Facing a large audience or even a group of people can sometimes be a difficult task for those who are new to it. It can be a particularly daunting task when you’re studying in a different country, and are possibly asked to present in your second language.
However, there is always a way to face your fears and use your weaknesses in your favour. This article provides some actionable advice that will make presenting easier whilst you’re studying abroad.
Gaining confidence is one way of improving your presentation skills, and this is a very old rule that we all know. But what if you just lack the confidence that you feel you need. Well there are ways to cover that weakness. The safest way you can deliver a good presentation is to do your homework, intelligently. Here are some important things that you should be prepared to know:
Know Your Audience
Even the very finest presenters, comedians and artists need to know what kind of people they are going to face. When you think about your audience, ask yourself: What are they prepared to listen to? What do they expect to learn from your presentation? What will be the average age? How many people? How patient the audience is going to be? These questions will give you a real sense of direction. Tailor your presentation towards the ‘need’ of the audience. Knowing to whom you are presenting will help you to gain a grasp for the tone of your presentation required and the time limit you should set. Feel free to ask people, visit social networking sites and research the top queries in their minds before preparing the presentation. Following this step will save you a lot of time and effort you put into this presentation.
Double Your Effort
If you feel that you have a limited understanding about your presentation topic, then the safest bet is to double the preparation material. Accept the awkward fate that usually people forget most of their material when they are doing the actual presentation. This is a common fault that everyone faces, but you can avoid it by knowing twice as much so that you never feel short of words. This is what you call ‘fillers’ in your speech, which allow you time to think and recall all that you prepared. Learn some examples, case studies, or even some good humour to entertain the audience. This is a great way to also boost your confidence prior to a presentation. If you’ve got plenty to say, you’ll probably never be short for words.
Remember Your Body Language
Your body language is plays a massive part throughout a presentation. The good news is that you have to do very little to enhance this, as opposed to your verbal communication. Instead, focus on the main ‘giveaway’ parts of body language, including maintaining eye contact, hand gestures, your tone and consistency. If maintaining eye contact is difficult, try to imagine a ‘T’ symbol between eyebrows of the people in the audience. This will help to make you appear more confident, and as such, be treated this way. As a knock-on effect, you’ll probably feel more confident in yourself too. Some people overdo body language by moving around too much or making too many hand gestures. Movement will keep the audience engaged for a while but prolonging it will make them feel uncomfortable. A steady movement with some pauses will help your blood circulation and also maintain contact with the audience. Likewise, speaking loud and clear will make you feel better and assert your point better. If you feel discouraged, it is always safe to speak from a lower tone and then rise as you speak.
The Bottom Line
These guidelines may sound difficult to follow, but nonetheless they will get easier after a few attempts. After some practice, you’ll master these basics and you’ll want to shift your focus to the quality of your content, as this will become a bigger priority. Critics will expect better choice of words and the most appropriate way to approach subjects with delicate emotions. However, there are some consistent facts that tend to be true in all speeches and presentations.
People Usually Don’t Listen
If you ever feel discouraged and overwhelmed by a task, be assured that it is normal to feel nervous. We have all listened to presentations and we are often distracted by our daydreaming habits, cell phone usage or just whispering among groups. This happens in most audiences and it is easier to wrap up a presentation to an audience that is not listening. Your message may not reach everyone in the audience but your delivering your presentation regardless is the most important outcome.
Nervousness is Normal
Feeling nervous is normal even for experts when addressing a new audience. They use this weakness to their advantage by using the adrenaline that comes along. Nervousness provokes them to speak louder, quicker and think on their feet. Some presenters are creative enough to come up with spontaneous humour to keep the audience engaged. Impromptu speeches will become less of a gamble if you learn manage your adrenaline better.
If it’s the night before the big day, it is high time that you should have a break and unwind. Trying to make last minute amendments will rarely result in an improved speech, in fact it will usually reduce the quality as your judgement is clouded with the looming deadline. It is difficult to stop thinking about the presentation, but it’s vital to try to switch off. You may choose to watch a movie or hang out with friends to relax before you start your presentation.
What are your tips to giving an excellent presentation? Do you struggle with presentation skills or is this something you are naturally confident at?