One of the inescapable assignments you will be given in college is to give a speech or a presentation. I gave a presentation last week, and I know that most of my friends have presentations lined up in their classes. While everyone does have to take a speech class, speeches and presentations will not end there. Not so much for my accounting classes, but every other business class I have taken, I have had to give at least a five minute presentation. For most of my classmates, this is the most daunting part of class that everyone dreads. While giving presentations are not my favorite thing in the world, I have learned so much from my past experiences that I feel confident in helping explain how to give an excellent presentation!
If you have the chance to pick the topic of your presentation, please pick something that you love, or that excites/intrigues you. No one wants to hear a presentation that bores the presenter. Having passion in your presentation is paramount to keeping your audience focused. If you are assigned a topic that does not really interest you, make it interesting anyway. Enthusiasm is important for keeping an audience listening. In Business Communications (which is the junior writing requirement for the School of Business) I got to narrow down a topic for my junior paper from the broader topic of “Decision Making in Business.” I almost instantly chose to narrow down my topic to “Gender Bias in Decision Making in Business” because gender studies interest me, and I was excited to learn more about this.
Before I give any formal presentation I practice it several times in my room to myself, and then I’ll ask some of my friends to listen to it and critique it. Know the material that you are about to bestow upon your audience. Having note cards are fine, but having the whole speech typed out is not what you want to do. Your teacher and your audience expect you to be an expert on this topic, and having eye contact with your audience shows that you are knowledgeable and comfortable with what you are saying. In the latest presentation I had to give for my Principles of Management class, I presented an overview on the Dean of LMU School of Business, and his job as being both an educator and a manager. My assignment was to interview him, and ask him a question that at least related to each chapter in our textbook; there were eighteen chapters and I asked him twenty-nine questions. Needless to say, I had a lot of information and I typed up notes that related to each topic I presented on. Looking to your notes occasionally for reference is perfectly acceptable, just try to not be too dependent on them.
When choosing a presentation many students pick either a PowerPoint or a Prezi. Prezi’s are interactive PowerPoints that are becoming very popular. Prezi offers more interactive options and styles than PowerPoint. While I have used Prezi before, I personally am more comfortable with PowerPoint, and a lot of my guidelines for making a good PowerPoint translate pretty well to Prezi also.
My number one rule of PowerPoints is do not write long sentences! If your slides are written with exactly what you intend to say, then your audience will not pay attention to you, and just read off of your slides. I personally use and recommend making bullet points of the topics you are going to discuss. The font should be something clear to read, and the font size should be somewhere between 28-44. When you are preparing your slides you do not think about how close you are to your screen, but once it is being projected to the whole class if your font is too small then the people in the back of the room may not be able to see it. The color scheme should not be too dramatic or make the words hard to see. I, personally, am not fond of animation or sound effects, I think that they distract from the actual presentation. I do highly encourage having pictures in your presentation; having pictures of what you are talking about keeps the audience engaged as well, and this gives you an opportunity to move away from your podium and point out specifics in the pictures.
When I lived in England in the seventh grade, I competed in the European Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Heidelburg, Germany. My experiment was “Can a Certain Gender Estimate Distance Better?” (I told you, I like gender studies.) In this experiment 50 male and female students (25 of each) stood a certain distance away from a box, and had to guess the distance in inches. In my presentation at the Symposium I had pictures on my PowerPoint of students participating in my experiment, and I got to point out specific points of what was going on in each picture. While I did not place that year, or the next, I did placed 4th in all of Europe in the ninth grade. That year my experiment was “Can a Certain Gender Identify Someone’s Gender by Smell?” I had two boys and two girls exercise in identical white t-shirts without wearing deodorant, and then had participants smell the shirts and guess what gender wore that shirt. My audience enjoyed looking at pictures of participants making awful faces while sniffing odorous shirts.
The first thing your audience will notice when you get up to present is how you are dressed. Regardless of if you are in a tiny classroom or a giant auditorium, business dress is the way to go. Begin your presentation with introducing yourself and your topic, before going right into your presentation. Speaking clearly and slowly is a difficult task, and also something that should be practiced before the presentation. Just because you might have a microphone, does not mean that your audience will understand what you are saying if you are not speaking clearly. If you are lost, or forming thoughts, do not use filler sounds like “umm” or “uhh”. This is a speaking skill that I had to work on, and when I’m forming thoughts between slides I take a moment of silence, and then I begin. My Principles of Management teacher praised me on this skill, because too often presenters will start talking and lose their train of thought and begin to make unintelligible sounds until they are back on course. When you end your presentation you want to wrap it up in a way that makes the audience remember you. I have to really work at this, because I tend to trail off the end of my sentences. At the very end thank the audience, and then ask for questions.
- Audience participation sounds a bit daunting, but asking a question to your audience at the beginning of your presentation will immediately grab their attention and get them invested into the presentation.
- When someone asks you a question, before you answer it, restate the question. Often, someone in the back cannot hear what question was asked, and I find it’s respectful and good practice to repeat the question. Also, while you are restating the question, you can think of how to answer it.
- Unless specified, I always ask the teacher I’m about to present for if they would like a copy of my PowerPoint, my notes, or if I can have a water bottle at the podium.
If you are about to give a presentation and want me to listen to you practice it, or help with a PowerPoint or anything, please just let me know with an email, or leave me a comment. You can also show the love by following my blog and sharing this post!