July 26 2021 – Edinburgh School of English
Speaking in front of an audience can be hard, even if you’re talking about a subject you know very well. Not only do you have to make sure you know your material, you also have to make sure you communicate in a way that your audience can understand and, most importantly, find interesting. But this also means that giving a presentation is one of the most worthwhile ways to improve your verbal communication, using your passion for a subject to increase your confidence in speaking to others. Here are some of our tips for you to make your presentation the best that it can be.
Make sure your material is accessible – if your topic is unfamiliar, your audience might find it difficult to understand and start to lose interest. Present your material as though you are introducing someone to it for the first time; use language that is effective and easy to understand, and include definitions and explanations of any specialised phrases. An easy way to do this without cutting into your presentation time is to make a handout for your audience with key information, so that they can follow along with you. Visual aids are also really effective to grab audience attention, so be sure to include some interesting images if you’re using a slideshow.
Have notes you can refer to – it always helps to have the key points of your topic noted down to keep with you. Condense the content of your presentation into short, one-sentence phrases; you can use these to remind you of the structure of what you want to talk about. Remember not to write down everything you plan to say word for word – if you do, you might be tempted to just read off the page, and a good presentation is about more than getting your words right.
Act natural – having to remember your own material without having it all written in front of you is challenging, but it will make your delivery sound much more natural. Without words on a page, you have to actively think about what you’re going to say, which gives you the freedom to be creative with how you say it. Speak loudly and clearly (so someone could hear you from the back of the room), but also as though you’re talking to someone you know. A conversational tone establishes a rapport with your audience that makes them more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Use non-verbal cues to engage with your audience – your aim when giving a presentation should be to welcome your audience to a brand-new topic you want them to care about. In order to do this, you need to make sure that you connect with them using more than words. Make eye contact when you speak, and use gestures to illustrate your points. This adds visual interest to your presentation and makes your audience feel like they are part of the conversation. If possible, leave time at the end for questions so that you can communicate with audience members directly – this gives you a great opportunity to show that you can react spontaneously to new material as well as what you’ve prepared.