I consider myself an outgoing introvert. I don’t like to go to social events, I don’t like to boast about my work and I don’t like to speak in public. So far, my work has spoken for itself allowing me to quietly build a reputation as a knowledgeable digital marketer. But every now and then if we don’t push ourselves, or in my case get shoved, out of our comfort zones we’ll hit a wall and progression will cease.
I was recently given a “stretch” assignment in the form of a 2-hour speaking engagement for upwards of 75 people. The topic was social media marketing, which is a topic I know well and am passionate about. So I knew I could put together two hours’ worth of strong content. But even with great content how do you keep that large of a group entertained and engaged for two hours? I was terrified. But with a lot of research, preparation and some great advice I came out on the other end proud and ready to do it again.
Throughout it all I learned some great lessons. Here are 5 tips that will ensure your next presentation is a success:
1. Doomsday Prep
So this headline might be a little exaggerated, but the number one thing you must do in order to have a successful presentation is prepare for the worst. So many things can go wrong that could potentially throw you off or ruin your presentation altogether. Here is a must-do list to prevent presentation doomsday:
- Using video or sound files in your presentation? Take your own speakers. Don’t assume that they’ll be set up for audio.
- Upload a copy of your presentation files to Google Drive. It never fails that your computer crashes at the worst possible time. Or maybe you need to hook your computer to a projector and need a copy of your slides close by for reference. As long as you have a copy on Google Drive, you can view them on any computer.
- Bring your own VGA cable. They may have a projector for you, but they don’t know what setup you’ll have. So they expect you to bring your own connections.
2. Videos are Your Friend
No matter how entertaining you are, two hours is a long time for a large group to listen to you speak without getting bored or distracted. Videos can be a fantastic way to break up your presentation and keep your group entertained. It’s also a great way to illustrate real-world examples of how other people and organizations have successfully implemented (or poorly implemented) the strategies, methods and skills you’re presenting on.
There are several ways to include video in your presentation. It is possible to embed a YouTube video in your PowerPoint slide deck, but it isn’t my first suggestion. First of all, it’s difficult to do. You have to use the developer controls within PowerPoint and you have to have several plugins downloaded. If you’re successful in getting the video embedded, there’s still no guarantee that the place you’re presenting at will have the bandwidth to play the video glitch free.
Your best option is to download the video directly from YouTube (or wherever you’re getting it from) as an MP4. With a quick Google search, you can find simple, two-click instructions for downloading and saving a copy of a YouTube video as an MP4 file. Then, when it comes time in your presentation to play your video, you can flip over to your computer’s media player and play the file directly from your hard drive, or wherever you have it saved.
3. Don’t Rehearse
When you rehearse your presentation, you sound rehearsed when you deliver your presentation. The best presentations don’t feel like presentations at all. They feel like a conversation. You still need to know your content. Like really know your content. Spend your rehearsal time getting familiar with the order of your slides, the content in your slides, and any additional information necessary or relevant to the content you’re presenting. If you really know your material, it won’t sound like your reading from a script and you’ll be able to making that personal connection with your audience so that they feel like they’re part of a two-way conversation even if they’re in a room with 100 other people.
4. Give them Distractions
Give your audience something to do with their hands during your presentation. Candy or small trinkets (stress balls, mini play dough, etc.) on the tables to play with will actually aid concentration and memory instead of distract. They’ll be more likely to mess with those than they’re phones and devices.
5. Keep It Real
Think of your audience as B.S. detectors. Don’t try to make up an answer to a question you don’t know the answer to. If you start to tap dance, they will call you out. Maybe not immediately, but you can guarantee it will show up in your evaluation or on social media. The best thing to do is keep it real. Be honest with them. Tell them that you aren’t sure about their question, but offer a solution. Give them your card or get theirs and tell them that you’d be more than happy to look into it for them and get them a good answer or connect them with someone who can. But make sure to follow through with your promise.
Now you’re ready. Take a deep breath, be yourself and you’re going to be a rock star. Good luck and be sure to tell us how it goes! Do you have a special presentation tip or trick you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments, because secrets are no fun.