When it comes to presentations, there’s a lot of advice out there. How many times have you heard the trope, “Just picture the audience in their underwear”? What? How is that supposed to help?
Let’s bust a few myths! Your task as a presenter is to help your listener get your message. If presentation advice leads you to that goal, great! Do it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. Here’s our take on how to best navigate through some well-intended but potentially confusing bits of advice:
Tell a joke to start your presentation. If this advice makes you panic, and you think, “I’m no good at telling jokes,” then clearly joke-telling is not good advice for you. Of course, you want to create a good rapport with your audience. Do that by being yourself — trusting who you are, what you know, and what you can do. Just bring your joy!
Never say “um” or “ah.” This advice is a surefire way to put yourself in lockdown: “Rats. I just said ‘um.’ I’m no good at this presentation stuff.” Or, “Ack! Now I just said ‘ah.’ I’m such a loser.” Here’s the truth — don’t worry about filler words. Bring your passion, and the rest will take care of itself.
Keep your hands in the power zone. Body language is a powerful communication tool. Using big, specific gestures or movements is a win-win-win: It helps your listeners, it brings down your nerves, and it takes your mind off of yourself. We believe your entire body is your power zone, so use all of it!
Use x number of slides per minute. When the slides are running the show, guess who’s not in control. You! And, that’s not good for your nerves. Guess what? The slides are not the presentation — you are. The graphics should be used only to support you telling your story. Ask yourself, “Will these graphics help my listener?”
Look at their noses. How do you connect with a nose?!? It might be advice meant to help you feel more comfortable, but it keeps you disconnected from people. The reality is that many of us are most comfortable in one-on-one conversations, and public speaking is actually a series of individual conversations. When your intent is to talk with an individual, you will truly communicate with people, noses and all.
Practice in front of a mirror. Who are you looking at and thinking about when you do that? Yourself. And who should you be focused on when you present? The listener. Watching yourself just reinforces that habit of focusing on, “How am I doing?”
When it comes to presenting, all advice should lead to helping your listener. That’s it. And please, do yourself a favor — keep your audience’s clothes on!