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How to make your presentation a complete success



SUMMARY


At school they were a welcome opportunity for some to improve their grade, for others a tiresome compulsory task: we're talking about presentations. For these, you had to gather the relevant information on certain topics, prepare a suitable presentation and then give a talk in front of the entire class. And in fact, this school practice certainly prepares students for professional life, because presentations and lectures also play an important role in the workplace. The fact that this way of conveying information does not appeal to every listener can sometimes be seen in a bored or restless audience. Often, however, it is not a general aversion to lectures that makes the audience yawn, but the lecture simply lacks structure and the speaker lacks convincing presentation techniques.


So if you want to inspire your audience or at least arouse their interest in the topic, it is worthwhile to hone your own presentation technique. For this reason, we give you tips on how to make your presentations convincing in terms of content and structure, and reveal some tricks on how to present yourself successfully in front of your audience.



CONTENT


  • Before you give the presentation: This is what optimal preparation looks like

  • Presenting correctly: Language, rhetoric, gestures and facial expressions

  • Learning to present: It's all a question of practice



BEFORE YOU GIVE A PRESENTATION: THIS IS THE OPTIMAL PREPARATION


One thing is clear: the success of a presentation in front of an audience depends largely on the way you present your content. Your rhetorical talent and your ability to entertain and inspire the audience are factors that play a role regardless of the topic you choose. However, thorough preparation is indispensable so that you can actually make the best use of the speaking time available to you and play to your personal strengths.


Adjust to the target group

Even before you start working on your presentation, you should consider your future audience. For example, it makes a difference whether you give your talk in front of 20 or 200 people. In the first case, you can respond to the audience more easily and also engage individual listeners in dialogue to a much greater extent. With a larger audience, this quickly takes up too much time, so you should rather interact with a larger audience in the form of short polls, small puzzles or other participatory activities.


Regardless of the size of the audience, it is also extremely important to know what previous knowledge the audience has. In principle, it is advisable to make the presentation as simple and understandable as possible - but if you assume or cannot assume certain basic knowledge, this should also be reflected in your presentation. A professional audience is likely to be bored if you explain basic industry terms to them, but this may be necessary for an audience from outside the industry.


Also, consider what the audience expects from your presentation: If there is an entrance fee attached to the event, you must expect a more demanding audience than would be the case at a free compulsory event.


Planning and compiling the resources

If you are giving a presentation today, you can draw on a wide range of technical aids and visualisation tools. Frequently used are, for example:


  • Laptops, presentation slides and beamers

  • Overhead projectors

  • Whiteboards

  • Flipcharts

  • Pinboards


All these tools have the potential to support your presentation and make content easier to understand. The prerequisite is that you integrate these tools into your lecture in a meaningful way. And the basic prerequisite is that the appropriate equipment is available on site. So find out in good time from the organiser or the contact persons in the company whether the planned aids are available and work. If, on the other hand, you are using your own equipment, you should test it at the venue on the day of the presentation at the latest so that there are no unpleasant surprises during the presentation.


 

Tip: Aids should always live up to their name and only serve as supporting (and discreetly used) elements. The presentation of slides (whether in the form of printed or digital slides), which has become the standard, should only visualise content and not replace the lecture itself: The principle is that your lecture should work without supplementary aids. For example, if the technology fails, you should be able to convey your content without presentation slides so that you do not have to cancel or prematurely terminate the lecture.

 

Preparing the lecture and presentation

As soon as the general conditions have been clarified, you can begin to organise the content of your presentation. Obtain the necessary material and think about the questions you want to answer with your presentation and the main points you want to focus on. Such preliminary considerations will help you to structure your presentation in a meaningful way and to present it successfully later on.


The introduction is of particular importance for all kinds of presentations: Ideally, it will help you to quickly gain the interest of the audience - in the worst case, however, you will lose the audience within the first 5 minutes. There are many ways to create an exciting and activating introduction. For example, you can gain the audience's attention by:


  • Formulating a provocative thesis;

  • Telling a personal anecdote or a joke to draw attention to the topic;

  • Playing an introductory video clip;

  • Picking up on current events; or

  • Pose a question to the audience.


Once you have decided what you want to talk about and how you want to present it, you can start to create a suitable presentation. Make sure (as already mentioned) that the presentation complements your talk and not the other way around. Also, try to keep the number of presentation slides as well as the number of text elements as low as possible - otherwise, there is a risk that your audience will be predominantly occupied with the slides presented and will hardly follow the talk you are giving.


Practise your presentation in advance

The final step in preparing your presentation is to practise it in detail. To do this, go through the presentation step by step and think of phrases with which you can draw attention or explain certain content. If you can come up with these phrases later, almost without thinking, you will appear confident and self-assured. It is usually useful to make notes or index cards that can serve as a reminder on the day of the presentation in case you lose your train of thought. If you have the opportunity, you should also present your talk to other people in advance. In this way, you will receive valuable feedback on the content and comprehensibility of your presentation as well as on your presentation technique.


Give your presentation at least once in its entirety to check whether you are meeting the time requirements of the organiser or employer.


