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6 Secrets to Giving a Great Presentation


We recently hosted a workshop in our London office called ‘Improv on the Job’. Run by our partner SheSays, the session explored how to use techniques from improv to become a more confident speaker.

Our fearless leader (literally) for the event was Taren Sterry, a NYC based communication and team building coach who’s worked with the likes of Etsy, Huge, and Havas Worldwide.

If you find speaking in front of a large group of people nerve-racking, or even if you struggle to confidently get your opinions across, follow Taren’s Top Tips and come across like a pro!


1. Find a comfortable, natural speaking position.

If you balance your weight equally on both your feet, you’ll look more comfortable to others. Don’t cross your arms or legs or your audience will think you're being defensive. Instead, try putting your hands on your hips (that is, if it’s appropriate for the setting). You could also find something to hold or rest them loosely on a podium, if you have one. Avoid joining your hands straight down, as this draws attention to... well, let’s just say, it’s not a good look. Ditto for putting your palms flat against your legs, which may look like you are holding on for dear life.

Nervous habits are really distracting to audiences (when was the last time you saw someone like Bill Gates playing with his hair or picking his nails?) You may not be aware you even have them, so practicing in front of a friend or recording yourself on video is essential.

2. Keep your composure and fake confidence.

Try and keep calm. The first 2 minutes are always going to be the hardest, so try to remember that while you’re getting through them. Try to think of the event as being a one-to-one with a lot of different people instead of addressing a large group. And have fun! If you’re having a good time then your audience will have a good time. (Think of the last great TED Talks speaker you watched.)

You’ve probably heard it before, but fake confidence and the real confidence will follow. The more you practice the easier it will become. Remember to look up and make eye contact. If you need to look away from the audience to think, try looking up, not down at your paper or the floor.

3. Slow it down.

It is very common for people to talk fast and try to rush through a presentation. It’s as if they want to get it over as quickly as they can. Slow it down and remember that pauses are good. Most people have the misconception that if they impose a bit of silence the audience will think they’re not very smart. It’s exactly the opposite: your audience needs time to take in the information you’re giving them.

4. Don’t worry if you make a mistake.

Mistakes are good. People find them funny if you don’t let them overwhelm you. Just incorporate the mistake and carry on. It humanizes you and makes people identify with your plight. And remember if it goes wrong—the projector breaks, someone falls asleep, a phone rings—it’s just one presentation. You can handle it, just keep calm and carry on.

5. Avoid Fillers.

You’re familiar with these filler words:

  • Um
  • Uh
  • And
  • So
  • Well
  • You know
  • Like

It’s much better to leave a pause than use these. Think about what you want to say and take your time. If you notice you’ve begun to use them during your talk, simply correct it and keep going. It will naturally improve with practice.

6. Control your Q&A.

If you ask for questions and no one speaks up, give it a little time. People sometimes need to pluck up the courage to ask a question or may need a bit to come up with one. Around 10 seconds is good. That’s going to feel like a long time, but they’re going to need it. You could also prepare a question to lead with: “Does anyone want me to expand on…” or “If you want to know more about…”

If you find one person is dominating your Q&A session, deal with this in a nice way by saying, “Thanks for the questions, but I’d love to hear from the rest of the group” or “I know you’ve got a lot to ask, do you mind if we take this off line and chat together afterwards?”

Have anything to add to our 6 tips?

Let everyone know in the comments!

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