How to Up Your Presentation Skills

by Aug 25, 2017

‘Presentations are FUN!! I wish I was constantly given random topics to present on in front of hundreds of people. All the time. Please let me present more!’ Said no-one ever.

Presenting in front of a crowd can be challenging, and if you’re new to the world of uni, you may find the whole idea of speaking in front of your class terrifying. This was me, and I often felt this way during school. Terrified that I would be asked to speak in front of the class or at the school assembly. And for an introvert, presentations and introversion go together as well as chocolate and vegemite – don’t do it people. I used to get so nervous I would get an overwhelming wave of nausea in conjunction with a just-stepped-out-of-the-pool-wet, sweaty look which we all know is totally acceptable in high school. If you’re sitting there thinking: “That’s me!”, then I’ve got news for you buddy – with practice, it gets better.

Now I certainly don’t think of myself as an amazing presenter, but if you saw where I came from then you’d be pretty darn impressed.  So what miracle cure did I take? Where did I find this new magic confidence? And why aren’t I gleefully running around campus ‘abra-cadabra-ing’ people into amazing presenters?

Well, it didn’t happen overnight.  For me, I knew that if I didn’t work on my presentation skills whilst I was at uni, I would be in a constant state of fear for the next four years as class interaction and group presentations were a key part of my course. So assignment by assignment, year by year, I put my hand up and volunteered (yes, you read that correctly – volunteered), to present on behalf of my group.

Now let’s face it – I would be lying if I said all of my uni presentations were a raging success or that each and every one finished with a standing ovation, but you know what? It didn’t matter because the sweat started to disappear (well, mostly), the overwhelming state of nausea subsided with each presentation I gave, and over time, it completely left. And now, as someone who is required to present often as part of my job I can say that I actually enjoy it (gasp!).

So here are a few helpful tips to get you on the road to sending out confident vibes and feeling ready for that next presentation :

  • Have a warm up routine for before you present (to manage nerves). It’s all about the power pose people! If this isn’t your thing, try something that will give you the confidence and focus before the presentation. Colleagues of mine will sometimes scope out the room before a presentation so they can envisage themselves in the space. Making sure you give yourself enough time to do this without rushing is crucial.
  • Get the audience’s attention from the get-go. You will have people in the palm of your hand for the first 5-10 mins. Use it by drawing in their attention either with a personal story or a visual aid or statistic
  • Be aware of your audience and their needs – don’t go blabbing on about things that won’t interest them. Try to pitch your content directly to your audience and keep it concise
  • Be clear about your purpose for speaking. Always outline the points you’ll be covering in the presentation and refer back to this throughout the presentation.
  • Get feedback from others and reflect on your own performance. This has been one of the most important steps for me. Sometimes we’re our own harshest critic and it’s amazing how far a little bit of positive feedback can go. Ask friends, classmates, or even Aunt Doreen to give you some feedback – you may find you’re not as terrible as you think. But if you are, and Aunt Doreen has some pointers, take them on board and be prepared to make some changes to your presenting style

So in summary – the more you practice, the more confident you will become. And the more confident you are, the more likely you’ll ace that presentation. So next time your lecturer or tutor is desperately hoping for a volunteer, be bold, put up your hand, give it a shot – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

By Monique Ryan

By Monique Ryan

Career Development Consultant

Monique Ryan is an experienced Career Development Consultant with over ten years experience within the university sector. Currently employed at UTS Careers, she is passionate about supporting students through employability programs and preparing them for work.