Before you deliver your presentation, it’s always a good idea to think about how you will use your voice. You need to think about tone, volume, and clarity. The reason this is important is that some presenters and research say that your listeners will retain a great deal more of the information you deliver if you’ve used your voice effectively. You’ll need to be loud enough for your listeners to hear you, especially if you will not have access to a microphone. You’ll also want to vary your tone and volume, and make sure that you are speaking clearly. Once you’ve come up with a plan to do these things, practice the speech to make sure it works.
Here are some tips that should help you with tone, volume, and clarity.
- If you have access to a microphone make sure you arrive to the location early, and test it thoroughly so you know how loudly and softly you can speak.
- If you don’t have a microphone, project your voice from your stomach rather than your throat. Have a friend go with you to the location early and practice your presentation. Have your friend move to several different locations where the audience will be sitting and make sure he or she can hear you clearly from each location.
- Vary your volume. Speaking softly throughout the presentation will put the audience to sleep. Yelling at them will put them on edge and distract them. Using a moderate volume and raising it and lowering it in appropriate places will keep listeners interested.
- Enunciate each word clearly. Practice in front of a friend or family member or record your presentation and listen for any words that are not clear. If you discover a few, work on your pronunciation until they are clear.
- When it comes to voice tone, recording your voice is a good way to determine whether your tone is too high pitched, too low pitched, nasal, or has other less attractive features. While there’s not always a lot you can do about these things, you can work to lower your voice or raise the pitch.
- It all boils down to practicing your speech many times and in front of other people as often as you can. Doing so will help you to improve how you use your voice and keep your listeners interested.
What to Do with Your Hands and Feet during Your Presentation
Why is it that your hands and feet suddenly feel like items that belong to alien creatures when it comes time to give a presentation? Suddenly you don’t know whether to gesture, put your hands in your pocket, or grip the podium. Your feet want to shift or you may not be able to move at all. What’s the best thing to do with your hands and feet when you’re giving a presentation?
The answer to that is really fairly simple. The best thing is to move as naturally as possible. When it comes to your hands that means using them to gesture or emphasize your words or a specific point. In fact, some research suggests that if we don’t use our hands or gesture during a presentation, our presentation is not received as well or understood as well by our listeners.
One thing you might be concerned with is shaky hands. If you’re nervous and your hands are shaking you may want to hide them out of sight. That is a normal reaction, but it won’t help you. Your audience will realize you’re nervous and your unnatural position will distract them. You’ll find other articles on this site that give tips and advice about presentation anxiety in more detail. But in general, the more you practice your speech (including using your hands to gesture) the less nervous you will be. Also, it’s best to “warm up” before a presentation by shaking your hands and walking or jumping a bit. That can also reduce the shaking.
When it comes to your feet, you may also encounter a few dilemmas. For instance, should you walk or move around while giving your presentation or stay rooted behind a podium? The answer depends on your comfort level. It’s OK to stay behind a podium while giving your presentation as long as you move a little while there and use your hands to gesture. If you don’t move at all, it will appear odd to your listeners and may also be distracting. They may actually start to wonder if you’re nailed to the floor or why your feet don’t move. So moving your body to look at people throughout the audience and taking a step here and there will help. Of course, walking from one side of the audience to the other may be preferable, as long you move as naturally as possible.
Improve Your Presentation Skills by Stopping the “Ahs” and “Ums”
Even though “ah” and “um” aren’t considered words, they are commonly used, especially during a presentation. A lot of people who are giving a speech dread any kind of silence and will use one of these “fillers” to fill the void. The truth is it’s preferable for you to allow the silence than to say “um” or “ah” while grasping for your next point in the presentation.
Why are “ahs” and “ums” so inappropriate? The primary reason is that most audiences will assume the presenter is not knowledgeable of his topic or is not a practiced speaker. Either assumption spells disaster for the presenter who wants his audience to take him seriously. There are other reasons why you should rid yourself of these annoying sounds too. For one thing, they can damage your credibility with the audience as well as your public or professional image. At the very least, they can become so distracting to your audience that they’re all everyone will remember.
There are a few things you can do to prevent yourself from inserting these sounds into your speech. The first technique a lot of professional presenters use is to record themselves giving the presentation. Don’t record yourself “reading” the presentation but rather as you practice giving it the way you would in front of an audience. Listen to determine how many times you say “ah” or “um” and when they occur. Practice those parts of the presentation until they flow more smoothly. Then record the presentation again. Repeat this process until you record the speech and the “ahs” or “ums” are gone.
Another similar technique is to practice the speech in front of a friend or relative. If that person says he or she heard the “ahs” and “ums,” try again. Keep practicing until the speech flows naturally and smoothly and those filler sounds disappear.
Some professional speakers recommend that just as you hear yourself starting to say “um” or “ah,” you stop and allow a brief silence, and then continue. The more often you do this, the less the “ums” or “ahs” will pop up. Just be careful that you’re not introducing several pauses per sentence.
You might wonder which technique is best for you. If one of them isn’t more appealing than the others, try each one until one technique is effective. Recording your speech is always a good idea, just so you know how often you’re using these sounds.
