“I can present, I like it, I can do it.”
Those are the words you should be telling yourself when you deliver a presentation, says celebrated public speaker and radio personality Tove Kane, who gave an inspiring, humour-filled talk on presentation skills this week (Tuesday, 15 April), hosted by the Business Women’s Association (BWA).
She was joined on stage by Susan Simpson, who heads up Emerald Hill Communications.
In addition to advocating the power of positive thinking, Kane, an Algoa FM deejay, highlighted the value of pre-presentation breathing exercises as a tool to help speakers warm up their vocal cords and breathe away stress. “By doing breathing exercises before you speak, you relax – this is powerful for yourself, even before important meetings or discussions.”
“Preparation is essential,” she added. Not only will you be seen to know your stuff, but it will also help you ward off the physical effects of stress – flight, fight or freeze. “These [three scenarios] can leave you in a difficult space – but this can all be avoided through preparation.”
She told the 50-strong audience to think about what they’re saying, rather than rushing through their message. “There is a point you want to get home.”
Respect for one’s audience must also shine through. This means starting and finishing on time – and listening carefully to audience feedback. It also means getting permission to use a company’s logo – and not just downloading a low-res version from their website.
Kane also offered practical tips about the presentation itself. For example, when using PowerPoint, it’s important to position your most important information at the top left of the screen – and avoid bottom right, where viewers’ eyes seldom venture. Use no more than 10 slides – and spend two minutes per slide. “Read one bullet point or key word to stimulate your thoughts and talk the rest – don’t read it.”
She also said presenters should bring their own “box of tricks” to a talk, which includes their own long-length cord, a double adaptor for a two-point plug, spare batteries for a clicker, water and so on.
Simpson also shared a number of valuable tips, including knowing your audience, be they customers, employees, suppliers or the public, and pitching your talk appropriately. She also suggested arriving 30 to 45 minutes earlier to get a feel for the room, go through your slides, test the equipment and identify the best place to stand.
“Print your notes as a back-up – the equipment may fail,” she said.
“Practise, practise, practise,” she said. “Know especially your intro word-for-word and your exit. This will settle your nerves.”
And if you’re nervous, don’t announce it. “It takes away your credibility.”
Author: Lize Hayward
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