How can I perfect my presentation in English?
This is a new part of the series “How can/do I …?“ questions.
Today I will tell you about tips and suggestions on how you can perfect your presentation in English.
I’ve been helping all kinds of people, from students to other experts in their field, how to communicate successfully in English for over 20 years. During this time I have been asked numerous questions. I’d like to share with you some of the most frequently asked questions my students have asked me about communicating in English and the solutions I’ve suggested, which have helped them.
There are many different opinions out there concerning giving a successful presentation.
In my opinion, it’s best to start by answering these questions first:
- Why should you give a presentation?
- What is your intention? Do you want to inform, persuade or sell a product / a service?
- How long should a presentation be? Up to 10, 20, 30, or even 60 minutes? Some people have told me about the presentations they have attended, which lasted for hours without any breaks!
- What is it about?
- Which messages does it contain?
- Who is it for? Who is your audience? (Other experts, suppliers or customers) Where are they from?
- Where and when will you give it?
The questions above are actually crucial to set up a road map for your presentations. Please take your time and answer them in detail.
The next step is to structure your presentation into three parts:
2. Main Part
1. In the introduction part of your presentation…
you introduce yourself, your company or purpose and you introduce your presentation. That means you tell your audience what you’re going to tell them in the main part. It is best to have no more than three messages in your main part, which you should structure by using signposts, e.g. firstly, secondly and finally. Giving your audience an idea of your presentation agenda is important. During your introduction, you should tell your audience how long your presentation will last and if you will answer the questions while you are presenting or after. This is really important. Do not make a quick decision about this, as it is crucial. Some people love having questions fired at them during their presentation and even invite their audience to do so, others don’t.
One reason can also be the time factor.
If you know you have all the time in the world, you can invite your audience to interrupt you with their questions. Surely it is easier if you’ve given the presentation before and you know what kind of questions to expect and you know the answers to the questions. Plus if you have studied the topic so intensely that you could even give the presentation in your sleep. In that case, go ahead, you have my blessing and allow for questions during your presentation. However, if you have never given the presentation before and you have a time limit, then ask your audience to wait with their questions till you have finished. This strategy is better if you feel nervous and are afraid of losing your train of thought after answering each question. Typically this part does not take up much time and it is the shortest part of your presentation. However, make sure you have your audience’s attention, and your audience knows why they should pay attention, i.e. you have told them what they will gain from your presentation.
2. In the main part of your presentation …
you deliver your message(s). You tell your audience your topic. Please consider more than three messages will be difficult for your audience to remember. So focus on three key points you want to tell your listeners. It can be helpful for you to write down the three points into three short sentences. Once you have mentioned the first key point, you then explain it and give examples and finally you recap. Follow this procedure with all your key points. If you are using slides for your presentation, please make sure that your visual aids reinforce your messages and clarify your examples.
Common mistakes to avoid for a perfect presentation are:
- having too many slides
- too much text on each slide
- you read the slides
- not interacting with the audience, instead you only look at the screen during the presentation
All your slides have to have the same design, i.e. please use your corporate fonts and colours throughout the entire presentation. Using a picture can be much more effective than too much text. If you have too much text on your slides your audience will struggle to read the text and will not listen to you anymore. This is not what you want to achieve. Instead, use images such as pictures to display feelings or graphs and diagrams when presenting complicated facts or figures. Only include information which is really necessary. Keep an eye on your audience. Do not turn your back on them. Announce the next slide before you show it, like this, you will seem to be in control of the slides and not the other way around.
3. In the conclusion part of your presentation …
you summarize your key messages. This is where you can put in your call to action. Don’t forget to thank your audience for their attention and time. If you told them at the beginning they could ask questions at the end, then this is when to invite them to do so confidently.
Make sure you consider the following points:
- listen carefully to each question
- show interest by making good eye contact and avoid negative body signals
- signal you have acknowledged the question; one possibility of doing this is to echo the question, i.e. repeat it with different words. (Like this you can make sure you have understood the question correctly and it gives you time to find the right words for your answer. Plus it’s very helpful if you have a large audience, as often some people might not have heard the question properly and will be happy you repeated it)
- by thanking the person for their question, you show that you value the question
- show empathy when required to make your audience feel more comfortable
- your answer should be as short and clear as possible
- if necessary offer to meet up and go into more detail later on, in order to ensure that others can ask their questions
- should someone asks you a question you cannot answer, then be honest and admit it. Offer to find out and deliver the answer within a period of time. After all, even though we are experts, we still are human.
Based on my many years of experience, I suggest first getting comfortable with this simple road map, which you can follow and build on. However, there are a few more steps to take before you perfect your presentation in English. I’ll be going into more detail about each step in the upcoming weeks.
I’ll tell you the most important step: it’s practice.
Not even talent can beat the experience you acquire through practice.
That just about wraps it up for today
One more thing though, Yvette and I have set up an early interest page for an upcoming programme about perfecting your presentation in English. Check out all the information about it here.
I hope you’ve found the road map useful and you’ll join me again for another FAQ and my tips and solutions, which have helped my students face their challenges in communicating successfully in English and getting their point across.
Have a wonderful time and take care
PS If you like what I’ve shared with you and you want to share it, then please do!