After three years in a local polytechnic, the one thing that almost majority fear will be written exams. One night before the actual paper, everyone would be mugging their nights away, sipping on Starbucks, not sleeping and coming to the exam venue the following day with heavy eye bags, showing no expression on their faces. Simply to say, we are zombiefied. The next thing on the list that students dread will be presentations and I mean, legit formal presentations. Not only do you have to prepare your attire well, the contents on the Powerpoint slides must be fresh, creative and relevant. To top it all, personal charisma is also being graded as a component. Being someone with an outspoken personality, it is somewhat easier to develop my own ‘style’ of presenting and I would like to simply share 3 key tips on how to ace a presentation by building up on your own ‘style’ which only you, will be capable of showing.
1. Fake it till you make it.
Yes I am serious. As cliché as this may be, this is the very first step in developing your own ‘style’. I have friends that are usually people of very few words but a few days before the actual presentation, they rehearsed non-stop. And to my surprise, when they presented I was caught off-guard. I was like: “Dude! Since when you talked like that? This is so not you!” However, yes, there are people that shine in their presentations even though they are not outspoken on a daily basis. So, it is actually not impossible that soft-spoken people will have a tendency to lose out! All you need is just a little more courage to speak and engage with the audience. One way that my friends and I rehearsed will be rehearsing together, as a group! It is definitely not as intimidating as presenting in front of your tutor and your class!
Rehearsing as a group bonds everyone together and that makes presentation transition from one to the next speaker smoother as you will be pretty comfortable with your group members. It also expedites the amount of time you need to spend on preparing as your friends are able to provide constructive feedback for your own improvement as compared to rehearsing alone whereby there is no way people can assess you to help you to improve further. Lastly, as all presentations come with a time limit, rehearsing together will keep everyone on track so that no one eats into anyone’s time and all will get a fair chance to present. Simply to say, teamwork is key. However, if you would like to come prepared, you can bring a script along.
For those that prefer to rehearse alone, fret not! The one way to fully prepare yourself will be to rehearse in front of the mirror. No joke, this really works for me! Whenever there is a one-man presentation, I do this all the time. By rehearsing in front of the mirror, I am more confident in my contents and trust me, the more you talk to yourself, the more outspoken you will eventually be. So, even though you may be quiet and shy, you can always make that extra effort to rehearse together with your group members and fake it till you make it!
2. Be prepared. Even be extra prepared if you need to.
Together with a formal presentation usually comes a short Question and Answer (Q&A) towards the end. This is where your lecturer and classmates will pose questions for clarifications on what the entire group has presented earlier. More often than not, many people will be tongue tied during this segment unless you have someone that is well versed in that particular module or has a whole lot of general knowledge at the back of his head that he is able to talk his way through and save the entire group. But, what if you do not have members like that? Don’t worry! You can always be ‘kiasu’ and prepare extra.
Instead of being well versed in just what you are presenting, you can read up extra on your members’ parts and get a gist of it. Alternatively, you can also read up the text of this particular module to see if there is any information that will be relevant to your presentation. As it goes, better to be safe than be sorry! By reading up extra, you stand to earn bonus points if you are able to impress everyone with information that only you know. However, be mindful on the extent that you prepare, do not ever over prepare till you neglect your own slides and never eat into other people’s slides.
3. If you ever blank out, do not panic. Keep calm and present.
Having gone through so many presentations in my three years, there is never once I will fail to feel anxious and cringes in my stomach. It is normal to feel this way but do remember to calm yourself down. If you do not, you will realize that you will actually talk like a bullet train. I mean it. Fear and anxiety also fastens your heart beat and you will not know that you are actually speaking at a lightning speed. This issue is very common across everyone and it is not easy to rectify the problem. You will only know that you spoke too quickly when your lecturer gives feedback. Hence, the only solution is to calm down and not panic. Only by regulating your heart beat and reducing anxiety then will you be able to deliver a presentation that is of the right pace. Taking ten deep breaths before you speak helps to control your breathing. For some people, once they blank out they immediately panic and are unable to track back to where they left off. Hence, never panic. It is certainly fine to pause for a few seconds to get back your train of thoughts.
For me, I started developing my ‘style’ since my very first presentation in Marketing back in Year 1. I would jot down key points that were not shown on the slides and memorized them. It is not easy as I would tend to forget bits and pieces. From then, I started to rehearse in front of the mirror and together with all my friends since memorizing is not how I absorb information. So far, the above methods had worked well!On the other hand, whenever I blanked out, I did the one thing in the back of my head and that is impromptu presentation. Impromptu refers to speaking off the cuff, it can be terrifying as you only have less than five seconds to deliver a smooth sentence that joins to the subsequent point. In order to allow impromptu speaking, one must really be fully prepared and know the contents at the back of your fingertips in order to ‘smoke’ through. Impromptu presentation is similar to a double-edged sword, it can make or break you. Never resort to this step unless you really got no choice.
I am coming to an end, thank you for taking time to read my article! It is never easy to pull off a two-minute show without any preparation. Time and effort plays a big role in ensuring that the ‘show’ goes on successfully! Hopefully, the above helps you in any way possible to overcome any presentation fears! Good luck!
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