butt.

Avoid death by PowerPoint

Text-laden slides are distracting and frankly, an absolute snoozefest. When you’re presenting, your speech, presentation slides and handouts should each offer something different. Instead of overloading your viewers with a tonne of bullet pointed information, consider only using concise headings and meaningful images on your slides. Then, create handouts with more detailed information for your audience to take away. If you know your material, you shouldn’t need to read your slides, which brings me to the next point…

Know the material and practice

You’ll connect with your audience far better if you’re not hiding behind pages and pages of notes. Get to know your material inside-out and (shock horror!) give the presentation without notes. Most of the time, a scripted speech will appear stilted and tense. If you know your stuff, you’ll talk naturally and effortlessly about the presentation topic. Plus, people will respond if you sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Get hands on

Body language is so important when giving a presentation. While using your hands too much can be distracting, not moving at all will make you seem stiff. The best rule of thumb is to keep your hands in the strike zone: from your hips to just below your shoulders. Don’t fret if your hands escape this area, as long as you’re not flailing like a maniac (which might result in some raised eyebrows). Other tips to keep in mind is to open your palms to put your audience at ease and to relax and do what feels natural.

Keep it short

Nobody wants to sit in a room listening to someone unnecessarily waffle on for an hour and a half. Your audience will love you for keeping your points concise. Research shows that people’s attention spans start to drop off after about 18 minutes, so think of some new ways to present your points that will break up your presentation.

Have fun

As terrifying as speaking in front of a group of people can be, remember that your audience want you to succeed. If you’re not having fun, your audience won’t have fun, so bring some personality to your presentation. Crack a joke, use props or share an anecdote to give your presentation some energy.