Picture this: You’ve psyched yourself up before your big presentation, mentally going through your notes to go out there and impress your audience with your killer project, when doubt creeps in. What if you mess up? What if you put the audience to sleep? Should you have spent more time practicing? Whether you’re presenting your project to hundreds of people at a conference or to a small group of individuals, many presenters wonder how to present their important projects, and they feel nervous before going in front of an audience.
Don’t worry about how to present your project any longer. However high or low the stakes are for delivering your next project presentation, these six tips will build your confidence, help you deliver your message, and equip you to engage your audience.
1. Establish your credibility
Your material won’t carry much weight and you won’t impress your audience if you can’t convince them that you know your stuff. You may know that you’re qualified and experienced, but your audience may not. And even if you do have some credibility already, you still need to maintain it throughout your presentation.
Establishing your credibility starts the second you enter the room. Dress appropriately for the audience and the situation so that your wardrobe doesn’t distract from you or your presentation. Convey confidence in your body language by standing up straight, looking your audience in the eye, and avoiding tics like wringing your hands or clicking your pen. Early in your presentation, establish your credibility by explaining what qualifies you in presenting your project and participating in this discussion. And finally, polish every aspect of your presentation beforehand, from sourcing high-quality visuals to practicing how to present your verbal delivery.
2. Make the most of space
Fight the urge to stand still. Moving around a stage, classroom, or conference room will not only make you appear more in control of the situation and more confident in your presentation, but will also keep your audience engaged by making your presentation more dynamic. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that you should pace incessantly — too much movement can be distracting.
3. Don’t be afraid of silence
It’s tempting to fill any gaps of silence by speaking constantly, but doing this means you aren’t giving your audience enough time to internalize what you’re presenting. Talking too much and too quickly can also betray your nervousness. Allowing for some silence, on the other hand, will help your audience absorb and retain more information.
While it may take some trial and error to properly gauge how much silence is too much, you should always include some quiet moments in your presentation. Pause after presenting a big problem or your unique solution and let the weight of that significance rest on your audience. Allow some of your presentation visuals to speak for themselves when you show a meaningful image or important graph. With practice, silence can become an important ally in impressing your audience.
4. Don’t dwell on mistakes
Mistakes happen. Laptops freeze, equipment fails, or you might forget that line that you practiced thirty times in front of the mirror. Your audience, however, is less likely to judge you based on your mistakes and more likely to evaluate how you recover. If you stumble over your words or your presentation glitches, don’t dwell on them. Push through and continue. This also means that you don’t rely on your technology so heavily that everything falls apart when something doesn’t work as you hoped it would.
5. Own the visual element
Visual elements can often make or break a presentation and make your project findings either stand out or fade into the background. Using an interactive presentation tool like Prezi can make your abstract ideas concrete by synthesizing and displaying images, ideas, data, and more. But whenever you bring any visual element into a presentation, remember this: Presentation content should be supplemental to your spoken material, not the main act. You shouldn’t be standing with your back facing half the audience, reading your presentation verbatim and hoping your audience doesn’t fall asleep.
To help you use visuals to enhance your presentation and message, you’ll want to make the most of all Prezi has to offer. Convert your original PowerPoint slides into a dynamic Prezi presentation that gives you personalized control over how you present. Use Prezi’s conversational presenting format to allow your audience to guide the presentation and jump straight to only the most relevant topics. Apply consistent styles, fonts, and colors to give your presentation a sense of cohesion. Use only high-quality images. A poorly designed and messy visual design will damage your credibility and distract from your message.
6. Hook your audience quickly
You won’t be able to impress your audience if they’re drifting off to sleep halfway through your presentation. You need to engage your audience from the start and maintain that attention throughout your project presentation. Think of the beginning of your presentation as the first page of a book. After that first line or that first paragraph, would your audience keep reading? Hook your audience by presenting the problem your discussion will attempt to solve or by sharing a personal anecdote. Tie your discussion to current events or to other important issues surrounding your broader conversation.
Once you’ve hooked your audience, maintain their attention by engaging in a dialogue with them. If it’s appropriate for the situation, ask questions and get your audience interacting with you. Give them a prompt that they can discuss with those around them. Leave time for questions. If you can make your audience feel like they are part of your presentation, you’ll better maintain their engagement and your message is more likely to stick.
Don’t let stress about how to present your project keep you from impressing your audience. Combine these tips with a high-quality Prezi presentation and you’ll engage people, drive your message home, and be more confident the next time you’re asked to present.