Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a student quite like hearing that you will be giving an oral presentation. It’s easy to understand why a lot of students are uncomfortable presenting in front of a classroom full of people. Despite this, it’s important to continue improving your public speaking skills because you’ll still be using them outside of school.
Having graduated from university, I’ve done my fair share of presentations. Here are a few tips for fine tuning your presentation that I have found essential.
Leave the Mirror Behind
So you’ve done your research, written your presentation and now it’s time to practice. We were all told that rehearsing in front of a mirror is a great idea. While I agree with this, it’s important to remember that you’ll be presenting to real people. Find a friend and present to them. Ask them to pay attention to your body language. Are you pacing or swaying? Do you move your hands too much? Do you avoid eye contact? All of these things will decrease the quality of your presentation.
Stop Using Fillers
Listening to a presentation is similar to buying a tub of ice cream. Would you rather buy the tub that was filled completely with ice cream or the tub that was half ice cream and half air? If your using a lot of filler language (e.g. like and um), you’re selling the audience a half filled tub of ice cream and they won’t be buying it. If you aren’t sure what to say next during a presentation, pause and take a drink of water then carry on. The more filler you use, the less credible you become as a speaker.
Don’t Shine a Spotlight on Your Problems
You’re opening sentence shouldn’t be announcing your nervousness or unpreparedness to the room. What you’re doing is drawing attention to your shortcomings before you’ve even begun. Your body language will also betray you. Are your hands shaking? Steady them by holding the podium or placing them behind your back.
Would you listen to you?
Even if you’ve completely memorized your presentation, removed all filler language, and have fantastic body language, your presentation will fail if your voice isn’t up for the challenge. Record yourself while you’re rehearsing and listen to it afterwards. Common issues are mumbling, speaking too quickly, and not speaking loudly enough. Something else to be mindful of is your tone. If your voice gets higher at the end of a sentence, it sounds like a question or that you are uncertain. Practicing in front of others as if you were giving the formal presentation will remedy many of these issues.
In summary, keep these tips in mind and apply them when you can. Public speaking is a lot like tying your shoes. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
About the Author: As a recent graduate of the Food Science Co-op program at the University of Guelph, Faith understands the difficulties associated with transitioning from education to the workplace. She has had the opportunity to speak about these issues at various industry events with the goal of easing the transition of others. Passionate about education and the industry, she is involved with the Taste Your Future campaign to increase awareness of opportunities in the Food and Beverage industry among Canadians.