Communication is one of the most important skills of a leader, yet many people fear public speaking. Standing in front of an audience can be a nerve-racking experience – you feel vulnerable, anxious, and worry that stage fright will get the best of you. The best way to deal with your public speaking fears is to face it head on because the more experience you have presenting, the more comfortable you’ll become.
As the presenter it’s your responsibility to execute your message in a way that’s captivating. Utilizing these five fundamental characteristics will help you master the art of presentations and transform the way you communicate to your audience. Whether you’ve been doing presentations for years or are preparing for your first one, a great presenter should always possess the following qualities:
Giving a presentation on something implies that you’re the expert in the topic so it’s important that you know more than your audience does. You can demonstrate this by determining the demographic of your audience and presenting in a way that they can understand. This will help them perceive you as the authority figure because you’re able to translate something to their level of understanding.
How do you accomplish this? Prepare and practice! A great presenter is familiar with everything that is being covered and is comfortable speaking about the subject matter. While you might not know every single detail, you have a wide enough knowledge base to educate your audience and won’t find yourself getting stumped during the Q&A session.
Create a script and memorize the key points that will help prompt you to the next point. Once you have your script down, stand up and present it like you are standing in front of your audience – walk around, pause, use hand gestures, make eye contact. Being able to comfortably present your material builds up the next quality.
A confident presenter commands attention and inspires action. It’s the difference between an actor who simply recites his lines and one who has dynamic stage presence and is able to pull the audience into his performance.
If confidence on stage doesn’t come naturally to you, remember that no one can see how you’re feeling inside – only what you’re emitting from the outside. So if you emit confidence, they’ll see you as a confident person.
There are a few tricks you can do to appear more confident. Instead of standing behind a podium, work the stage by walking around. Don’t slouch, stand tall, and keep your shoulders down and back. Nervous presenters tend to speak fast so speak slower than you think you need to and project your voice as if you’re talking to the person sitting in the back of the room. Smile, look people in the eye, and don’t be afraid to pause when you need to.
People will tell you to be witty! Be charming! Be funny! Be energetic! These are all great qualities to have as a presenter but what’s most important is you are these things within your own ability. You can try to be witty like Churchill or funny like Sedaris but it can actually work against you. People can easily sense when you’re not presenting your true self, and coming off as unauthentic makes it harder for the audience to connect with you.
Take a look at your unique personality and traits. Know yourself. Delivering quick one-liners might not come naturally to you but maybe you’re a great storyteller and have an anecdote that relates to your topic. Maybe you’re not the high-energy type but you have great vocal variety. Know what you’re capable of and play on to your strengths. Every presenter is different so just be yourself and let your natural self shine.
No one’s expecting to hear the next Martin Luther King but it’s important to present with conviction. If your subject matter is something that you truly care about, turn this energy into excitement and use it to get your audience excited too. Presenting with passion shows a personal investment to the topic and connects people on an emotional level. Of course, this source of passion needs to come naturally. If the topic is something that you live and breathe – great! This will be easy for you. If it’s an uninspiring quarterly review filled with charts and data, find something to be excited about (may we suggest a rocking’ PowerPoint makeover by Stinson? and use that as inspiration for that inherent passion.
Many presentations eventually start to blend together but there are always a few that you vividly remember. Think about a presentation you saw that really stood out. What did they do to make it so memorable?
Chances are you weren’t blown away by the company’s history or quarterly sales data. Maybe you remember the presentation because it made an emotional connection with you. The presenter had a heartfelt story and you walked away feeling inspired. It created a lasting impact and while you may not remember the finer details of the presentation, you remembered the story. Maybe they did something unique that you’ve never seen before. Take a lesson from Dianna David who did a juggling performance during her Tedx Talk. She found a creative way to deliver her presentation using another interpretive form and gave her audience something they’ve never seen before.
If you want to be a great presenter or just want to make it through your next presentation without lukewarm feedback, you need to:  know your material,  be confident,  be self-aware,  be passionate, and  be memorable. Watch world-class presenters and you can always find these five traits present. Keep practicing in these areas and soon you’ll look like you were born to be on stage!