Be The Role
Public speaking involves a bit of acting, so be ready to play the role. Even though you might not be 100% confident in your abilities, you should still “present” yourself confidently.
Surveys reveal that the first visual impression of a speaker, coupled with the first five minutes of a presentation, affects audience opinion the most.
Remember to make eye contact with your listeners, and dress appropriately and comfortably. Look, feel, and act the role of speaker.
Commandment No. 6:
Realize that you have been using PowerPoint wrong all along. You’ve been obsessed with slide content, appearance, theme, and animation, and you’ve forgotten the most important ingredient: your message.
Use slides as a means to enhance your theme, create dialogue, and engage your spectators. Your slides should be visual enhancements, not notes.
If you read directly from the content in the slides, it’s a surefire way to disengage the audience (and you don’t want them to skip out of the presentation or fall asleep). You might as well go home and e-mail the presentation to the group.
Commandment No. 7:
Keep Slides Simple
Visual simplicity is the key to all successful presentations. Aim for no more than four lines of text per slide, with no text smaller than 32-point font. Incorporate more images, graphics, and animation to accentuate your ideas and illustrate content. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a master of this. He rarely has more than one line of text in any slide. If you need text, create a handout to distribute once your talk is over.
Commandment No. 8:
Simplify the Story
If everything in your talk is important, then nothing becomes important. Cognitive studies tell us that attention spans in monotonous learning environments are limited. Your goal is to tell your tale dynamically and make your points succinctly. Be ruthless in your efforts to simplify. Learn to prioritize and deliver content in a simple, engaging manner. This takes practice but is key to a winning presentation.
Commandment No. 9:
Involve The Audience
Among the most challenging skills is learning how to actively involve your listeners. All effective presenters do this in different ways. Asking questions or asking for a show of hands provides a simple opportunity for engagement.
Try to stimulate curiosity by violating expectations. Make that unusual statement, choose on a person in the crowd to engage, or make a funny gesture. Challenge the audience’s knowledge, too, as it is an effective way to grab their attention.
Commandment No. 10:
Budget Time For Questions
If your audience can’t query you, they will never walk away satisfied. This is where your preparation pays off, as adequate dress rehearsal usually uncovers questions or controversial areas that you will be ready to answer. Always allow at least 10 minutes for the question-and-answer segment. If there aren’t any questions, ask the audience some of your own.
Effective presentations are more than pretty slides. Public speaking is an art that weaves the speaker, the audience, and audio/visuals in a beautiful tapestry. It takes time and patience to learn the skills. Master these commandments, and you will be well on your way to creating mesmerizing presentations. TH
Dr. Chopra is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Dr. LaBrin is an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.