Presentation Techniques

As a college student and entrepreneur, you want to take the necessary steps to improve your presentation techniques.  This will help ensure a better grade in class and/or a potential investment in your business.  Being a college student and aspiring entrepreneur myself, I have learned several techniques that have made my presentations more impactful for the audience.  I have primarily used the guidelines that one of my professors at Woodbury University gave his students, which are as follows:

Structure of your presentation

  1. Start with a hook to get the audience interested.
  2. Introduce yourself, teammate, and topic.
  3. Don’t do a standard “I’m going to talk about Main Point 1, Main Point 2, Main Point 3.” It’s boring. It’s ok to showcase in an interesting way what you’ll be talking about, but it should feel natural.
  4. Have an actual conclusion. Wrap up with a summary statement and give some sort of high-level application/conclusion/broad-impact statement.
  5. Say ‘thank you’ or ask for questions, not ‘well, that’s all I have!’

Voice

  • Don’t end sentences with a question.
  • Be loud enough so that the person in the back of the room can hear you.
  • Don’t use filler words like ‘umn’ — remain silent instead.
  • Breath between each sentence.
  • Use short sentences.
  • Leave a longer pause between main points.

Energy

  • Sound like you’re happy to be presenting.
  • Smile!

Posture

  • Stand with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Don’t shift your weight back & forth.
  • Shoulders back.
  • Hands down at your side when not gesturing.
  • Move between points. Take at least 3 steps.
  • Move around the room. Don’t worry about the camera. Don’t worry about standing in front of the slides.

Engagement with Audience

  • Make 2-3 second eye contact with each member of your audience.
  • Look at them until you feel engaged/connected, and then move on.

Notes

  • Do not read your slides or notes! The best way to do this is to ensure that you can’t read the slides by only putting up critical information/fragments/nouns. Do not put full sentences on your slides.
  • Put big ideas on your notes (if you *must* use them). Don’t put the same thing on your notes as it on the screen.
  • Do *not* write out an entire speech.
  • Be careful about looking at your presentation on the screen. Make sure you’re primarily looking at the audience, and not cycling back & forth.

My advice is that you should practice your presentation several times in front of people you know.  Ask these people to give you constructive feedback to help you make your presentation better.  I have also found that recording myself on a video camera is helpful in order to see exactly what I need to work on.  From watching my presentations first hand, I was able to see that I played with my hair a lot which can be very distracting to the audience; since then I have corrected that.

Gestures

  • Big gestures are calming
  • Little gestures are nervous
  • Don’t do the ‘chipmunk with a nut’ posture of holding your hands in front.

Slides

  • Use as a guideline no more than 6 points on a slide, with at most 6 words per line. E.g., 6×6 Rule.
  • Do not rely on the audience to read your presentation. They should be focusing on you, and not your slides. Slides are a supplemental feature. Visual elements are good *if* they support your point.
  • Don’t rely on videos too much, we’re here to listen to you!
  • Slides should use readable font size and color. Projects usually wash out the colors, so be sure to have high contrast artwork/font.
  • Don’t use the progressive reveal. You almost always end up clicking, clicking, clicking, and then talking. There are occasionally good times to use this feature, but only use it if it’s important that your audience see elements at a specific time.
  • Don’t use animations unless they’re directly related to the point you’re trying to make.
  • Spellcheck!

While I was an undergraduate student, I took an Information Technology course and made a presentation on the book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh.  I received a perfect score for my overall PowerPoint style.  I have included some of the slides here for you reference:

As you can see, I did not put long paragraphs in my presentation.  I instead used a lot of graphics and very few words to illustrate a point.  I wanted my audience to be listening to what each point meant as well as make my presentation more eye-catching and interesting.  I also added a timeline of relevant events that happened in the book.  These types of additions can increase the interest your audience has with the content.

Time

  • Take up the available time, but don’t go over. A good rule of thumb is that if you have a 10 minute presentation, you should aim for 9 minutes in practice. You’ll probably talk faster in the actual presentation. You shouldn’t be shorter than 8 minutes.

Plagiarism

I know from experience that this is a lot to think about during a presentation.  Honestly, you will never get it right every time, but practicing always makes perfect.  I have had to work on a lot in my presentations such as my voice which includes my volume, quality, and breathing.  I have also worked on my transitional movements between main points.  Now, if I think back to my presenting techniques during my first year in college to my presenting techniques today, it seems like I am a completely different person. My presentations are more effective now and I am more confident during them.

It is always a good idea to improve your presenting skills.  It helps you get your point across more effectively during class.  If you are pitching a business idea to an investor it will show them that you are well prepared and they will take you more seriously.  These presentation techniques can be used for anything, not just for class or to pitch a business idea; they can be used in any presentation setting.

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