Rehearsing Your Presentation
As a busy student you might be tempted to skip rehearsing your presentation before delivering it. You might think it’s not necessary. You need to rethink that idea. No matter how fluent and well written your presentation is, you need to practice it multiple times if you’re going to deliver it effectively. For one thing, until you’ve spoken every word you won’t know exactly how long the presentation will last, and whether there are some words or phrases that are awkward or difficult to pronounce. Silently reading them on paper won’t supply you with that information.
If you don’t rehearse your presentation, you also won’t know how it’s going to sound to an audience. It might sound great on paper, but when you actually speak it out loud it might sound very different than you anticipated.
You’ll also need to practice it more than once, especially if you decide to make changes. It’s pretty rare for any presentation to sound perfect the first time it’s delivered. You’re going to want to tweak a few words here and there as well as the way you say them. Then practice, practice, practice.
Here are a few more reasons to practice and how practicing often will benefit you:
- The more you practice the less nervous you’ll be. Even a seasoned presentation pro knows he or she must practice several times.
- The more you practice the more confident you’ll be.
- Rehearsing in front of others helps you find places that aren’t clear in content or pronunciation.
- Practicing in front of others or recording your presentation helps you find and remove filler words like “um” and “ah.”
- If you’re using PowerPoint slides or other graphic elements, rehearsing your speech will ensure they’re presented smoothly and that they are easy to see and understand. It will help you work out any technical kinks that could embarrass you during the presentation.
- When you practice your speech until it flows easily, you will also be comfortable enough to make eye contact with your audience and to move naturally in front of them. This will make your speech much more effective.
When it comes to giving a presentation, there’s no such thing as over-practicing. If you want your presentation to be successful you need to practice it often, including in front of a friend or relative or two. The age-old phrase “practice makes perfect” really does ring true when it comes to presentations.
Be Familiar with the Place where You Are Giving Your Presentation
Most of the time when you’re asked to give a presentation you’ll be somewhat familiar with the location where you’ll be giving it. Sometimes, though, you may have to present at a new location. Either way, unless your presentation will take place in a small classroom you’ve been in many times before, you should plan to visit the location before the time comes for you to give your speech.
There are many reasons that doing a site visit is important. First, you need to know the acoustics of the room. Will you need to project your voice? Is there a microphone handy? Is the room small or large? How many people will be in the room? This will affect your volume and tone of delivery. Also, if you’ll be using a microphone you’ll want to know how to turn it on and off and raise or lower it, if needed.
Next you need to know if you’ll be behind a podium, a desk, or nothing at all. If you have visual aids, props, or notes and there is nothing to put them on, you’ll need to make arrangements to have a small chair or table close by for you to use.
What about that PowerPoint presentation? The slide show you meticulously put together will not have the desired impact if you don’t go to the location ahead of time and test it out. You need to be able to easily start the slides, keep them moving, and turn them off when you’re done. While little glitches can always occur, they’re less likely to if you’ve gone to the room and practiced before your presentation.
Another great piece of information you’ll get from checking out your location ahead of time is how the audience will be seated. Will they be sitting auditorium-style, or will everyone be on the same level? Will everyone be able to see you and your material clearly? People are impressed when you’ve thought of their needs. If you understand it will be hard to see you or your visual aids if you stand behind a podium then you need to plan to walk around so that everyone has a clear view.
There are other reasons you should check out your location, but the bottom line is that just like practicing, taking the time to check out the place will improve your presentation’s chances of success.
How to Dress Appropriately for Your Presentation
A lot of people forget to think about how they will dress when giving a presentation. It seems like the least important concern. While it’s certainly not as important as developing, writing, and delivering a great presentation, it certainly should be something to which you give careful thought.
- Dress for the Audience
What you wear depends on what kind of presentation you’re giving and who the audience is. In most cases, you’ll want to dress professionally or at least look neat and well groomed. If you’re giving a presentation in class, you may not be required to wear a suit, but you should make an effort to look your best. If you’re presenting in a more formal setting, like for work or other professional reasons, then you need to look your professional best, even if your work setting is “corporate casual.” Wear a suit or at least dress pants and office attire. This will give you confidence in yourself, and the audience will have more respect for you as well.
- Dress for Comfort
No matter how great you look in that red dress, if it’s so tight you can hardly breathe you’d better opt for another outfit. If you’re not comfortable, it can affect your presentation delivery. If you feel self-conscious, you’ll be wondering how you look instead of focusing on your content. If you need to walk, point to figures, and make other movements, you’ll need to wear clothes that allow you to move freely. If you’re wearing a suit, be sure to test your arm movements. If your jacket is stiff, you may want to try a different one. Comfort is also important when it comes to shoes. You’ll be on your feet for some time. You need to wear shoes that won’t cause you pain or discomfort. Also make sure your shoes don’t squeak or make other noises that might embarrass you.
- Dress with Caution
Unless it’s part of your presentation, don’t wear clothes that will distract your audience. If your clothes are too provocative, tight, or flashy, for example, most audience members will be thinking about what you’re wearing rather than your speech. It’s also a good idea not to wear t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and other clothing items that have messages or words on them. You want your listeners to pay attention to what you’re saying, not what your clothes are saying.