Having done plenty in my career, I’m going to share my top tips for giving a professional presentation.
When buying property, the mantra to follow is location, location, location. When giving a presentation, the words you must live by are preparation, preparation, preparation.
The most natural sounding presenters are actually those who have practiced the most. Speaking to an audience using power point and presentation binders is not something that develops spontaneously; it must be carefully nurtured over time.
Here are my best tips for giving a professional presentation:
1. What to Wear
Forget casual, or wearing jeans or your everyday clothes. Professionalism demands a certain dress code, especially if you are talking to an audience you are unfamiliar with. While you may be allowed to wear jeans on casual Friday in your office, when you are invited to give a presentation at another company or address a conference, you need to look presentable.
This means a suit and good shoes for men, as well as polished shoes. A smart shirt is important, but a tie is optional. For women, dresses, skirts and jackets or pant suits are also perfect. Wear suitable shoes for a work environment.
Importantly, deciding what to wear should not be a last-minute thing. It will show if you wake up in the morning and pull the first thing you see out your wardrobe. Rather prepare in advance what you will wear, have it dry cleaned or washed, polish your shoes, and make sure there are no dog hairs of baby food on it.
2. Prepare Your Equipment
Prepare your equipment in advance as well. If you are using your own laptop, make sure you know where your presentation is before the talk starts. It is very irritating for an audience to wait while the presenter looks through every folder to find the correct power point. It does not look professional at all.
Make sure your notes are presented neatly. Using presentation binders is a good idea, as you can keep your papers neatly in order. Use different coloured sticky notes to indicate relevant sections so you can turn to them easily.
Always plan to arrive 45 minutes early for your presentation. You need to give yourself the extra time in case there are unforeseen traffic jams or accidents, or technical issues when you arrive at the presentation venue. Make sure in advance that you know the name of the technical person who will help you and their direct phone number so you can call them if they are late. Test your presentation slides to see that the lighting is correct, the slide is the right size and the clicker is working properly.
3. When Speaking
Often speakers forget to introduce themselves and just start talking. A more professional approach is either to ask someone else to introduce you (you can give them notes on how you would like to be introduced) or you should prepare a short but relevant biography.
Also, make sure your voice carries to the back of the room and you are clearly audible. If necessary, use a mike and make sure that the technician sets it up before the audience starts filing into the room, and that it is working. Check with the audience that they can hear you and that it’s not too loud at the start of your presentation.
Prepare your presentation by practicing at home many times, and being able to conduct your presentation almost without notes. Your notes should be there for safety and for extra information; not to read from. Ask your family or colleagues to listen to your presentation and give you advice on where to improve and how to come across as more professional.
If you follow these three simple guidelines and remember the mantra preparation, preparation, preparation, you will convey the professionalism required for your presentation.