What is the greatest challenge you struggle with when it comes to presentations?
While the query opens up the opportunity to improve on a wide variety of skills essential to successful presentations, there is one area that requires special attention.
People often wiggle out of the obligation to prepare for a presentation by using almost every excuse in the book. They tell themselves, “Oh, I will just wing it” or “I have already rehearsed it in my head – I’ll be fine”. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for disaster.
You may have heard a popular saying that people often use; practice makes perfect. This is the case especially when it comes to creating and delivering powerful and persuasive presentations!
Below you will find four techniques to help you prepare for your next presentation.
1) Authenticity over Memorization
We have all sat through our share of lifeless speeches. It is mind-numbing to be forced to listen to unexciting content that is delivered at us, rather than discussed with us.
In fact, a study reveals that 91% of audience members admit to daydreaming during business presentations, and a remarkable 39% report falling asleep at some point.
The objective of sharing these shocking statistics is not to reinforce your fear of public speaking, but rather, to emphasize the importance of familiarizing yourself with your topic. Most speakers incorrectly associate practice with only memorization.
However, rehearsal involves engaging yourself with the content. Practice delivering the presentation in a non-robotic and authentic way.
2) Space it Out
Many people fear that too much rehearsal undermines authenticity and creativity. As a past drama teacher, I know the opposite to be true. When you internalize the material, you actually gain freedom and creativity to present in the moment.
However, “internalizing the material” does not involve squeezing all of your practice into the night before the event. Research from the University of Sheffield reveals that rehearsal is most effective when you space it out.
How often will you need to rehearse?
Although there really is no magic number, more is always better. Stage actors often get up to six weeks, five or six days each week, eight to ten hours a day! It is the key to establishing authenticity and influence with your audience.
3) Simulate the Setting
Forget what you have heard about rehearsing in front of a mirror. Olympic swimmers do not practice in kiddie pools and 15K marathon runners do not train on 5K tracks.
When you rehearse, always begin by setting the stage for yourself. Aim to simulate the exact setting of your presentation as closely as possible.
There is a science behind how this works.
To deliver a powerful presentation, our brains coordinate a complex set of actions that involve motor function, visual and audio processing, verbal language skills and more. It can feel awkward and unnatural because it is a behaviour that the brain is not familiar with. However, practicing in the same setting helps the brain optimize for this set of coordinated activities. This process is called myelination.
4) Focus on Nonverbal Cues
Many speakers believe rehearsal only encompasses the content of their speech. However, as I mentioned in one of my previous articles, Body Language for Successful Presentations, the Mehrabian’s Rule suggests that communication relies only 7% on words, 38% on tone of voice and massive 55% on body language.
If you miss a vocal step, the results are immediate. If your voice projection is too monotonous, the audience will fall asleep. And this one is my absolute favourite: when you stand in Runner’s Stance, with one foot in front of the other, you will convey to your audience that you cannot wait to leave the room.
Body language and vocal tone dictate how you communicate with your audience at a subconscious level. Strengthening these areas can be the difference between inspiring your audience and provoking puzzled stares.
When you practice nonverbal cues, simulate the setting of your presentation, space out your rehearsal sessions, and prioritize authenticity more than memorization, you will grab the attention of your audience and evolve into a more memorable speaker.