Do you have to prepare a keynote presentation as part of your job? Then, of course, you want to make an impression. But many people would rather run a mile than stand in front of an audience, especially if you don’t do this often. Forget about the fear of spiders, high altitudes or being afraid of the dark, research shows that people are most panicked at the thought of public speaking. How about you? Remember, that the fear is almost always in your head. Doing a keynote presentation does not have to be scary at all. Here are a few tips to prepare you well and to make a perfect impression with your presentation.
Preparation is key: know your subject inside out
You can be such a confident person, if you have not prepared, you will fall flat on your face. A presentation not only needs to be brought with conviction, but it must also be properly structured. Choose a topic that interests you and delve into it. Gather the main facts, certain aspects, things that spark curiosity and perhaps include an anecdote to keep the audience engaged. Write these bite-sized chunks of information down in keywords or bullet points. It’s much easier to remember the order and content than when you write it all out word for word in a large piece of text.
Be a storyteller
Telling a great story does not mean that you have to write down the entire presentation. The worst type of presentation is one that is read from a sheet of paper or screen. Use bullet points and short sentences that you put on paper as a memory aid. It’s a bit like writing an article: you start with a global introduction to outline the context of your topic, after which you explain several things in more detail. You illustrate your story with good examples, anecdotes and of course visual material. Keep the attention of your audience by offering plenty of variety in your talk. You could shake it up a bit by asking the audience a question. When you know enough about your topic and you have prepared well, there is nothing to worry about.
Structure your presentation
- INTRODUCTION: what is it about and what is the problem you are exposing? / what makes it topical right now in your industry?
- MAIN STORY: time to dive a little deeper into the subject with great examples, anecdotes, images and some statistics. This is the longest part of your presentation, but do not devote too much time to one particular thing so that you end up with a bored audience. Make it a nice mix, surprise your listeners with some fun stats and questions. Keep them alert.
- CONCLUSION: at the end of your presentation, do a quick summary of what you have discussed, using an image or slide with a summary in bullet points. Finish with an image that makes the audience remember you.
Practice out loud and with a stopwatch
Hearing yourself talking out loud in the living room sounds a bit crazy, but it helps. By practising your presentation out loud, you get used to your own voice and you notice which sentences sound good and what still sounds a little clumsy. Maybe you find you take too much time explaining one thing and run out of time in the end. Want to really put yourself on the spot? Go and record yourself on video to watch yourself speak, how you stand and what you can possibly improve. By working with a stopwatch, or simply keeping an eye on the clock, you make sure that your presentation is well-timed. For example, you can agree with yourself that for a half-hour presentation, you take a maximum of 10 minutes for your introduction, 15 minutes for your main story and 5 for the conclusion.
Prevent death by PowerPoint
Nobody wants to read endless PowerPoint slides showing complete paragraphs which you repeat word for word in your presentation. Limit yourself to some good, fitting images, or even short video clips that illustrate the subject, supported by a few PowerPoint slides with summarizing points. You ultimately want people to listen to you with interest and not stare blindly at the large screen that is full of text.
Breathe and mind your posture
Even when you have prepared really well you will probably still feel a little nervous before your presentation. That’s a good sign! A bit of tension ensures that you are focused. Are you still shaking too much and feel your heart beating a little too loud, then there are a few handy techniques to calm yourself down.
Tips from professional speakers:
- BE ON TIME
Arriving too late and then having to start your presentation in a hurry is an ideal way to increase stress and feel extra nervous, so leave home early, check the traffic and directions and give yourself plenty of time to set up. Believe me, you don’t want to have to figure out how the PowerPoint works when everyone is already in the room.
- TAKE A DEEP BREATH
When we are nervous, our muscles tighten and sometimes even hold our breath. Do you feel you’re losing it? Take a deep breath to get oxygen to your brain and relax your body. Do this before your presentation, but also when on stage.
Don’t be afraid to slow down and use pauses in your presentation. Pausing can be used to emphasize certain points, let a certain fact sink in and make an overall more relaxed impression. And take a breath.
Smiling increases endorphins, replaces anxiety with calmness and gives you a good feeling about your presentation. Occasionally smiling also shows confidence and enthusiasm to the crowd.
- DRINK WATER
A dry mouth is a common anxiety symptom. Prevent this by drinking enough water before you talk (do go to the toilet before you start!). Also keep a glass of water within reach during the presentation.
- STAND UP WITH CONFIDENCE
Practising self-assured body language is a good way to prepare. When your body radiates physical self-confidence, your brain will follow this example. Whatever you do, at least don’t sit down, that’s too passive. It may sound strange, but five minutes in advance, somewhere on your own (in the toilet or in the corridor), pretending to be a Power Ranger or the Hulk does wonders! Give it a try, you’ll feel more ready than ever.