Five tips for a successful presentation
Whether you need to present your research at a conference, convince potential investors, or pitch an idea in the monthly department meeting: almost every job requires you to give a presentation at some point. Some people find presenting easier than others. That is why In'to Languages offers presentation training courses. In this blog post, trainer Janou Hemsing shares some important tips.
The higher the stakes in a presentation, the scarier it gets for most people. For example, it is quite a challenge for young researchers who want to move on after their PhD to secure research funding: you have to present your research to a critical audience in 15 minutes, knowing that the chances of getting a grant are incredibly slim. Not surprisingly, in such situations, the pressure can feel overwhelming.
Good preparation is half the job
While it makes sense that good preparation is crucial, it turns out that it is not always possible to prepare well for such an important presentation on your own. “We often see people right before an important presentation, and they are not ready for it at all,” says trainer Janou Hemsing. “We try to help them step by step to create a good presentation. And we usually manage.”
Janou is a highly experienced trainer both within the academic world and in the corporate sector. With great enthusiasm, she creates a safe container where people can experiment with their personal expression, the design of their story, and interaction with their audience. Janou shares five tips with us.
1. Be your own best friend
“Being nervous is normal; in fact, I've never met anyone who wasn't,” says Janou. “There is also a lot at stake. There is no need to suppress your nervousness. Just make sure you find an outlet for the tension. And most importantly, don't talk yourself down. People often do, for some reason. They think of all the things that could go wrong with their presentation. Or they tell themselves how bad their research is. Clearly, such thoughts will not help you give a better presentation. Set yourself up as your best friend, and speak to yourself as a best friend would. That way, you can step into your presentation from a far more positive place.”
2. Build in moments of silence
“It’s important to be silent from time to time. It helps your words to land much better. Tolerance for silence is something you need to develop, but give it a try. After you've said something important, fall silent for a moment.” Another good tip is: start your presentation with three seconds of silence. Janou: “Those are the best presentations. Simply step forward and say nothing for a moment. That way you start out having your audience's full attention.”
3. Don't start with an old PowerPoint
“People often start by creating their slides. Or even worse, by opening old presentations,” says Janou. “They say: ‘I already have all my slides for the presentation, I just need to put them in the right order.’ That's where it goes wrong.” The slides then start to define your story, and that's not the way to do it, says Janou. “You've got to start with the story you want to tell. What is your core message? What do you want to give your audience? Once you've got that worked out, you can start thinking about your slides. Preferably start with a short core message and then think of arguments to support it. If you've already made slides and you don't have time to start all over, it often helps to put the last slide first. After all, that slide usually already contains your core message.”
4. Stand to the left of your slides
The following is a small, but effective tip: “Stand to the left of your slide. People automatically read from left to right. So if you stand on the left, they will look at you first. Whether this also applies to Japanese people, who read from right to left, I don't know. Incidentally, you should have as little text as possible in your slides. Everyone knows this, but a lot of people still end up putting in a lot of text.”
5. Stop presenting
“But the most important tip is: stop presenting,” says Janou. As soon as people start ‘presenting’, they lose all contact with their audience and they become too focused on the content of their story. This often comes out as somewhat cramped and rehearsed. “Conversational mode works much better and it will give you a much more pleasant tone. So try to act as if you’re just talking to your audience, rather than giving a presentation.”
In'to Languages' training courses always start this way, Janou explains. “We ask someone: tell us a bit about your research. Then we zoom out further and further until a presentation setting is created. This often works really well. It creates space for the person to talk about their research in a more natural way. Which is exactly what you want to achieve in a real presentation.”
Do you also want to take the next step and learn to give successful presentations?