Often there are questions from the audience after a presentation. You should prepare for these in advance by thinking of answers to expected questions.


PRESENTING CORRECTLY: LANGUAGE, RHETORIC, GESTURES AND FACIAL EXPRESSIONS


When presenting, you are the focus of attention: All eyes are on you and people are listening - more or less intently - to what you have to say. On the one hand, this is a great opportunity for you to present the prepared topic, but on the other hand, it also puts you under a lot of pressure. Your facial expressions and gestures are registered by the audience just as much as your choice of words and voice modulation. If you are convincing in all these areas, you radiate sovereignty, composure and competence - if you are not, you appear inhibited, overwhelmed and insecure.


Finding the right language

When you give a lecture, you organise the majority of the available time yourself - only the pace of participatory actions or video clips that are played cannot be influenced by you. You fill the rest of the presentation with your remarks, which is why you should make sure that you use appropriate language. You should adapt your choice of words to the target group - you should communicate differently with a younger audience than with an older one. In addition, the previous knowledge of your audience is important - you should avoid using technical vocabulary as much as possible if hardly anyone in the audience is likely to know it.


 

Tip: If you want to benefit from the social media enthusiasts in your audience, then integrate a few snappy theses and sentences into your presentation that can be easily shared on Twitter. If you are quoted there by your audience, this will increase your reach.

 

Use rhetorical stylistic elements

If you want to present successfully, you should also know some rhetorical stylistic devices and be able to use them sensibly. If you use a few rhetorical devices in your presentation, it will have a much more lively and interesting effect on the audience without you having to make any adjustments to the content. In this way, you can increase the entertainment value of your speech and win the attention of your audience more easily. The most frequently used rhetorical figures in speeches are the following:


Alliteration

If you string words together that have the same initial sound, this is called alliteration. Such word combinations are very memorable and, used sparingly, can activate the audience's attention. If you summarise the core content of your presentation in an alliteration, the audience will also remember it better.


Anaphora

Anaphora is the deliberate repetition of words at the beginning of a sentence or part of a sentence. This stylistic figure not only helps you to structure your presentation but also ensures that the relevant content is remembered more easily by the audience.


Metaphor

With a metaphor, you use a term that actually comes from a different context of meaning in a new context. Explanation with an example: A foot actually stands for a part of the body. In the phrase "at the foot of the mountain", however, the word is put into a new context. Metaphors make your presentation more figurative.


However, be careful not to overdo this stylistic device and use metaphors that are easy to follow. Otherwise, your audience may not be able to follow you or your presentation may turn out to be unintentionally funny.


Climax

You can also increase the entertainment value of your presentation with a climax. With this stylistic device, you express a gradual increase, for example, by first mentioning a less important fact, which is then followed by increasingly important facts.


Rhetorical question

Rhetorical questions are questions to which no answer is expected. They are therefore not intended to gain information, but to activate the listener by eliciting agreement or disagreement.


 

Tip: In order to avoid constant repetition of words, you should already think about suitable synonyms - i.e. words that are related in meaning - before giving your presentation. This will make your presentation more varied and exciting.

 

Use the power of your voice

Learning to present means, above all, getting a feel for your own voice and its effect. Speaking loudly and clearly is only half the battle in this case, however, because aspects such as the pace of speech and modulation (low to high) also determine whether you reach your audience. In order to avoid a monotonous speech, you should generally pay attention to sufficient variance in your pitch and speaking rate. Also, include accentuation and pauses in your speech at appropriate points.


Inexperienced speakers often get nervous when giving a presentation. As a result, they often unconsciously increase the speed of their speech. As a rule of thumb, if you feel that the pace of speech is slightly too slow, it is probably just right for the audience.

Pay attention to body language

When you give a presentation, you are usually clearly visible to the entire audience. How successful the presentation is therefore also depends on your body language. Always make sure that your posture is upright and that you are facing the audience. In addition, you should keep your presentation as free as is easily possible for you. So don't constantly read everything off your note cards. But before you get bogged down, take a look at them.


Gestures and facial expressions also play an important role when presenting. For example, it is important that your enthusiasm and interest in the topic you are presenting is reflected in your face - because if you yourself cannot muster any enthusiasm for the topic, how can the spark be transferred to the audience? Also, don't move too frantically, as this tends to make onlookers feel insecure. But don't go to the other extreme by folding your arms stiffly in front of your body. This looks as if you are building a barrier between yourself and the audience.



LEARNING TO PRESENT: IT'S ALL A QUESTION OF PRACTICE


No master has ever fallen from the sky! This famous saying also applies to the art of presenting. Because even the most gifted speakers usually have a lot of practice behind them - in front of the mirror at home as well as in front of a live audience. The first presentations are often the most difficult, as some people still have to overcome their stage fright. However, the more often you face the challenge of speaking in front of an audience, the easier it will be for you to internalise the tips and tricks presented here.


Preparing for a presentation, starting with sifting through the material and determining the target group and ending with creating the presentation, will also become easier with experience and routine. This leaves you more time and energy to practise the actual presentation and perfect your presentation technique.

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