Painless presentations

Not everyone likes presenting or public speaking - in fact for some people it’s a bit of a nightmare! But there are several ways you can make it a lot easier for yourself, and a representative from PwC recently came to the University of Sheffield to share some of his techniques as part of the Skills for Success programme.
You’ve got to identify what you’re actually afraid of, be it looking silly in front of your audience, forgetting what you’re talking about, or getting asked a question you have no idea how to answer. When you think about it, a lot of these problems can be solved by preparing properly. You need to consider ‘The Three Ws’… 
Firstly, ‘Why’ are you presenting? Are you trying to defend a point, provide information, sell something, or get your audience to laugh? Having a definite aim to base your presentation around should help you stay focused when you give your talk.
Secondly, ‘What’; what are you trying to present, and what’s the take home message? It’s thought that an audience only really takes four or five things in from a presentation, so don’t pack it too full. Pick what you want people to get from your presentation, and don’t overcomplicate it too much. That way you won’t confuse yourself with lots of unnecessary information, and you won’t bore your audience either. This should also help you to remember what you’re trying to say and stop you stumbling over your words, so hopefully you’ll be more confident giving the presentation.
The last W is ‘Who’. Who are you presenting to? What level of background understanding do they have, and how much of what you’re presenting do they need to know?  Working out how detailed you need to be can again help you cut out unnecessary bits of information, and can help you choose what kind of jargon you should use. Your audience won’t be too interested if they can’t understand what you’re trying to say.
Finally, think about your voice. Talk slowly to stop yourself tripping over your words or rushing important ideas or concepts, and pause every now so you’re not just constantly spouting words at your audience. Also, it’s not such a bad thing if someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to. It shows they’ve been listening to the talk, and it’s interested them. Just admit you don’t know the answer, but give a possible idea and your reasoning behind it, and you should be fine.

Ed (Student Ambassador for the Faculty of Science)

For more tips and advice on delivering a good presentation, see our ‘Painless Presentations’ handout.
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