Presenting with confidence

Post-Easter holiday means only one thing - that the academic year is quickly coming to an end and deadlines are drawing nearer. As my course is very much coursework assessed, I am often faced with the prospect of presenting. Over the next 2 weeks I have 2 presentations to give and I’m not looking forward to them at all. During my 4 years at uni, like most people I know, the idea of standing up in front of my course mates and presenting has not become any more appealing. However, rather than pushing this to the back of my mind, I decided to go along to the Skills for Success session 'Presenting with Confidence', in the hope that it would calm my nerves and better prepare me for the next 2 weeks.

The session was run by a lady from Accenture and was very informative. It involved some small group activities that got us thinking about what makes a good and bad presenter. It also included a presentation, which gave us tips on how to present confidently... or at least how to give the impression to your audience that you are confident. We then had the chance to put the new skills we had learnt into practice through a 2 minute long paired task.

The key points I took from the session for presenting with confidence are:

  • Prepare - Prepare for your audience to ensure that what you are covering is relevant to them.
  • Be articulate and project your voice - Make sure that the message you are trying to convey comes across to your audience and that they can hear you. You may have the best content in your presentation, but if people can't understand or hear you, you may as well not have bothered.
  • Make eye contact - Don't just read off cue cards or screen slides, make sure you make eye contact with your audience throughout to engage with them and keep them focused.
  • Pause - Short pauses during key sentences can really enhance the point you want to make and will keep people focused better than if you speak quickly and merge all your words into one long sentence.
  • Humour - If you feel comfortable to, don't be afraid to add humour to your presentation. It will allow better engagement with your audience and make it more interesting. However, make sure it is appropriate and tailored to your audience.
  • Breathe - If you feel like you are starting to panic and lose your train of thought, don't worry because it will just make it worse. Take a breath, have a sip of water and, if you need to, glance over your notes to get you back on track and carry on. We were told that some people even fake a cough as an excuse to drink some water and regain their focus!
Whilst these tips would make us present with confidence, we were also given tips for the presentation itself and the key here was structure. Make sure that your presentation includes:

  • An Introduction - introducing the topic and setting out what you are going to cover.
  • Main section - telling people what you told them you were going to cover.
  • Summary - summarising what you have covered.

By following this structure, you will ensure that the points you want to make are made clear and it allows the audience to better follow what you are telling them.

Overall I found the session very helpful and I will definitely be putting the new skills I learnt into practice for my own presentations. It has also made the thought of presenting a little less daunting as now I will be better prepared and, even if I feel nervous, I can hopefully at least convince my audience that I am a confident presenter.

Emily V (Student Blogger)
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