The ability to give a good presentation is a skill that everybody will need sooner or later - even if it is only a speech at a wedding. Standing in front of a group of people can be nerve wrecking however! I have given a number of them and I still get nervous. Because of this people often give up opportunities to give a presentation. This is a shame since a successful presentation can make you seem more insightful, knowledgeable or professional to others. This can open a number of doors in the workplace or in your social life. So step up to the challenge!
So how do you go about it?
First you need to develop a plan. Find out about the situation in which you will be presenting. Know what will be provided and what you will need to bring yourself. You need to know who will be there in order to tailor your presentation. Think about how in depth you need to go, what kind of information that they are after and what arguments will convince them of your case.
Why have they shown up? If they are obliged to attend then you will need to lighten the mood of the presentation a little, otherwise you will risk turning them off. On the other hand if they are enthusiastic about the topic then you can be more serious.
What is the aim of the presentation? If you are trying to sway the minds of your audience you need to have a different focus then if you are merely going to report on progress. Remember: your audience will be thinking about what they can get from your presentation. You need to tell them and convince them.
With your plan in hand, now you need to undertake the guts of the preparation. Think about what you need to say and how long you have to say it. Grab a pen and make a list of all the important points that you need to say. This will be the backbone of your presentation.
Now think of how you are going to either inform or convince the audience of each point. You may need to do some research or perhaps prepare a visual aid (Powerpoint being the most popular). Using a story or anecdote is a good way to establish a point as well as engage the audience.
You need to make sure that each point does its part to fulfill the overall aim of your presentation. Try to make each one flow on from another. The key word is cohesion. If suitable you could give a quick overview of each point in your introduction.
One simple task that will make a huge difference is practice. You should always have at least a single run through but if it is important then you need to do it as often as is practical. Keep in mind that the aim isn't to memorise exactly what you are going to say but to make you more familiar with what you want to say.
Have a quick run through with a smaller audience first. Friends and family are good but it is better if you know someone who understands a little about what you are going to say. Act like you are doing the presentation for real. When you are done make sure you ask them what they thought. Feedback can highlight issues that you might have missed. It can also be an amazing (and much needed) boost to your confidence.
If you stand in front of a mirror while you do so you can see exactly how you will look to your audience. It might feel a little weird but it will allow you to take note of your mannerisms and body language. If they communicate nervousness or are distracting try to minimise it. Make sure the result isn't too forced - it is better to look natural.