MicrophoneSo you've been asked to give a presentation? Step one: take this paper bag and have a few deep breaths. Feel better? Believe it or not, you CAN deliver powerful presentations with confidence if you follow the 3 Ps: preparation, practice, and positivity.

Today we'll review some simple tips to assist you in getting better prepared to present with clarity and confidence. After all, you were asked to present because you have a message and because you can do it!

Simple tip #1: Know your audience

The effective presenter acts, looks, and talks like a professional because she understands and respects her audience. Dressing the part (business casual or suit and tie?) is just part of the equation – because the audience will likely first judge you by what you're wearing. Be sure to wear clothes that fit well and match the attire of the audience. People like those who look and dress like they do! When you make a presentation what actually comes out of your mouth is only about 7% of what gets communicated. That leaves 93% to non-verbals. That means if your attire, body language, expression and gestures communicate confidence, you will come across as confident!

The professional presenter will also arrive early and make sure everything is in place and that all technical equipment is in working order. Nothing can derail a presentation like a defective projector or microphone! Lastly, make sure you know the level of understanding your audience has with your subject matter. Have they never been exposed to your topic? Are they merely knowledgeable – or are they experts in your topic? Make sure you tailor your message to fit the audience's current understanding of your presentation topic.

Simple tip #2: More graphics, less words

I once had medieval literature professor conduct his entire class via PowerPoint. "Wow, this guy's on the razor's edge of technology," I thought to myself on the first day. But after 30 minutes of staring at his back while he recited bullet points about The Canterbury Tales directly from the screen, I had a considerable pool of drool on my desk. It's one of the classic presentation blunders: reading to your audience. How can you ensure you don't fall victim to this fatal error? Use less words. In fact, the best presentations will have slides featuring pictures, photographs, graphics, etc. – and very few words. Choose images that grab the audience's attention as well as align and support what you are saying. You won't be tempted to read the slide if there aren't any words on it!

Simple tip #3: Tell 'em what you told 'em

What do you want your audience to remember about your presentation a week from today? Be sure to anchor your presentation in this key takeaway. I like to follow this model:

  • Tell them what you're going to tell them.
  • Tell them.
  • Tell them what you just told them.

Remind, remind, remind. Keep coming back to your key takeaway message. This will help make your presentation a memorable one.

So, next time you're asked to make a presentation – research the readiness of your audience, create graphics-heavy/word-light slides, and anchor your message in the single thought you want your audience to remember next week. But be careful... If you do these three things, you're likely to be asked to present again someday!

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