8 Tips for Giving Your First Presentation Before a Live Audience

There was no danger of me seeing the audience. My eyes had glazed over from the tears welled up in them. The two spigots that I called underarms were dripping like a leaky faucet. Rivulets of water cascaded down the shirt now plastered to my sides. In a few moments I’d have to speak. Speak? My jaw muscles had chosen just this moment to go on strike. Nothing was going to move anytime soon, except for my bowels of course, which were planning a prison break. “Is this how it is just before the firing squad pulls their triggers?” I asked myself.

I survived and so will you.

If I can speak before an audience, then believe me, so can you. All it takes is some knowledge of your topic – which you DO have, don’t you? A bit of technique, which you’ll be getting some pointers on now. Some guided practice beforehand and you’ll do just fine. Here are eight tips for giving your first presentation before a live audience.

Preparing the presentation

1. Outline your main topic points

There should be 10 to 15 main points in your presentation which essentially define the content. Create three to five support statements which elaborate on or clarify the main points of each topic.

2. Create an audio-visual slide for each main point

Make a bullet point for each support statement as a key word or short phrase that can generate your thoughts in that area. Use a picture, graphic, photo or illustration with each main point if using Power Point or audio-visual slides. You can add color, audio, or a short video clip to the slide if using a multi-media presentation program like Power Point for your presentation.

3. Prepare a title and concluding slide which can include:

o Title of presentation

o Organization name

o Photo or graphic

o Presenter’s name and affiliation

o The date

Don’t make the opening title slide too crowded though. It should be pleasant to look at but informative. The concluding slide should also contain your contact information.

Practicing the presentation

4. Monitor your presentation time

Timing is critical so you should pay close attention to it. Here are some quick numbers to help guide you. At about one minute per support statement there are 3 to 5 minutes per main point Then 10 main points at five minutes each is 50 minutes, and adding in pauses, interruptions, questions, etc. will bring you to about a one hour presentation time. So 15 main points at five minutes each is one hour twenty five to one hour thirty minutes.

5. Do at least three complete practice run-throughs before P-day

Five practice run-throughs is better though, if possible. Practice presentation run-throughs can be done in a number of ways. Here are some commonly used ones:

o Reciting it off at your computer

o In front of a mirror

o Tape or video record yourself

You should always at least audio tape record yourself then review – yes, listen to or watch yourself doing the presentation. You’ll wince at the sound of your own voice on tape, but it closely approximates what you sound like to the audience. Get over the shock, then adjust whatever you need to in your presentation.

6. Do a full dress rehearsal a day or two before the big event

Physically and mentally prepare yourself; your mental attitude is extremely important. Be groomed to the point of being precise (Think of a bullfighter getting ready to face “El Toro” – and yes, there are lady bullfighters). Dress for success. You want to look and feel your best.


7. Make final preparations

Check the equipment you’re using well before the presentation begins to avoid any nasty little surprises. Be sure to use equipment that is familiar to you or check it out thoroughly well in advance. Do tension-busting exercises, deep breathing, and mental relaxation techniques – whatever you’ve learned works for you. If you don’t know what works for you, find out NOW. Do not wait for later or later will come – after the presentation.

8. Relax, you’re on!

On the big day remember to keep a positive mental attitude. You may need it more than you know. Here are a couple of experienced speaker’s presentation tips that you should consider:

o Pick out three people in the audience (an attractive woman, a handsome guy, an interesting face, a family or friend look-alike) One should be to your left, one straight ahead, one to your right about a third of the way back from the front

o Look at (not stare) and talk to each person as you “talk” from left to center to right casually and slowly swinging your view from one person to the next. First from left to right, then back from right to left. Pause for a longer period while looking straight ahead. Few people are uncontrollably nervous when talking to only ONE person.

Not only did I survive my first presentation but went on to give dozens then scores more over the next few years. Remember these eight tips; with proper preparation, practice and perseverance you too will speak with confidence. And one last thing: Be generous with the antiperspirant.

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